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Balance of people and tech key to FM success

Chirs BrayThe rise of robotics in the workplace is a hot topic, but in many parts of FM people are still the deciding factor in customer service.

Here, Chris Bray, CEO Sports and Leisure at Sodexo UK and Ireland, explains how they employed the latest human resources technology to streamline their staffing operation at last year’s Royal Ascot.

Ahead of ThinkFM 2017 next month, my colleague Andrew Wilkinson blogged about the interaction between tech and humans in the FM industry, and in fewer places is this balance more delicate than hospitality. Take Royal Ascot, where 300,000 customers expect world-class hospitality over the five days of the event.

The task of staffing Royal Ascot for catering and hospitality is enormous. Sodexo deploys around 3,000 catering and hospitality employees every day of Royal Ascot to provide the world-class service customers expect.

Recruiting, training and checking in and out such a huge number of staff is a vast administrative challenge. Different employees have different skills and training applicable to different parts of the event, from fine dining in the On 5 restaurant to retail outlets in the Bandstand restaurant. In addition, the full time Sodexo staff are swelled by ranks of casual and agency staff.

Previously, checking these staff in and out was paper based. Ensuring each employee had the right training, clothing and health and safety credentials was a laborious process characterised by queues.

Last year at Royal Ascot we applied technology to this process. And we’ve never looked back.

Working with TimeTarget, we introduced their innovative Humanforce online solution. Humanforce is an end-to-end labour management system. It is used for staff planning, allowing the event management team to manage the entire labour requirement, offer shifts to agencies and employees based on their role, training, experience and date of birth – meaning National Living Wage rates can immediately be calculated.

Sodexo employees were set up with a profile ahead of Royal Ascot and emailed a unique log in. Through the online portal they accessed, from their own computer or mobile device, their profile and entered their availability for the event and confirmed which shifts they wanted to work.

Sodexo’s partner recruitment agencies were given access to TimeTarget, and could enter their casual employee’s profile details, picture for ID purposes along with relevant training, as well as finger vein scan ahead of the event. Finger vein scanners were then set up at Ascot, so when they attended Royal Ascot their profiles were set up on TimeTarget and their unique finger vein scan could be validated automatically.

On the first morning of Royal Ascot, the busiest hour saw 578 people checking in with queue times of between 17 and 47 minutes. On subsequent days those queue times dramatically reduced. The busiest hour saw up to 1,000 people check in and queue times from 2 to 20 minutes, with an average time of just seven minutes. This is a considerable break from previous years where check-in queues meant shifts had to be staggered. The new system saw employment costs reduce considerably just through the shorter staff shift times.

Over Royal Ascot, the new technology was used to plan 162,000 working hours. Managers could access and audit this information to a level and in a way never previously possible.

Following its success last year, we’re using the technology again at Royal Ascot this summer. Going forward, staff profiles are now stored on the TimeTarget system for future Ascot events and any employee can log on to the portal and make themselves available for shifts for the summer season.

ThinkFM 2017 is great opportunity to explore new technologies and how to find the perfect blend of people and tech to ensure FM customers continue to receive cutting-edge service.

  • To find out more about the ThinkFM programme, and book your place, click here.