Martin Read and Bradford Keen find out why the 2019 IWFM Award winners stood out in the judges' eyes.
04 November 2019 | Martin Read and Bradford Keen
Great expectations for this, the first IWFM awards ceremony to be held under the institute's new name, were matched by the successful reality of the evening. The time-honoured strength of the awards' judging process - overseen for the final time this year by departing head of judges Steve Gladwin - showed that the people celebrated across these pages as the class of 2019 are a reflection of the institute's new approach, of course, yet also worthy additions to its decades-long awards heritage.
You'll see the project winners in the impact and innovation categories from page 24 onwards. Over these first eight pages we focus on the four individual winners in the people category. As befits a year in which the profession's social impact has come to prominence, each winning individual has some dimension of social value to their role, playing a part, whether directly or indirectly, in championing the diversity and reach of the facilities service role and those who provide it.
Be it Samantha West turning the story of her gender reassignment into an opportunity to be a role model to others; be it Chris Kenneally restructuring his firm as a social business and spotting opportunities to develop and coach his people for the future; be it Fiona Stewart ensuring her team takes an important interest in the wellbeing of the students they serve; or Maddie Hayes drawing together people from multiple markets for maximum effect; in all cases, the IWFM judges have recognised those that fittingly represent the profession's growing reputation for people-friendly, people-focused service. Each continues to go above and beyond in pursuit of their own personal professional goals while always seeking to bring others along with them for the ride.
Finally in the people category, there's the 2019 team of the year. Pharmaceutical firm Astra Zeneca was recognised for its FM team's adoption, adaptation and application of lean manufacturing approaches to its operational activities.
Case studies on all of the winners, together with detailed biographies, are on the IWFM Awards website (www.iwfmawards.org).
The workplace role model instilling confidence in others
Samantha West fondly recalls the time she gave a speech to the IWFM Women in FM group. "That was the moment when I was like: Oh wow; I'm here. I made it through everything," she says. "I thought that was going to be my biggest moment."
Then, last month, West, commercial director at Vinci Facilities, won the first ever IWFM Award for Profound Impact. "I just exploded. I burst into floods of tears. I couldn't believe it."
Since West's gender transition, she has become a vocal and effective advocate for LGBT+ professionals working in FM. She launched the LGBT+ group at Vinci Facilities and has lent her support and enthusiasm for the LGBT+ in FM group, which has already united individual organisational groups and aims to grow the membership even more.
"Generally, people are really nice in FM. They're about helping people. But being transgender is difficult for some people to understand," West says. "Women - I've lots to be thankful for; they've embraced me, shown kindness and helped and socialised me to develop as a woman in this society and in the workplace."
Men, on the other hand, have been mixed. "Some guys are absolutely wonderful. Some are worried about saying the wrong thing. But I've not come across any aggression. I've come across avoidance; that's the worst it's got," she adds.
Let kindness be your guide, West says. "For somebody who's in the closet - lesbian, gay or transgender - creating a kind environment helps people to take that first step and be themselves in the workplace. And the benefits of that flow to the employer."
Key to West's personal narrative is living as her true self, which has affected her professional life too. "It's made me a more rounded individual and happier." And others in the industry have gained strength from her story too.
Awareness of the LGBT+ in FM group is growing. The first event attracted around 100 people. West's hoping for even more at the 14 November event at Amnesty International. Despite the progress, there are reports of openly LGBT+ university graduates hiding their true selves in the workplace, which is why West says the group is so important. "Just having an LGBT+ element of reference in the business gives them something to hold on to. If the businesses supports that, which Vinci did at board level, they think 'I can do it, I can be there, I can talk about it.'" People are looking for workplace role models.
West wants the award to be the industry's message to companies that aren't promoting LGBT+ rights and awareness to set up workplace policies and guidelines.
There's still a lot of learning that needs to happen to help transgender people to feel included in the workplace. But as the LBGT+ in FM group grows, positive change is bound to happen.
