The BSA works to promote the role of markets in raising standards in the delivery of services in both the private and public sectors.
We seek to show where markets could be established or improved to benefit service users. The UK government spends £220 billion a year on buying goods and services from the independent sector. As the industry body representing many of the companies which supply services to the public sector, recommending reforms is central to our work.
A sign of a healthy market is one with lots of providers of differing sizes. BSA members partner with SMEs and help build networks of local providers and charities.
The BSA champions diversity and values as a cornerstone of successful service delivery
BSA members seek to be good employers, providing good services which help to meet their clients’ objectives. When mistakes are made, as happens with all human activity, they are committed to putting things right promptly.
Devolution has the potential to unlock local and regional economic development and stimulate innovation in the delivery of public services including through greater service integration – cutting down on wasteful service duplication and enabling a greater focus on user need.
These goals will only be achieved through a progressive, outward-looking and forward-looking approach to engagement with local communities and the full range of stakeholders, including those from the private and voluntary sectors who have the relevant expertise and experience.
Member Blog: How does a service organisation improve the quality of life for consumers
Blog by Phil Hooper, Corporate Affairs Director, Sodexo UK & Ireland
At Sodexo we strive to make sure that facilities management (FM) is not treated as a commodity. We put the focus on adding value to client organisations through service excellence, and to do this we look at the human dimension of what we do.
Central to our business is focussing on how the services we provide impact on people’s experience to improve outcomes such as patients’ wellbeing and recovery; reducing reoffending by prisoners; improving productivity in the workplace or helping young people fulfil their potential. Instead of viewing our business as many FM companies do – as a business to business provider – we view it as business to consumer, and if you include the client dimension in this then our business is business to consumer for business.
At Sodexo we do not just talk about improving quality of life, we have done much more. For example, in 2009, Sodexo set out to create a resource to deepen its understanding of quality of life. The resulting think tank, the Sodexo Institute for Quality of Life, is founded on Sodexo’s conviction that improving quality of life leads to the progress of individuals and contributes to the performance of organisations.
The Institute’s objective is to gather and develop insight on the drivers of quality of life and their impact. It does this by developing and leveraging relationships with external experts such as academics or the OECD, a Sodexo Group partner.
Sodexo believes there are distinct areas of quality of life which our services impact directly. These include the physical and social environment. This encompasses everything that contributes to an individual’s comfort and security: optimal temperature in a corporate environment; quality room furniture in a hospital and effective energy and well-monitored environment in universities through to the meal sharing experiences; hospital visiting areas and online student communities.
Health and nutrition is another key area. The FM industry, through a catering service, has an influence on the provision of nutritious and healthy meals, advice on nutrition and lifestyle, and can provide access to fitness and athletic programmes whether in a company, a hospital and a university.
There are also a number of people-related areas such as factors which help an individual to feel truly valued, such as non-financial employee rewards or incentive programmes for companies. Aspects of the workplace which help individuals to learn and progress, for instance: offering first professional experience to students in universities.
In summary, of course there is the cost of FM but as an industry we can create value for our clients, their employees and customers well beyond that.
Phil Hooper is Corporate Affairs Director for Sodexo UK & Ireland. Sodexo delivers services that improve the quality of life to clients in the corporate, healthcare, education, leisure, justice and defence sectors.
Phil is responsible for all brand and communications as well as overseeing the company’s client relationship management teams.
Further to his role at Sodexo, Phil has led and been involved in a number of delegations that have lobbied the government on behalf of the industry. He is also a Fellow of the Institute of Hospitality, a member of the BSA chairmanship committee, chair of the Foodservice Management group at the British Hospitality Association, a member of the Board of Trustees for the Springboard Charitable Trust and a patron of Hospitality Action.
Member Blog: The Importance of Transparency
Kevin Craven, Chief Executive, UK Central Government Division, Serco
As an ex-employee of Sodexo, I was pleased but not surprised to see the launch of their Transparency Charter recently. I applaud their leadership and congratulations to them. As the CEO of Serco’s Central Government division, I am of course frustrated that they got there before us. But I suspect we will look back in a more transparent future and not worry about who got there first, because consensus is building around the need for greater transparency in the delivery of public services and the momentum seems unstoppable. There are of course those that oppose it vehemently but they are now firmly in the minority.
So why the rush to transparency? Although this is an important question (spotting a bandwagon is a vital leadership skill…), more important is why many of us in the industry are supporters of transparency at a deeply personal level.
When you deliver services in politically controversial areas such as prisons, schools, healthcare and the military, you will always find critics. Even before the events of 2013, the general perception of the outsourced public services industry in the UK was poor, though not particularly high profile.
Bankers and politicians have all felt the wrath of public opinion, and some may say that it was simply the turn of the public services industry to face the fire. But I don’t believe that. In the early days of outsourcing, when the sector began to grow rapidly with many first generation deals, the truth is that we were all learning as the market developed. Cost savings were the primary objective of both the customer and the provider. At times, the only things preventing a ‘race to the bottom’ were the unions and legislation like TUPE; and even with them, I am sure that some of the actions taken were ill advised.
But the message from the self-evident growth and success of the sector is clear – we have all learned much from our mistakes. Not just in the UK; the models and knowledge developed during this time have been exported and have gained traction around the globe. That success has not, however, changed public perception. So it is down to us to help governments show how public service delivery is better for the involvement of the private sector; how competition brings innovation; how accessing a deep supply market brings with it global expertise and scale; and how a contract protects service delivery from the vagaries of politics. If we cannot, governments could conclude that they are better off delivering public services themselves.
