People Matters: Mark Sutcliffe

To wrap up our People Matters series, we spoke to Mark Sutcliffe, CEO of Lorne Stewart Facilities. Mark discusses how effective management combined with an undisputed understanding of your team’s needs is the key to successful people management.

With the backdrop of the UK’s talent shortage, what part does culture play in helping employers attract and retain the best people?

Traditionally, offering attractive pay and annual leave packages was the key to securing and retaining top talent. There are now many other factors at play. Culture is incredibly important and people care about who they work for more than ever before. They want to know that their employers have strong values and credentials. Cultures that are “male, pale and stale” simply don’t fit anymore.

People want to join diverse organisations with a family feel, doing meaningful work for companies that walk the walk when it comes to looking beyond profit and focusing on people, purpose and the planet. Organisations can no longer afford to wash over these things. To attract top talent, employers need to prioritise creating a culture that provides both a good working environment and imparts genuine value to the wider world. 

Getting the culture right can be a complex challenge at the best of times, how can business leaders in the built environment go about rectifying this disconnect?

It’s about living and breathing your values as a business. Organisations need to connect with people, conversing with as many stakeholders as possible both internally and externally to understand the key issues facing their communities, industries and employees. As a national organisation, we’ve found retaining open dialogue to be hugely beneficial. Our Plymouth team is very different to those in the North, and we as an organisation need to be aware of those nuances. 

It’s important to embrace diversity, not fight it. People need to feel heard, and there are a variety of ways in which that can be achieved. Consider family-friendly policies to support those dealing with specific issues such as pregnancies or family bereavements. The world is moving at an incredibly fast pace, particularly in the built environment sector. But that shouldn’t mean we leave no room for empathy, understanding and genuine human connections in the workplace. 

How can employers encourage a sense of community and belonging?

Sharing good news, being honest and open, offering incentives – there are several ways in which we can help people to feel happy, and like they belong. In my experience, individuals like to feel that they’re part of the decision-making process. Companies should therefore avoid any dynamic in which strategic decisions are solely driven from the top down. We need to bounce ideas off people and encourage every employee to bring ideas to the table. Not only will this provide opportunities for improvement and foster innovation, but it will also cultivate that key sense of community. 

Just as collaboration and open lines of communication with customers are incredibly important to an organisation’s success, so too is fostering those relationships internally. Of course, that can be tricky at times, and people will naturally have differing opinions, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. If everyone is bought into the shared culture and values, then we can create a safe space for collaboration, as well as disagreement and conflict resolution.

What do you think are the main drivers of workplace conflict?

As I mentioned, differing opinions – as well as values, ways of working and personality clashes – are inevitable. That’s okay, of course, so long as there’s an established and effective way of dealing with any conflicts that may arise. If problems are not dealt with at an early stage, they tend to fester, and that’s when tensions grow. I always say to my team, if I think I should raise a concern, then I probably should. If people make one mistake, that’s okay. We’re all human. It’s natural. But if it’s repeated, then that evolves from a mistake to an issue, and people sometimes just need to be told to make the necessary change. 

Clearly communicating expectations and values to ensure that employees are more closely aligned is also important, as is empowering teams to make decisions. But a large part of that comes down to setting clear boundaries and goals. People should feel empowered in the right way, but they should also understand the borders of that empowerment.

Micromanagement is not the solution, but neither is free reign. With that said, everyone will be different, so we need to adapt effective management styles depending on the individual. Some people want more guidance, while others prefer greater autonomy. The key to effective management is listening and adapting. That way, employees will be happier, and conflict will be reduced. 

How can FM contribute to social value and attract the best talent at the same time? 

FM is incredibly well-placed to deliver social value, and it plays a massive part in what we offer as an industry. As service providers, we can help each client to achieve their aims and goals. However, the FM sector needs to be more innovative in the ways in which we deliver social value. At Lorne Stewart, we’re currently building a toolkit for local teams to come up with new ideas to ensure every localised department is acting as an excellent corporate citizen and strong local community custodian.

It’s about thinking beyond typical avenues such as apprenticeships to see what we can do – perhaps offering placements to former veterans or ex-offenders, or going into local schools to promote the sector to the next generation. These are all ways that we can lure in more diverse talent pools while also delivering social value. 

There are several problems in FM at present. Skills shortages, a lack of industrial strategy, inflation, political instability, the net zero challenge, diversity and inclusion, supply chain agility, effective management and robustness. It’s up to us as an industry to collectively combat these challenges. And again, that requires collaboration among all stakeholders. From standardisation to reimagining the possibilities and learning from those leading the way, we can all pave a brighter path for the FM industry that more proactively benefits people and the planet. 

People Matters series:

Jasmine Hudson

Grace Lewis

Jaime Lloyd-Jones

Mary Appleton

Sophie Wade

Smadar Cohen-Chen

Ashleigh Cresswell and Andy Grant

Sabrina Stubbs