What the judges said:
West turned a deeply personal journey into an open conversation, inspiring others in their own circumstances to be their true selves, changing attitudes and embracing diversity.
Newcomer of the year
The future leader seizing her moment
Maddie Hayes is only 24 but she's already leading Mace Macro's soft services account for Standard Chartered Bank's Europe, Americas, Middle East and Pakistan regions. Based in Dubai, the Newcomer of the Year has been making a name for herself with employer and client.
A graduate in English and drama at Loughborough University, she discovered an interest in FM while working at an international summer school. She applied to Mace's Graduate Development Programme in September 2016; three years on, she's a rising star in the profession.
"When I joined the graduate scheme, my mentor at the time told me, 'If you're good with different people, can manage a team and earn people's respect, you can be taught anything else you need to learn.' I've tried to live by that teaching in the last three years."
Hayes manages 24 markets remotely so connecting with people is vital to her success. "I try to build a personal rapport with people and find out what's going on with them and their business. I ask for feedback about what is and isn't working - I just try to be more human with people," she says.
Organisational skills and an ability to navigate time zones have been key. But when it comes to rolling out initiatives across SCB's global presence, Hayes starts with the basic plan. "What do we need to do, when's the deadline - and how does it need to be adapted to suit the different regions and countries?"
"I try to be a leader that people can trust in," Hayes says. "But I also try to empower people to own it themselves."
Hayes is at the vortex of a changing profession and industry. As an advanced Leesman practitioner, she cites the Leesman Index as a powerful tool to measure workplace value.
"This tool is going to change the future of FM and workplace and asset management as well."
Hayes' advice for those wanting to enter FM? "Don't be afraid. When I moved to Dubai, it was quite scary and, at times, a little self-doubt creeped in. But it has expanded my profile and given me international knowledge that some people never get."
What the judges said:
Maddie is a future leader, knowledgeable, confident, enthusiastic, with an effervescent personality. She knows where she's going and how to get there.
Manager of the Year
The model manager enhancing FM's role
There are two ways to provide student living services: offer the basics (keep accommodation safe, clean and secure) or really equip and support students to live independently.
Fiona Stewart, contract director at Student Living, Sodexo, chose the latter, pioneering the Residency Living Model at Northumbria University.
The model supports students from before they arrive at university, equipping them with the "skills, confidence and competence to live independently".
Stewart's team helps student residents to participate in university life through sporting and cultural events. But it also looks out for their wellbeing. For instance, cleaning and maintenance teams are trained on drugs, alcohol and mental health awareness.
"If our cleaners go into a kitchen and see drug paraphernalia or a student not acting in a normal way, they know how to deal with it. Previously, they may have just cleaned and moved on to the next job."
The Residency Living Model took around two years to develop, but such is its success with universities that Stewart is helping adapt it for Sodexo's prison and defence contracts.
As for herself, Stewart never set out to win an award but appreciates the recognition. "I really enjoyed presenting in front of the judges. I'm extremely proud of what we deliver with residency living," she says. The accolade and other award wins in the past have set Stewart along the path of a future leader in Sodexo. "It's not just about me, it's about the work my team does and being able to share that innovation and creation with the wider Sodexo business," she adds.
Stewart also wants this award to send a message to other women in FM. "You can do it; have confidence and give it a go." She's UK and Ireland FM ambassador for SoTogether, a global networking group across Sodexo that aims to redress gender imbalance.
So, what's next? Stewart wants to go into schools "to speak to young people about our profession, get it more recognised and really shout about what a great sector it is".
"My message to others in the profession is keep working hard and test your ideas; you never know what you could achieve."
What the judges said: A driven individual who loves what she does and wants to make a difference in our sector. Her management style and thought leadership has benefited her company and the team that works for her.
Leader of the Year
The game changer pursuing a better business culture
Chris Kenneally has been made IWFM Leader of the Year for his key role in transforming service provider and recruitment company the Cordant Group into a social enterprise - or, as he prefers, 'social business'.
