A seamless contract start
Taking over an FM corporation that was previously part of another company is an extensive process. A lot of things have got to come together and be prepared ahead of the contract start, while ongoing provision to the customer cannot be affected. And we mustn’t forget arguably the most important question: staff taken on must feel like Coor employees, even if they have the same job, at the same site.
The time from signing a new agreement to it coming into effect, at contract start, is a hectic and intensive period. A lot of things have to be prepared and planned – uniforms need to be changed, vehicles and signage changed to Coor’s graphical image, new phone numbers, link-ups to new systems and networks have to work, payroll has to be right, contracts need to be re-signed, new email addresses must work and so on. Nothing can be wrong when the contract starts, and that’s critical.
New provision must link up to the old one but the joint has to be as seamless as possible to avoid disrupting the customer’s operations. And seamless contract starts are something Coor is good at. This is where the company can rely on its structured, tried and tested integration process, based on many years’ experience of taking on complex FM operations.
“We’ve never been unsuccessful on a contract start, which we can thank our well-tested integration process and skilled project people for. On large integrations, we always create a project organisation out of key competences like HR, IT, Communication, Purchasing, Accounting, Environment and Quality. Our experience over the years has helped us build the necessary processes, checklists and templates that really help us in this work,” reports Mats Holm, a Project Manager with a special focus on operational integration at Coor.
A new supplier – and new employer
Initial integration work is intended to ensure that service provision works well from contract start. The goal is that the client’s customers – all FM consumers at a plant or office – should not experience any negative consequences of a new supplier being on site.
“We have to plan each new contract start according to the circumstances prevailing at any given time. All the operations we take on are different, and so every contract start is unique. Sometimes the operations we take over resemble our own, but at other times there are differences. We have to work especially hard on explaining, clarifying and motivating. So new staff will get to know Coor and its operations, we hold special information events, workshops and training programmes,” continues Mats.
In the last two years alone, Coor has taken on over 1,000 new employees from other FM operations. It’s important that these new people quickly get up to speed on Coor’s operations, corporate culture and working methods. One important task of the integration process is to deal with the concerns that are natural when changing employer. Many of these new people come from sites where they will continue to work in future, but for another employer.
“Feeling concern when things change is completely natural, and we try to address this with openness and active work on informing people. One of the most common problems in changes is that people don’t feel well enough informed. That’s why we work actively through different information channels, offering meetings for staff and managers. By showing people who we are and opening an opportunity for dialogue and questioning, we often alleviate concerns,” observes Mats.
So what do our new people say?
What are the employees that join Coor saying? Mats says the concerns in an operation Coor takes over often persist for a time, but usually taper out fairly quickly. This is evident in Coor’s annual employee satisfaction survey, which clearly indicates that with time, employees become more satisfied with Coor as an employer.
“It’s really great to see new people enjoying their work with us. The fact is that there are a lot of people that flourish and feel more at home with an employer whose core business is FM. This might be the first time they’re part of a core business where they’re the most important function in the company. They feel important and noticed, which obviously, is great to hear,” concludes Mats.
Five hints for successful integration
- A dedicated and committed project organisation
Setting aside the right resources and time for the integration process, which at times can be highly intensive, is important. Members of the project should also have enough competence and experience to be able to execute a successful project.
- Thorough planning – but high flexibility
Thorough planning from checklists and templates facilitates work on minimising the risk of problems at contract start. At the same time, you need flexibility and readiness to be able to act quickly when difficulties arise.
- Co-ordination and ongoing monitoring
Good co-ordination of integration work is important. There are a lot of activities ongoing, and they are all mutually dependent to a greater or lesser extent. Regular update meetings with the whole project team are necessary and ensure that nothing falls between two stools.
- A close and positive dialogue with the customer
Successful integration projects require close collaboration with the customer, not least to get the customer-specific information you need to understand the unique conditions of the current project.
- Active information and the possibility of dialogue
It’s important that the people who are going to change employer are well informed about what’s happening during the course of the project. Openness and active communication are often the key to success.