April 13, 2016 16:30
Stephanie Hamilton, Managing Director for ISS Food & Hospitality, reveals why the future is bright for her team
There has been a real sea change in perceptions over the last two years and now there is a belief that FM companies offer the best in foodservice
Foodservice has consistently evolved year on year. A few years ago, few believed that multi-service companies – ISS included – could offer a depth and quality of foodservice that is equal to the more long-established companies. I was never of that mindset. After all, any service delivery is made up of the sum of its parts, from strategic intent, people capability, an eye on the detail, financial stability, a credible offer that a team and clients believe in.
Sometimes, the only people left to convince is the competition. It has taken time but there has been a genuine shift in perceptions over the last two years alone so that today we know we do not face the barriers that we used to.
Many will tell you how hard it can be to change a perception. The only way one can create real change is through doggedly pursuing excellence, through people training and consistently communicating to the team of where we are and what we are capable of, raising standards and delivering beyond expectation – making the case with every meal served. Over the last few years, we have made the case and today we are seen as foodservice caterers that are skilled and expert in our discipline, and moreover we are told that we are ‘doing things differently’.
Why the sea change in perceptions? It is due to a range of factors – our passion for foodservice, our people. We recruit a ‘type of person’ heavy on the can-do attitude and attention to detail, our service levels, the support of ISS towards foodservice and we also like to carry on regardless of the external perception – ‘let them talk, whilst we do’.
It has also taken time for many to understand ISS. Few understood that ISS is a major international player but we are. We possess real depth and history to our story. ISS was founded in Copenhagen in 1901, based on a security service provision – yes, the first misconception busted, we didn’t start as a cleaning company at all! Not that there is anything wrong with providing cleaning. After all we are expected to be single service excellence in our behaviours and then when a client chooses to multiply their service provision into ISS, they are guaranteed ‘best in class’ no matter which point the customer touches. We have grown to become one of the world’s leading facility services companies with revenues amounting to DKK 74.1 billion, have been voted number 1 outsourcing provider over the past year three times. In the UK alone, we employ approximately 48,500 employees who are dedicated to delivering high quality support services. We are committed to doing business the right way. We are actively involved in corporate responsibility and sustainability initiatives and similarly, we strive to ensure that our people are paid a full and fair Living Wage.
It is our belief in service delivery that has allowed us to become world class. It has taken time for others to see that we are, but this is now happening. Whatever anyone says, I know that ISS will go the extra mile for our people and for our customers. Our executive team has a passion for food that I have rarely seen in other companies. It has been this that has led the change in perception.
I am only interested in the substance of what we do. We believe in the concept of a “team” and we live to that goal. If one looks at our leadership team, one will see a united group that all share the same values and goals.
When I joined the company, I realised that ISS was the right fit for me – I was going to be given more creative freedom with the food development team than at any other company I had worked with before, I would be able to spend most of my times at sites developing a relationship with our customers and employees and finally I saw an opportunity to leave a positive legacy within the organisation. There was still a shift in perception that needed to occur regarding IFM companies and I would like to think we have led the change in perception.
The real challenge was to prove that Integrated Facilities Management companies did not view foodservice as a side business. Let me tell you, I am nobody’s ‘bit on the side’. I am very proud of my business and my team as I know that we are making a real difference – in many ways this will be our legacy. From creating the ISS Academy of Excellence with Leeds City College, which supports young people through a vocational qualification, to a Chef’s diploma for our own team, we have placed every member of our management team on a leadership development programme, mentoring sessions, award wins – a Food Service Catey, a Cost Sector Catering Award, Hospitality Assured Award, MIDAS Menu Innovation Award and to my own Senior Executive of the Year Award the list is endless. For me, the awards are a morale boost for the team, they give that external accreditation. I have previously underestimated how much that meant to them. It feels good to work here and even better when someone’s hard work is recognised.
We are passionate about food experiences; we have all come from single-service catering companies into FM so that we can continue working on our passions and be able to provide our clients additional services if that is their need. Recent contract gains have allowed us to demonstrate our culinary skill to a wider audience. In the end, the client’s satisfaction is what determines our success. If the clients know what a quality company we are, our team can take confidence in that.”
Our journey is only partly achieved. Changing both perception and the reality is ongoing and ever present. We are still gaining momentum. If you haven’t felt the change or seen it coming then do your research because I have done mine. I know what the perception is of our business and we are enjoying the moment.