Global Workplace Solutions - Going for gold, silver or bronze

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Global Workplace Solutions' talent management programme to create technically-capable and customer-focused facilities managers was so effective its remit is widening.

THE CHALLENGE

Global Workplace Solutions (GWS) is part of Johnson Controls' Building Efficiency division, which looks after all aspects of building management for corporate clients. The company has expanded rapidly but GWS was finding it harder to recruit and retain high quality employees. It needed ways to nurture and develop its existing talent. At the beginning of 2007, it set up an internal academy designed to develop the skills it needed and to boost both the retention and management of employees at all levels. Initially, the programme was aimed at facilities management skills but, as Johnson Controls has grown, GWS now covers a wider remit, such as project management, real estate and energy management. From October 2008, it will become known as a workplace academy, and training will also cover all of these areas.

THE PROGRAMME

The programme has three tiers - gold for aspiring and existing customer business or operations managers; silver for existing facilities managers who have been doing the job for a while but who have little formal training, and bronze for facilities co-ordinators and aspiring managers. Participants are nominated by their managers and take a series of one, two and three-day courses covering the technical aspect of facilities management, such as maintenance and building security, and the non-technical areas, such as appraisal skills and interviewing. Each level takes at least a year to complete, with the technical aspects of the bronze and silver levels aligned to the British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM) examinations. The training is open to all 7,000 European employees, although they need to be fluent in English. The non-technical side is delivered by both internal and external suppliers, while the technical elements for silver and bronze are done by an independent expert. The gold level training comes via a team of independent consultants from the Asset faculty, who specialise in facilities management and real estate issues.

THE RESULTS

The company believes the academy is helping to provide a better service for clients, and says it is achieving higher employee retention rates. So far, more than 100 employees have taken part in the scheme - evenly spread across all three levels - with 34 having completed their relevant tier. Only two starters have since left the company and the scheme already has a 20-strong waiting list. Managers who have nominated existing candidates are eager to nominate others, indicating strong approval for the scheme.

THE HR VIEW

Rachel Jordan-Evans is head of resourcing and development, Global Workplace Solutions. "Facilities management isn't usually high on the career aspirations of 14 year-olds," she says, "and most people fall into it from a building or catering background. This means it is a challenge to find people with strong technical capabilities who are also customer-focused. Most of our recruitment is therefore internal but it is tough to backfill as people move upwards, especially as we are also growing. The BIFM training is useful but it is not necessarily accessible by everyone and providing a comprehensive in-house programme has proved more effective. The academy courses have built up huge kudos within the company and won awards externally. Training is also a strong retention tool. The best measurement of its success is that managers who have nominated and had a team member go through the process have nominated again. My managers don't suffer fools gladly and if they didn't see its value, they wouldn't participate."

THE EMPLOYEE'S VIEW

Alicia Patterson is facilities manager for GE Money, one of Johnson Controls' clients. "I joined the company's graduate training programme straight from college with a degree in hospitality and business development,"she says. "My manager nominated me for the academy's silver-level training and I started the course last year. I've just completed the training, which has covered health and safety, interviewing, negotiation and presentation skills, management services such as security and cleaning, managing premises, leases, real estate issues, and information for new managers. All were two or three -day courses, long enough to enable me to understand the material. In addition to the theory, there are lots of practical elements and this really helps the learning process. It all can be translated into the day-to-day job. It also boosted my networking skills. It was great to be with a group of people who were at a similar level to me. The training is really valued - I was promoted to facilities manager in March and the fact that I had committed to the training helped my application."