Effective training of frontline service employees starts at the top
Chris Bulmer explains how ISS Australia has prioritised learning and development as the key internal process that drives stronger service employee engagement.
The implementation of training, through comprehensive learning and development (L&D) programs, is the most important factor behind higher service quality and customer satisfaction.
If employees are trained effectively, they will be more productive and engaged, and therefore stay longer in their jobs and be more service oriented. At the same time, customers are paying closer attention to training processes when choosing an FM provider, as this has a significant impact on the long-term success of the partnership.
By understanding the importance of L&D initiatives in delivering higher service quality, ISS Australia has developed a range of training programs over the past three years that have provided benefits for our company and our customers.
The benefit for ISS is developing our people, so that we can self-deliver FM services. When we invest in their training, and they understand their customer’s purpose, employees are proactive and can more effectively manage assets and risk.
They are empowered to make a difference. The ISS focus on learning and development ensures that the people we employ are the best they can be, self-delivering services for our customers, to in turn provide benefit to their business too.
These programs take a cascade approach, with initiatives involving our leadership, account managers and supervisors. Most service providers train their employees, but very few have implemented an L&D strategy to do it effectively.
For training to achieve its purpose, an L&D strategy must be designed and implemented well, starting at the top of the organisation. It is through these personnel that we believe a strong culture of L&D can be effectively developed and then channelled down through the organisation, leading to higher quality service employee engagement and improved FM outcomes.
Engage your leaders
By embracing the notion that a strong L&D culture starts at the top of an organisation, the first step in developing a strategy is to engage the leadership of the company.
ISS Australia has achieved this by developing the Pacific Leadership Mastery (PLM) program, an aspirational leadership development initiative aimed at high-performing leaders, who are regarded as having the potential to move into other senior roles in the organisation.
Participants, who are selected through a rigorous talent review process by the senior leadership team, are taken through several components, including:
- understanding yourself and developing a personal development plan
- understanding others and how to build individual and team capability
- understanding our clients and customers in order to maintain, grow and win business
- completing a 360-degree feedback tool, a team project of value to ISS and a formal presentation of personal learning to the leadership team, and
- completion of a team project.
With the second year of the initiative completed in 2015, the program has already contributed significantly to transforming the culture among our leadership team.
Taking action with account managers
Beyond our key leadership group, ISS Australia’s account managers were identified as the next management level that required engagement to develop the L&D culture. ISS Australia has many key account managers throughout the business who drive the day-to-day contractual responsibilities with clients, managing multi-service contracts, for example of both maintenance and cleaning, with multiple stakeholders.
The Key Account Management Development Program (KAMDP) has been specifically designed to guide the development of these members, who are selected for involvement by the company’s leadership team. KAMDP provides participants with an understanding of the key tools available to help them drive success in their contracts. Not just the logistics of how to manage assets or understand compliance issues, but how to manage and motivate their people and understand their customer.
The program consists of several components, including understanding the Pacific strategy for ISS, understanding the factors that drive employee engagement, an overview of the leadership aspects behind managing a contract, how to build a personal development plan, and how to create positive long-term client and customer relationships.
KAMDP is run as a six-day program involving three two-day sessions focusing on these components.
Supervising an L&D culture
An important element of the Pacific strategy is a strong focus on the value supervisors can bring to lifting our L&D culture, and ultimately in driving higher service and customer quality.
In many ways, our supervisors are the most important people we have involved in building an L&D culture at ISS, as they are the key members that deliver messages from leadership to our frontline employees.
If they are not developed properly to deliver the correct message, then there is potential they will inadvertently be detrimental to the culture of the company.
To develop ISS Australia’s Supervisors the Pacific Supervisory Mastery (PSM) program was established. Similar to the PLM program, it is an aspirational development initiative aimed at high-performing supervisors, who are regarded as having the potential to move into other roles in the organisation.
Participants are also selected through a rigorous talent review process by the leadership team for the PSM program, which consists of four key components:
- pre-work – a structured meeting between the supervisor and leader on current and future contract needs, performance and metrics, KPIs, role and program expectations
- meeting with the client to discuss their needs and expectations of the supervisor on the contract
- pre-learning – the supervisor will be required to complete several programs through the Learning Management System (LMS), and
- Leadership Development Workshop – attend an intensive facilitator-led off-site program covering: My People, My Customer, My Business and Post-Program.
Additional L&D requirements and initiatives
The final but equally important layer of these L&D initiatives involves our frontline personnel, which focuses on regulatory and compliance requirements that make sure these people are properly inducted and trained, particularly for maintenance and security-related sectors.
In addition, ISS has globally introduced a successful customer service training program called ‘Service with a Human Touch’. The course provides ISS employees with the tools and knowledge required to empower their teams to deliver great service outcomes, build and drive service capability, and establish a sense of pride and purpose. In 2015, ISS Australia trained around 2000 people in the program, and now has around 90 in-house trainers of the initiative.
ISS has implemented an LMS, an online platform that helps deliver and track a variety of training programs across Australia and New Zealand.
Team members log in to the LMS using their company employee number to access their training plan and to undertake a number of online courses. Leaders at ISS also use the LMS to ensure team members have received all of the training required to undertake their job competently.
How to develop L&D strategies
The purpose of L&D programs varies from meeting operational standards to improving overall engagement and increasing performance levels. If training fulfils these purposes, with a self-delivery method like that employed at ISS, it will in turn lead to better service value, improved customer satisfaction and higher profits.
Each training initiative must have a specific, clear and measurable purpose and goal to improve on one of those areas. Our model of programs has delivered in these areas, resulting in fewer customer complaints, less turnover and less absenteeism.
In order for a training program to be effective, ISS Australia recommends that it is designed and implemented by applying the following four-stage process:
- Analysing strategic training needs. Conduct a needs analysis by interviewing line managers, frontline service employees or customers. An alternative may be to observe the behaviour of the frontline employees and perform a gap analysis.
- Design and development of program. Once the needs have been identified, clear measurable objectives can be set. These should include desired behavioural changes in the service employees as well as desired organisational impact – both for the customer and for the service organisation. Once established, the training program can be designed and developed. At this point alternative training methods must be evaluated and a choice made to deliver the program internally or through an external training provider. Finally, the training content must be produced.
- Delivery and implementation of training program. The delivery of the training program is more than just employees attending a course. Effective training includes pre-course motivation, follow-up processes with feedback on behavioural changes, involvement of customers and line managers in anchoring the training, and identification and removal of barriers to implementation of new behaviour.
- Measure and evaluate training outcomes. Measuring, tracking and evaluating the training program are key components in effective training programs. The baseline data must be collected before the training, at an individual or team level. This can only be done for self-delivery, with direct employees; it wouldn’t work in a subcontractor arrangement when you don’t have access to prior data. After the training program, data should be collected again and an evaluation can take place on the difference made.
While it is crucial to understand the processes behind developing an effective L&D program, implementing it will not be possible without buy-in from the leadership of the company.
With the support of all the levels of management in a company, effective training can be delivered and an L&D culture created. When we invest in their training, and they understand their customers’ purpose, employees are proactive and empowered to make a difference.
This culture of continual development can improve performance and employee engagement, and also create increased customer satisfaction, benefitting all those involved in FM.
Chris Bulmer is the national general manager of learning and development at ISS for Australia and New Zealand. He has been responsible for building the L&D framework and key deliverables for ISS’ Pacific Business since 2013. Chris has been a leader in people and culture for the past 25 years in international hotels and now the FM sector.
This article contains excerpts from ISS white paper titled, ‘Effective Training Of Frontline Service Employees’.