By Megha S Anthony
Company expansion plans and joint ventures are a major indicator that points out towards a boom in the facilities management sector. While this is great news for the industry and shows a positive growth and need for them to be here, there is still a strain on staff retention.
Many surveys on staff retention agree on one thing: Retaining the best employees ensures customer satisfaction, sales performance, and happy co-workers. However, when it comes to retaining ‘talent’ especially in a service industry proves to be a great challenge and a loss.
‘FM today’ talks to few experts in the industry on what measures they take to retain their staff. One of the greatest assets for any facilities management company is its people. As it is the ‘people’ who make up for the talent, productivity, and in return improves work efficiency. This is why staff retention is taken very seriously at Cofely Besix Facility Management. Caroline Hill, HR Manager, Cofely Besix Facility Management, says that there are two major losses to a company during employee turnover, “These are ‘financial loss’ and ‘talent loss’.
Therefore a failure to monitor and strategise employee retention will affect an organisation negatively and can have major effects on productivity; hence staff retention should be taken very seriously.”
For Charalampos Sarafopoulos, General Manager, Al Shirawi Facilities Management, every recruitment is an investment for the future. “It is not always about hiring the best in the field but we need our employees to have good personalities and in turn, we encourage them to be their best. Of course, there will always be cases where candidates meet both these criteria. In that case, retaining this investment inside our boundaries and yet have no boundaries on how far they can grow within our organisation is a challenge that we have accepted and do faithfully follow.”
Job change is rather a common one in the corporate world. However, one wonders if it is posing to be a huge challenge in the FM industry in specific? Caroline agrees to an extent. “The nature of FM business is intricate, and companies seek to become more agile, cooperative and competitive. Various options such as working remotely and flexibility of service delivery are becoming more prominent. Due to the nature of the deliverables, employees also have fewer personal interactions due to an increase in communication platforms such as Email, SMS, WhatsApp, as well as Skype for business and conference calls. This results in organisations migrating to more agile workplaces hence we have to recruit a new generation of talent whilst retaining existing talent, as well as creating a more collaborative workplace and an increase in engagement activities. The constant motivation of hired talent is therefore vital in ensuring we remain the ‘employed of choice’ which will also result in acquiring new talent and retaining staff.”
Charalampos, on the other hand, feels that the challenge is more of a generic one and not specific to any one industry. “We live in a dynamic environment with a fast growing economy. If you want to be competitive you must keep your cost low but at the same time the quality of your services to the highest standards. In the service industry like ours, you can achieve that only through experience and most importantly “Happy” employees. As much as you cover employee’s salary expectations, there will be always people in the market that will offer more,” he says. Charalampos goes on to add, “So the strategy to retain your people by satisfying them financially is pointless. Give them a path that leads to growth, that leads to self-motivation, which leads to happiness and you will never lose them!”
Acquiring the right talent is very important as it will ensure the right hire for a position. Caroline points out that the following factors are key in the selection process: (a) Attitude – personal characteristics and core behaviour (b) Skills – professional competencies and developed behaviour (c) Ability and Adaptability – the ability to change demeanor in different situations. Employee hiring also has the potential to be stressful as there might scenarios where the wrong talent is hired which results in time and financial loss to the organization. “But what matters the most for us at Al Shirawi FM is whether the candidate fits our culture, the level of his integrity and whether the candidate lives our values and he has a similar to ASFM DNA where, we do not just work but, we enjoy work, we create,” adds Charalampos.
So how do they ensure their staff is happy? Both explain how in most cases money is not the key factor that keeps an employee motivated and happy. “Employees spend most of their time at work hence it is essential to ensure that the features of a working environment make them feel motivated and energised. Making sure they have a comfortable working environment as well as a good feeling about how they and their colleagues around them are treated and valued. Employees must feel also that they are adding value to an organization,” says Caroline.
Charalampos says that it is important to note that the majority of the people working here are people who left their families back home to come here and work to offer them a better future. “These people spend most of their time inside a workplace. During their free time, they are emotionally running back to their families, to their memories. The challenge we have is huge as we will never be able to replace their families but we can give them a second one, by making them feel that the organization they work for is their second family! And how we achieve that? By creating memories! Making them feel that they belong and not alone!” he adds.
A part of making the employees bond is by conducting extracurricular activities. Companies organize picnics, weekly yoga classes, football & basketball tournaments, birthday celebrations, etc. These activities help employees open up, free their mind and encourages them to grow as a team. Charalampos explains how such activities are important for employees to free their mind from a stressful work environment. “We have a special training platform called ASTRA and our training center is open for all the employees to read and express their interest in any subject of their liking. At Al Shirawi FM we believe in the Ancient Greek philosophy “A sound mind equals to a healthy body”. Which is why we encourage all of our people to live and enjoy their free time,” he adds.
Caroline adds, “Whilst there are many activities that may be deemed as encouraging, we ensure that we encourage and focus on our staff's growth through internal talent sourcing, and giving associates a platform to believe in themselves. We also make sure our staff's morale is kept high by arranging sports and social activities such as celebrating birthdays, personal successes, as well as team successes including inter-team successes. We also encourage an open door policy and transparency on all levels of the organisation.”
However, at times even with one’s best efforts, employees do end up leaving but the best way to deal with it is by conducting exit interviews to learn why they’re leaving, and if you see patterns, make adjustments accordingly. Ask this question at the conclusion of every exit interview: “Is there anything we could have done to make you want to stay?” The results will be invaluable.