And so to transparency. The public demands and deserves to know how well their money is being spent and what quality is being delivered. I believe that in a world where citizens are becoming more demanding of how taxpayers’ money is spent, where “just Google it” is the default, where good quality data becomes the norm rather than the exception, then transparency will fast become a right. As an industry I believe that we should accept this with open arms – we are being offered an opportunity to showcase what we do, so we should lead the argument.
Just look at what we have to offer. It makes me sad that one group of people very often gets overlooked in this debate; those delivering public services on the front line, whether employed by the private, public or voluntary sector. Many of our people are doing fantastic things in public services every day and are rightly proud of what they do. Many of them transferred from the public sector and might be expected to have a public service ethos but many are from the private sector. I cannot tell the difference – all I see are dedicated people working exceptionally hard to change lives. If we were to make more transparent the work that they do, I truly believe that our reputation as an industry would improve by being associated with such care, commitment, dedication and expertise. It is only by doing more to demonstrate what our people do day in, day out to provide excellent public services that we can gradually change public perceptions, and earn the right to understanding on those occasions when we get it wrong.
So why do I support transparency at a personal, visceral level? Because transparency provides an opportunity to showcase what we do, it drives up standards and efficiency through better data and proof of performance; and used properly it could spark a genuine and informed debate around competition and the delivery of vital public services. Transparency shifts the focus from the ‘who’ to the ‘how’, and surely that can only be welcomed.
Kevin is CEO of Serco’s UK Central Government Division, which comprises three business units: Defence, Transport and Home Affairs. The business has circa £1.5bn revenues and 10,000 employees.
From 2006 he ran Balfour Beatty WorkPlace, the FM arm of the Group. After significant growth there, Kevin was promoted to CEO of the newly-formed Support Services division in January 2011. The division turned over £1.5bn, had 20,000 employees and included utilities, integrated facilities management, highways and BPO.
Previous organisations include ARAMARK, Sodexho Travel, Citation South and Gardner Merchant. He is a member of the Business Services Association Council and has previously been its Chairman.
The workforce of the future: robots and roadmaps
Transformation is the business buzzword of this generation. Preface it with digital, leadership, cultural or service and you’ll find a slew of articles, comment pieces and case studies on how it’s been done and why everyone should try it. In reality, it boils down to change. We live, as they say, in “interesting times” and one of the striking features of this age is the pace of development.
Technology now underpins our social, economic and business transactions in a way never previously conceived of and it will continue to rapidly evolve and transform our world. For businesses this often means simply keeping up: realising benefits where possible and ensuring their competitive edge isn’t lost to a more agile and savvy competitor. But what does it mean for the future of the workforce? Is technology a threat or an opportunity? How can businesses, particularly those that are built on their people, map out next steps?
Much vaunted is the threat of automation, with artificial intelligence and machine learning expanding the scope of computing power to successfully tackle more tasks than ever before. A report by Deloitte, based on data on the business services sector from our Oxford Economics report, found that between 25 and 31 per cent of jobs in the sector are considered at “high risk” of automation. The characteristics denoting risk are typically classified as repetitiveness, regularity, and relative simplicity: factors that make tasks ripe for automation.
At a BSA roundtable in July with senior stakeholders from member companies, the mood reflected both the excitement for the opportunities technology would bring, and concern about what it would mean for employees. Already, they said, the ripples are spreading. The AI operator “Amelia” can resolve over 60 per cent of call centres enquiries accurately – and continues to learn and improve performance while doing so. Mobile robot hazard cones can blow air to dry spillages on floors as they wheel around. Smart sensors in lifts are connected to the Cloud and not only alert maintenance when they break, but also log and model data to predict and help avert faults.
Importantly however, all of these new technologies work alongside humans: an operator is still needed to respond to the questions Amelia can’t handle; a cleaning operative must set up the floor-drying cone and check its progress; and a lift engineer must address the faults that the sensors predicts or reports. There are opportunities then for technology to not merely usurp work, but to transform ways of working, for repetitive and routine tasks to be handled by robots and computers and for the workforce to evolve into skilled operators, technology managers or trained specialists.
This change will not happen overnight and for those in the high risk jobs, it is important to recognise that it may well be a long and difficult process. As younger generations expect to work for more of their lives, employers will need to learn how to retain, adapt and empower their employees to journey with them and with their transformations.
But this is far from impossible: technology already pervades day-to-day life, making automation accessible and illustrating that workforce shifts can also be positive. With smartphones becoming near ubiquitous, apps can streamline communications or provide easy access to data or sensors. As machines tackle more complex tasks, workers will be able to focus on operating and working alongside them, as opposed to carrying out the tasks they perform. New jobs, such as that of data architect or social media manager, will be created and provide employment. And crucially, economists argue that if services and goods become more efficient and cheaper as a result, productivity gains and higher disposable incomes will create further growth in the economy and in the job market.
For the business services sector, where staff have formed the backbone of businesses since its inception, this transition will require investment, engagement and a visionary roadmap. Skills and training will be vital: both to enable the technology that will bring change, and to ensure that the workforce is able to benefit simultaneously. Large companies must also learn to be agile: finding ways to incorporate new innovations and make new technology business as usual. Finally, leaders must work with their people to engage with and embrace new developments. Strategies will need to be both flexible and inclusive because no one, not even Amelia, can tell us exactly what comes next.