Industry Leaders Forum: Stuart Rose, CEO, ISS Facility Services

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

It has been a challenging year for us as it has been for everyone. COVID-19 hit quickly and without warning, and it was a rapid pace of change that everyone had to adapt to.

Like most, we have had business interruption. Our contracts in leisure and aviation were hit hard, however, other parts of the business have been right at the forefront during the pandemic.

We service almost 2000 schools across Victoria and New South Wales and more than 30 hospitals across Australia and New Zealand.

Our frontline team members in these divisions swung into action straight away at the start of COVID-19, and we are so incredibly proud of the work they have done.

One significant highlight for us this year was our involvement in the Victorian state government’s program to increase cleaning of public spaces and infrastructure, such as bus shelters and playgrounds, following the first state lockdown.

We employed 1200 people on 48 hours’ notice. It was a massive exercise in a short amount of time that we successfully completed. It was also a rewarding experience for our team to be involved in a program that was providing safety and reassurance to the community.

How did ISS adjust to the impact of the pandemic?

I think the way our team has responded to the pandemic has been fantastic.

We are fortunate that we have the support of a strong global business and we have been able to leverage our global supply chains for chemicals and PPE during the pandemic. We were also able to leverage global insights from our Cleaning Excellence Community during the pandemic.

During this time, we also developed new solutions for clients such as Back to Work programs and Pure Space – a service where the quality of cleaning outcome is tested and measured after each clean and reported for all building occupants to build confidence.

What will be the immediate focus for ISS in 2021?

As we return to a sense of ‘normal’ our focus will be to work with our customers and assist them with providing safe and hygienic workplaces for their employees to return to.

We will work with our customers to rebuild parts of the business that were the hardest hit and while there is still a way to go, we feel like we are coming out of it and returning to normal.

It’s a big challenge for not just our industry, but businesses in general, to get employees back to the office, and commuting to their places of work, while also making them feel safe.

We also want to take the time to thank our staff for their work over the past few months. There were thousands of front liners that went to work every day, which at times were some pretty high-risk environments.

The work of the thousands of front-liners in places like hospitals and schools has been amazing and we need to connect with all our team members and make sure they are appropriately awarded, recognised, and thanked.

What long-term changes do you think will be implemented to business processes as a result of the pandemic?

It’s still evolving as to what long term changes will be implemented as a result of the pandemic, however, it is evident working from home will still be prevalent for many businesses and it will be some time before offices return to [pre-COVID] occupant levels.

Because of this, ISS and our clients will need to focus on creating safe and healthy workplaces. There will be changes to workplace sizes and layouts, but it will also be our focus to entice people back to the office and reassure them that it is safe to commute to work and be at the office.

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

A challenge and an opportunity for the industry is responsible outsourcing.

The pandemic and to some extent the hotel quarantine inquiry in Victoria, has shone a light on the need for responsible outsourcing.

There is an opportunity for responsible, reputable, and accountable organisations, who recruit properly, pay fairly, and provide correct training and equipment such as PPE, to stand out from the pack.

For too long there have been contractors in the industry who haven’t done the right thing by society – their staff, their customers, the environment.  I think there is an opportunity to be led by government and large organisations to say that we can’t accept this anymore.

There needs to be a behavior change in the way people procure services such as cleaning. If you see a price and think it’s too good to be true, then it probably is – and what it also means is that the cleaner is probably getting underpaid.

There is a huge opportunity for this industry to take responsibility and stamp out that behaviour. Those companies that help protect the brand and reputation of their clients by employing ethically and being accountable and responsible will be most successful.

Has the pandemic fast-tracked digitalisation, or new technologies in the industry?

There is a growing focus on robotics, and on equipment to enhance cleaning and sanitation – such as safe fogging and spraying technology, temperature monitors, and systems to prove that an area is clean. We are currently looking at new technologies including robots.

We were already looking at increasing our use [of robotics] prior to COVID, however, I think there is now more acceptance with the use of robots as organisations start to review their real estate costs.

If a robot can clean the floors and spray disinfectant and the same time, that is going to reduce cost and provide a great hygienic outcome then people will start to look at that solution more.

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

Hopefully, it is a gradual return to normal – offices and places of work are important meeting places where face-to-face interactions happens.

The second one is recognition of cleaning as a critical service. In the past the cleaner was often forgotten, working at night unrecognised but I think we have seen a huge change in that regard. They’re now seen as a vital part of the community which is fantastic.

What are some of key issues the industry should urgently address in 2021?

Firstly, we need to work with our customers and communities to rebuild confidence in returning to the workplace.

We need our cities to re-open and I think the cleaning industry has a big part to play in that. We need people to have confidence that it’s safe to go into the city and that it is safe to go to work.

Secondly, modern slavery is an enormous societal issue. Underpayment of cleaners has been systemic for many years.  No major corporation or Government entity should be awarding work to a cleaning company if the price “looks too good to be true”.

The outsourced cleaning industry is currently in the spotlight and as an industry we need to be responsible and help keep our communities safe.  This industry has a huge role to play and we have all witnessed first-hand that cutting corners can have catastrophic impacts!

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

COVID-19 has shone a spotlight on the brilliant work cleaners do to keep community safe and to make places hygienic. 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 front liners played during this time in cleaning schools, hospitals, and workplaces. But it’s not just the cleaners at ISS, there’s many hundreds of thousands of cleaners across the country working during COVID-19 and they should all be thanked, rewarded, and recognised. We need to treat them as heroes.

This article first appeared in the January/February issue of INCLEAN magazine. 

Read the original article here.

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