When companies decide to outsource parts of their non-core business units, the next step is choosing the right facility management provider to take over the non-core tasks. But how can companies make sure sure to take the right choice?
A majority of the Facility Management customers we have surveyed over the years, have training and development of service employees high on their agenda when choosing the right service provider. And this is for a good reason.
First and foremost, these service employees will become an integrated part of the customer organisation over time. The customers and their employees will meet them and interact with them on a daily basis, and ultimately these service employees will need to make sure that the company visitors, partners and customers get the best experience when visiting the facilities. In other words, they will take part in representing the customer brand and business values every day.
The second factor is that many service employees have limited formal education and some may not even fully master the local language. Together with the service provider the customer therefore needs to make sure that the composition of the workforce fits their needs and desires, and lives up to their expectation.
Finally, all companies are different. Conversely, the service employees must be capable of understanding the customer needs and demands, their way of doing things and be trained to act and interact in compliance with what ultimately defines the customer specific business.
In this context, the following seven training methods are the most basic and most important ones the facility management customers need to be on the outlook for, when evaluating if their selection of service providers lives up to their demands.
1. Service employee training should be based on needs – not availability
The training of employees that are going to service the customer business should not be designed based on what is available in a standardised training catalogue of the service provider, its preferred training supplier or even on the personal wishes and preferences of the service employees. This approach is not efficient.
Training programmes should be developed and designed solely on the basis of the customer’s individual needs and requirements and secondarily on the needs of the employees.
Even though it sometimes can be hard, for the customer organisation, to comprehend which kind of service employee training is needed to best support their specific businesses, through dialogue the service providers can facilitate the awareness needed.
The training needs of the employees on the other hand can be identified during individual annual reviews where the desired job competency level is compared to the employee’s own competency level. The strategic training need is indicated by the resulting gap analysis. On that basis, gap-filling plans can then be made.
2. Service employee training should include a variety of programmes, learning tools and methods
Traditionally, training of front-line service employees has taken place in a classroom or on-the-job (OTJ).
However, to make sure that the employees of the about-to-be-selected facility management provider have received the best training possible, the design of the training must be varied. Employees learn in different ways – and the training must take these differences in account.
Also, not all skills are best learned in the class room. In fact, most are not and evidence points to the fact that teaching the same material in different ways by exploring several methods is more effective than just learning a new skill in one way.
The best case training methods include a combination of role-play, on-the-job training, coaching and mentoring, job rotation and continuous feedback.
3. Facility Management customers must to be involved in the design and implementation phase
Essentially training is about skilling employees in a way that improves the customer experience experience. As customers know the best, how their experience can be improved, their input is of high value during the training design process. The training design phase should therefore always include inputs from the customer organisations.
Also, customer organisations need to be involved in the actual delivery of the training. This would eventually strengthen their understanding of what skills the service employees have (or should have). Another way to get involved as a customer organisation is to teach at some of the training courses. This technique is very effective and highly recommended.
4. Customer organisations need to make sure that the service provider has supervisor training programmes in place
Historically, excellent frontline workers were promoted to service industry supervisors. This has changed during recent years. The reason for this is clear. Facility Management customers now want standards of service unique to their businesses.
Conversely, there are more effective supervisor training programmes in place for supporting the demand for a higher quality of supervision today.
The support and guidance of supervisors who passionately buy into the principles of training frontline staff should not be under estimated; it is a critical factor in the effectiveness of training.
An empowered supervisor can quickly pick up any changes to service delivery demands. Once these are understood the training programmes can be adjusted to support these changes and ensure that the needs of the customers are constantly met.
5. Consider training of “soft” skills
Frontline service employees add value not only through the technical knowledge and skills they possess but also through a range of service management and other “soft” skills.
As visualised in the graphic below these may include:
Over the years, research has showed that the things we learn – regardless of whether these are new knowledge, skills or behaviour – are best remembered and successfully applied if there are structured follow-up processes.
An effective training process should therefore include a structured follow-up programme. The follow-up can be conducted in several ways and take form of a quick repetition of the material, a monthly refresher course or a 5-10 minute’s reminder at a weekly staff meeting.
7. Customer organisations need to continuously evaluate training programmes
An important and often overlooked process element is the effective evaluation of the training programme.
Evaluations must go beyond traditional satisfaction surveys and include structured evaluation of changes in employees’ behaviour and changes in customer experience.
Most service providers fall short on this process element but many acknowledge the need to improve.
Facility management customer might want to understand not just how training is designed and conducted but also how it continually is improved and upon which data it is based.
All in all, training and development will increasingly be forced to become more evidence-based and this will also be the case for training frontline employees. So as a customer organisation make sure to stress the importance of continuous training development and improvement.
What are your most important criteria when selecting a facility management provider? Share your thoughts in the comment field below.
Would you like to learn more about the best practices for training service employees? Read our blog post: The key processes to make service employee training effective or download our White Paper: Effective training of front-line service employees.
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