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Interview

For the first time in history we have five different generations of people in the workplace. A top employer today is one that can engage and support all these generations at the same time. That’s not easy!

Introduce yourself and tell us about your organisation  

I’m Group HR Director of Mitie, the UK’s leading facilities management business. Mitie employs 52,500 people in the UK and Ireland and works in partnership with organisations to provide a wide range of services – from real estate and energy consultancy, compliance, risk assessment and security systems to cleaning, catering and environmental services. Mitie manages and maintains some of the nation’s most recognised landmarks, and high street buildings.

I joined Mitie 18 months ago as part of a new Executive leadership team brought in to turn the company around. I don’t think any of us realised quite how difficult it was going to be within the sector – with the collapse of Carillion and the demise of Interserve, it’s been a tough 18 months. But we’ve now posted our first set of solid financial results.

Prior to joining Mitie, I was Group HR Director of itsu, where I led the team to win both the CIPD HR and L&D Team of the Year awards. We were also the overall winner of the CIPD People Management Awards 2017. My previous roles include senior HR positions with Sainsbury’s, Santander and Accenture.

I would describe myself as a ‘retailer working out of sector’ – and I’m loving it! It’s made me realise that transformation is the same whatever the industry.

What do you think defines an organisation as a top employer today?  

For the first time in history we have five different generations of people in the workplace. A top employer today is one that can engage and support all these generations at the same time. That’s not easy!

A top employer has to think beyond just Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Yes, you have to meet basic needs: you have to pay people fairly and on time. But any organisation can provide a career, learning opportunities, benefits and rewards. Today it’s about what else they can do. It’s self-actualisation and then some…. A top employer gives choice and flexibility to enable employees to choose where they work, when they work, how they work, and how they take their rewards: both in the short and long term. People should have the choice and flexibility to fit work life around their home life, not the other way around. A top employer trusts their employees to do a great job.

People describe ‘work life balance’, but I think it’s about ‘life work balance’. Investing in technology that enables flexibility is crucial, which is why this has been a key part of our HR transformation here at Mitie.

Tell us about a recent initiative that you have instigated within your organisation that you are most proud of?  

When I joined Mitie, we had no central HR systems – and with 52,500 employees working across a number of different businesses, this caused many challenges for the organisation as you might imagine. We had to invest to master the basics and, in the last year, we have implemented four state-of-the-art, cloud-based, intuitive technology platforms that are redefining how we put our employees in the driving seat of their career at Mitie.

Our ‘People Hub’ is a one-stop-shop for all things related to the employee lifecycle. For the first time our organisational hierarchies are visible. It also provides all of our colleagues with 24/7 access to their personal employee profiles, allowing them to manage everything from viewing payslips, to requesting and approving leave requests.

At the core of our learning and development transformation is our ‘Learning Hub’, an online portal through which employees can access online development material relevant to their role. This includes mandatory material, our induction, and a wealth of self-selected development and health and wellbeing modules. The ‘Learning Hub’ can be accessed on any device, allowing colleagues to learn wherever, whatever, whenever; enabling choice.

Our Temporary Recruitment app means our people can book a temp and the touch of a button. It now takes 52 seconds to raise a job, 64 seconds to book a fully-compliant candidate and 18 seconds to approve a timesheet.

Finally, with our ‘Talent Hub’, we are creating an industry-leading talent and resourcing function to attract, recruit, develop and retain the best people at all levels. We use the best technology on the market to increase the visibility of roles, mine new talent and fill opportunities quickly. You can search based on hours, tasks and locations to enable choice and flexibility.

What is the next objective in your organisation's journey to keep improving the employee experience?  

As we move into year three of our transformation, the aim is ‘delightfully seamless’ integration. We want to build on the foundations we’ve laid with further investment in our IT systems to move from ‘best-in-sector’, to ‘best practice’. We’re embracing AI and chatbots in different languages in our HR Self-Service to encourage inclusion and efficiency.

We are also supercharging our social value proposition to create a socially conscious workplace, which builds pride in our brand. We’re setting ambitious targets for the coming year to challenge ourselves to make an even bigger contribution to the communities in which we work and further reduce our impact on the planet.

What is the biggest challenge facing your organisation today and how are you planning to overcome it?  

As a low margin business in a challenging sector we have to ensure that we make careful decisions about how we invest in our employees. This means investing in ensuring we have the right people in the right places, and in training that will accelerate their speed to competence.

This is epitomised by our cultural transformation to become ‘One Mitie’. We’re inspiring our people to stop seeing their roles in silos while enabling them to broaden their skill-sets and job roles, empowering them to take on more responsibility. Our investment in our technology solutions allows us to develop our people, as well as realising efficiencies. Our aim is to use technology to enrich roles, saving time it takes for employees to do the basics, so that their time is freed up to take on ‘added values’ tasks such as engaging our customers, going the extra mile and delivering ‘the exceptional, every day’.

How will your organisation have to adapt to meet the changing future workplace?  

At Mitie, we’re incredibly aware of the impact of the changing workplace. We are leading on future workplace design with the ‘Connected Workspace’ – making use of technology and systems integration to optimise building use. By connecting all aspects of facilities management, utilising technology such as sensors to monitor the working environment and working conditions such as desk capacity, we can improve the performance of buildings, as well as the wellbeing of those working inside them.

 

The workplace is no longer just a place of work: it is the embodiment of an organisation’s brand and culture, enabling creativity, engagement and wellbeing. With this in mind, our new headquarters in the Shard were created to enhance the wellbeing of everyone working here. Besides being flooded with natural light and ventilated with fresh air, the office has two immersive regeneration pods, offering a 15-minute period of rest and recuperation in a tech-free environment. The brief break refocuses the mind, increases wellbeing and efficiency. We’re also experimenting with biophilic design to see the impact that natural materials and dynamic lighting have on the productivity and emotional wellness of our employees.

 

This interviewee was kindly introduced to us by ‘Top Employers Institute – the global authority on certifying excellence in employee conditions.’ Their organisation is certified as a Top Employer.

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