Industry Leaders Forum: Liz Turner, COO, ISS Facility Services NZ

How was 2020 for ISS NZ? What were the highlights? What were the challenges?

Without in any way diminishing the significant challenges that came with COVID-19, my reflection on 2020 for ISS New Zealand is very positive.

While some of our operations were impacted, others were at the forefront during the pandemic, particularly those teams servicing District Health Boards across the country.

Thanks to the strong relationships with our customers and the commitment of our people, we have come through 2020 having retained our permanent employees and maintaining our safety focus.

The recognition from the wider community of the critical role played by our people in the fight against COVID-19 was a personal highlight for me in 2020. We have never received so many nominations for our reward and recognition programmes and this is something I aim to see continue going into 2021.

Working while internal travel restrictions were in place also reinforced the importance of local teams and being close to our customers.  Our teams also adapted quickly to the use of technology to stay connected across the wider organisation.

How did the business adjust to the impact of the pandemic?

The response to the pandemic across all levels was outstanding. I had the opportunity to really see the depth and agility of the organisation.

While it is impossible to be entirely prepared for an event like COVID-19, our footprint in the Region meant we were able to learn from the direct experience of our Cleaning Excellence teams in China, Hong Kong and Singapore.

This put us in an excellent position respond quickly to this pandemic. At a local level we were also able to leverage the knowledge of our healthcare teams, particularly in relation to infectious cleaning practices.

By leveraging the expertise across the organisation we were able to quickly prepare specific Coronavirus cleaning processes, leverage global supply chains, and provide proactive guidance to customers on getting back to work safely.

New service solutions, such as our Pure Space product, were also developed to meet the needs of our customers. Pure Space incorporates ATP testing after each clean and transparently reports the results for all building occupants to build confidence.

What will be the immediate focus for ISS NZ in 2021?

While life in New Zealand has largely returned to normal, the experience of other countries shows we can never be complacent about this virus. In 2021 we will continue to work with our customers to ensure their environments are as safe and hygienic as possible.

We recognise it is a challenge for not just our industry, but businesses in general, to get employees back to the office, customers returning shopping centres, and visitors to major events, while also making them feel safe.

We start 2021 with a clear focus on fundamentals – looking after the needs of our customers and looking after the health and wellbeing of our people.

What do you see as major opportunities for ISS in 2021? What challenges do you expect to face?

Informed by the learnings from the pandemic, in late 2020 ISS completed a global strategy refresh – OneISS. OneISS is about creating an ISS that is stronger at its core, simpler in its operations and closer to its customers. It is a strategy that will help us achieve our purpose – “Connecting people and places to make the world work better”.

OneISS has resulted in a renewed commitment to our strategy and operating model. During the pandemic it was very clear that organisations like ISS, with self-delivery at the core of their operating model, were able to respond to challenges more quickly and effectively. An opportunity for ISS in 2021 will be to add further specialised cleaning services and technical services to our diverse range self-delivered solutions.

What challenges and opportunities do you see for the wider industry over the next 12 months?

A challenge and an opportunity for the wider industry is responsible outsourcing. For ethical employers who pay correctly, and provide the right training, PPE and equipment there is an opportunity to create a real point of difference.

COVID-19 has also driven increased safety expectations across the industry. I believe the ability to protect the brand and reputation of customers by employing ethically and safely has become increasingly important, and this will be a key to sustainable long term growth.

I see active industry engagement, for example our membership of BSCNZ, as key to addressing these challenges. There is significant opportunity for members and customers to come together to take responsibility and set new standards in our industry.

How do you see the cleaning landscape evolving into 2021?

While the long term changes within the cleaning landscape as result of the pandemic are still evolving, it is evident working from home will still be prevalent for many businesses.

Indeed offices may not get back to pre-COVID levels for some time and there will be changes to how we have traditionally worked in office environments.

I see the need for greater emphasis on the workplace experience that we create within those spaces, given people will have more choice as to where and how they work.

As such, the office will play a bigger role in connecting and contributing to building culture. For our customers, they need the office to be a place where people want to come to work and a place that aligns with culture they are trying to build within their organisation.

At the heart of ISS’s organisational identity is the belief that people make places and places make people. The significant contribution ISS’s people make in the places they work has never been more evident than during these COVID times.

What role will innovation play for ISS NZ in 2021?

There is little doubt that COVID-19 has accelerated disruption, as well as the implementation of new innovations across many industries, our industry included.

Heightened cleaning standards coupled with and increasing pressure on labour costs across New Zealand have also driven a growing focus on robotics, and on equipment to enhance cleaning productivity and cleaning outcomes.

At ISS we are always looking at new technologies and had already increased our use of robotics prior to COVID-19. There is now more acceptance of robotics, as customers review their facility services costs.

I certainly don’t see robotics replacing the need for cleaning by people, but they do free up productive time for cleaners to focus on more value added cleaning tasks, such as high touchpoint cleaning.

What do you expect to be the big trends of 2021?

In addition to growth in the use of robotic technology, I expect to see an increase in interest by customers in the integration of services under outcomes-based solutions. Integrated solutions, particularly when self-delivered, offer greater flexibility, as well as cost efficiencies.

I also hope to see the continued return to more normal activity levels in offices and places of work. I believe we all have a stronger appreciation for the importance face-to-face interactions, the value of the office as an enabler of those connections.

Thirdly, recognition of cleaning as a critical service. Traditionally, the cleaner was often forgotten, working at night and unrecognised. We have seen a huge change in this area. Cleaners are now seen as a vital part of the communities in which we operate. In this sense, I also see an increasingly localised approach to employment and operational support.

What is one issue you think the industry should urgently address in 2021?

I believe one of the longer term impacts COVID-19 will be in the area of mental health. The varied pressures, both personal and work, as well as physical fatigue have created an urgent need for awareness and action.

Accordingly at ISS we will be rolling out Mental Health First Aid during 2021. We also continue to support the normalisation of discussions regarding mental health, not just around RUOK Day but all year around.

Is there one key message you would like to share with the industry?

We’ve always known our frontline employees were heroes, but this has never been more apparent than in response to the pandemic.

The ways our teams have risen to the challenges of 2020, to support our customers and each other has been nothing short of outstanding.

We have 17,000 employees across Australia and New Zealand, and more than half of those team members are cleaners.

We are so proud of the role our frontline employees played during this time in cleaning universities, hospitals, food production facilities, event spaces and workplaces.

But it’s not just the cleaners at ISS, there are thousands of cleaners across New Zealand working throughout the pandemic and they should all be thanked, rewarded, and recognised as the heroes they are.

This article first appeared in INCLEAN NZ magazine 

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