During a recent trip to New Zealand, OCS Group CEO Peter Slator spoke with INCLEAN NZ editor Claire Hibbit about how OCS is fostering staff engagement and innovation to curb a universal challenge in the cleaning industry.
Despite the advancements of new technologies transforming the cleaning sector, cleaning remains a people-centric industry, with frontline staff critical to an organisation’s success.
However due to the industry’s intensive nature a universal challenge remains staff retention.
According to UK-based OCS Group CEO Peter Slator it all comes down to getting the basics right.
“One of the things that is prevalent globally in cleaning is how difficult it is to retain quality staff in the frontline,” Slator told INCLEAN NZ.
“[High turnover] is the nature of the cleaning industry but if we can improve retention rates we’ll be able to provide a better service to our customers.
“It’s incumbent throughout all our markets all over the world to develop far better employee propositions to engage our workers better in order to retain them. If we can do that, then we can provide a better quality service to our customers. But in order to do that we have to get the basics right.
“We have to make sure that the right people are joining the business. We have to keep staff engaged and we have to provide recognition, as well as reward, when they do a great job. It all sounds very basic but so many times so many industries don’t get it right.”
Part of improving staff engagement is through innovation. At the time of publication, OCS was preparing for the pilot launch of its new e-learning platform in selected markets ahead of a global roll out.
The platform enables staff to access OCS’ learning packages via their smartphone or tablet as well as enable employees to capture and access real-time information such as colleague requests, task specifications and accident reporting.
“The technology trends that we’re seeing is leading us to invest in the capability of providing more real-time information that is of value to the customer and helps them better understand the services we’re providing, the requests they’re making and how their assets are being managed,” Slator said.
“We’re beginning to pilot different opportunities in different markets and I think both New Zealand and Australia are great places for us to bring our innovation. This [e-learning platform] is really going to change our ability to communicate information to the frontline of the business.”
But while new technologies are being steadily adopted by the industry worldwide, Slator insists robotics won’t replace cleaners any time soon, instead he anticipates to see what he describes as “role blurring”.
“There are environments where robotics are feasible, and we have some customers in some environments that could use it, but I think there’s a lot of practical circumstances that get in the way of evolutions being truly effective,” he said.
“Today, if you just think of a cleaner as just a cleaner then you’ve completely missed the point. They provide much more than that. They provide a service to the customer and to our customer’s customer.
“If [a cleaner] is working at the airport cleaning and they see a passenger who’s struggling with their luggage we want them to go up to them and help that passenger. We are there to reflect the facility and the values of the facility’s management.
“We’ll soon start to see role blurring like this in cleaning industry. Cleaners in many environments will be doing far more than just pushing a mop and making sure there’s no dust or no dirt around.”
On home soil OCS NZ is leading the charge with its electric vehicle initiative – part of a wider strategy to become the most sustainable business in the NZ cleaning sector by 2020. In November last year OCS NZ announced it would convert 30 per cent of its fleet to electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles over the next three years.
“I think we can learn from a lot of things that are starting to happening here in New Zealand,” said Slator of the initiative. “This is a very practical example of trying to find the technologies that provide more sustainable solutions, and this is an area where I think NZ is ahead of the Group.”
OCS is trusted by over 70,000 clients around the globe to deliver essential and sustainable facilities management services, 24 hours a day, with Slator highlighting Asia, Australia and New Zealand as major growth markets.
“Even though they are developed markets, they are terrific growth opportunities for us. We just have to make sure that we don’t try and grow everywhere – it’s really about prioritisation.”
“We’re in a strong market position in NZ and we see the opportunity to not only further develop our cleaning services but to also bundle services. They’re services we haven’t been leveraging with our existing customer base – that’s where we see a lot of growth opportunities at the moment.”