"A whole plethora of things" makes Cordant unique, says Kenneally, including shareholders that allow the organisation to invest in its social activities and a chairman (Phillip Ullmann) prepared to retitle himself the organisation's 'chief energiser'.
Cordant is only in year two as a social enterprise yet achievements are notable.
"We've been able to put a lot of unemployed people into work and introduce training programmes with a tangible social impact on the workforce," he says.
Kenneally says focusing on staff at the lower end of the pay scale - increasing pay and pushing for better working terms and environments - "can make a real difference".
The need for shareholders to see a return represents a significant barrier to publicly listed companies transitioning into social businesses, he argues.
"While they might want to see social value, they also want their dividends. That's difficult for a listed company seeking to really embrace social business."
Kenneally speaks of the value in building "covenantal" relationships between provider and client. Such an approach would also lead to SMEs being more confident with public sector tendering.
Government needs to treat social value and social businesses as more than a 'tick-box' practice or another scoring mechanism, Kenneally argues. Instead, it should form the basis for procurement decisions.
As for the award, Kenneally says it's recognition for what he has tried to achieve in his career: being a modern leader. "I try to spot the opportunities in people to develop and coach them for the future. Hopefully, I've left a positive legacy."
Kenneally wants to continue developing future generations and hopes others will join him. He admits to having been driven by the desire to climb the corporate ladder, but he's an advocate of giving back through fundraising and volunteering, and proud of his role in providing opportunities for people to 'enhance their earnings potential for a more sustainable life'.
"I don't think there's anything wrong with organisations making profit or with individuals being rewarded properly. But there's a point where the majority of people can give a lot more back to society," he says.
Leaders needn't give away money or convert businesses into social enterprises. They can devote time to training a younger colleague or being better listeners who take issues into the boardroom to improve workers' lives.
What the judges said: Impressed by his ability to energise his people by providing strategic clarity and direction.
How social value is changing FM
"There are so many elements to social value: mental health awareness, people adopting transgender policies. People are feeling more comfortable with all of this. But there still needs to be visibility. I genuinely think the big contractors have done quite a lot. Not just the LGBT+ piece but also fairness, inclusion, respect, and diversity.
Companies are driven by legislation, which is a bit sad, really. The gender pay gap, for example, is a government-driven initiative and everybody is doing it but what about the pay gap for the BAME community? Nobody's doing that because the government hasn't said to.
Some people are not self-starters. It's companies that go above and beyond and start without being instructed to do so by government that are leading all of this.
"The Mace Group has social value targets in our big 2022 corporate plan such as contributing £500 million to society. But we also focus on wellbeing and mental health. We do a lot of support networks for staff such as our 'tea and talks'. At SCB, we set up fitness classes, yoga and pilates. It's important to encourage people to take a break; the workspace needs to provide spaces where people can chill out. Mace and Macro are also brilliant at giving people opportunities - not just the graduate scheme, but apprenticeships and going into schools to encourage young people who may not know where they're going."
"We're still a little bit off from where we need to be [in the FM sector more broadly]. It's about emotional intelligence. FM isn't just about maintaining buildings anymore, we've got to consider the people aspect of it."
Social value, says Stewart, can be about finding out what your user base cares about and providing the space for them to act. For example, leaving students - especially from abroad - can now donate second-hand items. So far, they've donated £25,000 worth of clothes to the British Heart Foundation and hundreds of duvets and bedding to the local dog shelter.
"The staff setting this up really have to have passion to do it so we are massively focused on social value," Stewart says, "We need to look at the bigger picture not just not just buildings that we manage."
Social value is becoming increasingly important within the sector, but, says Chris Kenneally, we have not yet reached the tipping point at which it becomes fully established.
"The bit that prevents public service contracts moving into that arena is the very word 'contract'", says Kenneally, "because the terms and conditions of entering into service arrangements with the public sector are still hugely onerous. The transfer of risk still sits with the provider."
His preferred 'covenantal' approach would see more SMEs able to bid for government FM work.
"You'd have a whole new set of circumstances that would enable social businesses to come to the fore in those arenas."