People Matters: Matt Chapman and Kelly Dolphin

For the next instalment of our People Matters series, Sabrina Stubbs spoke to Matt Chapman, CEO of the FM provider SBFM, along with their people and culture director, Kelly Dolphin.

Walk us through your backgrounds, Matt, and Kelly, what excites you about your roles?

Matt: For years, I’ve been writing about what people-focused good business involves, and what a utopia in FM could be for clients. I started out in marketing roles, which led me to working in FM organisations.

That path led me to be CEO of SBFM, and I now get to actually implement the “what”, and make the changes needed in FM happen. I’m working to build a diverse, but likeminded, team to challenge the norm and do things the right way, not just the way they’ve always been done.

Kelly: While I was at sixth form I worked as a weekend housekeeper in a mental institute. It was here I was surrounded by people who were proud of their cleaning operative roles and how they contributed to the running of the institute. It gave me first-hand insight into the cleaning industry.

From there, I went on to work in recruitment. In my mid 20s, I was upskilling frontline workers, giving them opportunities for a better future. Through working my way up, I became the head of learning and development at another organisation, where we helped lower skilled workers develop in their roles and eventually become part of leadership teams.

That work made SBFM approach me, and I accepted the role because it lets me make decisions, act quickly, and try to tackle and resolve systemic issues regarding recruitment. Access to opportunities is a major part of my work, I want people to have access to the opportunities they deserve.

Speaking of being people-focused and upskilling frontline workers, how do you develop an inclusive and ethical environment?

Matt: We ensure that community is integral to our work, which is why we embed our social and environmental performance into our decision making. Our first priority is community, and the second is communication.

To understand our colleagues and their needs, we need to communicate with them. That’s why we survey everyone, from frontline workers to our head office, and measure their satisfaction. Are they happy? Supported? Do they understand SBFM’s goals and our vision? And finally, do they have the tools to do their job well? Measuring these elements allows us to track our improvement, but also identify where there are holes.

For example, if 89% of our colleagues feel like they work with the brand they serve, not with SBFM, then we need to ask, what the benefit of SBFM is to them? 30% of our front-line colleagues expressed they were unsure who their line manager was. This is where we are focusing resources now, so that we can give everyone in our organisation a voice and show them that they are valued members.

We’re also working on improving our working retention. First, we need to know the baseline of our retention, and compare it to the industry standard to make sure we are always improving.

Kelly: People need to feel that they’re respected for an organisation to be unified, and for any team to make an impact. We constantly ask ourselves, ‘how can we make an impact?’.

One way we are working to make our organisation more inclusive is by bringing in a head of learning and inclusion. All employees must do diversity, equality, and inclusion training, but our focus is not just on race, ethnicity and sexuality.

We also focus on care leavers, who are over ten times more likely than their peers to not be in education, employment, or training. Even those who are well-educated may not have the same opportunities as those that come from more advantaged backgrounds: working class employees with the same education credentials as middle-class employees earn 17% less on average.

Our Evolve initiative will help change these statistics. It gives frontline workers from disadvantaged backgrounds the opportunity for career progression out of the cleaning industry, expanding the workforce and diversifying the talent pool. We have an Evolve committee, which is open for everyone to join at all levels of the organisation.

Member organisations are called Impact Partners, as they can offer the career progression to those first hired as cleaning operatives. It’s an in-depth scheme that provides support for people with different needs.

Offering pastoral support and care for people from different backgrounds is also important to us. I used to work on the floor, so I know what it means to have people actually listen to you. That’s why it’s so important to develop a culture of empathy and care.

Talking of empathy, what kinds of health and wellness programmes do you offer internally for employees?

Kelly: This is currently a focus for us. For our head office staff, we offer wellness programmes, and offer memberships in collaboration with our Impact Partners – like gym memberships with Pure Gym. This is an area we are developing and we hope to get more memberships onboard in the future, so that we can support employee’s mental and physical health inside and outside of work hours.

In terms of finances, we offer an employee assistance programme that has financial benefits. It’s a way to make our employees secure and able to plan for their futures, beyond just paying their wages.

We also understand that our employees will have many different experiences whilst working with us, and we want to support them through their best and their hardest times. That’s why we offer counselling, including for issues involving harassment, so that they always have someone to talk to.

Extending that, how do you measure and understand SBFM’s ethical impact throughout your supply chain?

Matt: In terms of social impact, we believe in recognising and rewarding our colleagues for their work. That’s why we’ve launched our hero project, where we aim to build a diverse leadership team from internal promotions and a portfolio of partners to work with. We want every partner to be involved in Evolve, whether it be through mentoring, jobs, or the apprenticeship levy.

You’ve mentioned specific underrepresented groups you want to support, how can they find out about SBFM’s upskilling schemes?

Matt:  Externally, we reach out to schools and colleagues, and offer students work experience. This is an area we are developing. We have a target to pair each of our Evolve representatives with one underrepresented group, so they can visit community groups and meetings. That way, they can share their experiences, and support us in supporting more people.

Ex-offenders who get a job after prison are up to 9% less likely to reoffend. It’s groups like ex-offenders we want to focus on, and groups who are less likely to have a university education. That’s why we don’t target universities, but rather aim to visit schools, so young people know these career opportunities are possible without a degree.

Let’s get to the nitty gritty. Walk me through the importance (and challenges) of offering the Real Living Wage to HQ and frontline staff?

Kelly: Currently, we’re going through Living Wage Foundation accreditation. It’s difficult in this industry, where frontline workers can be exploited by high workloads for little pay. People deserve to be paid properly for their hard work, but clients may be apprehensive to approve that additional cost in the current market.

What are your thoughts on the Apprenticeship Levy?

Kelly: The issue with the current levy is the additional charge for the client, which accounts for 0.5% of a person’s salary. Often, companies just don’t want to spend it.

Matt: Issues like the apprenticeship levy is why we want change from the government. We want them to work more extensively with people in our industry, so that we can normalise FM work as a profession that warrants a fair wage. That normalisation would lead to more people entering this industry and would encourage employers to pay their employees better wages.

People Matters series:

Justin Johnson

Jasmine Hudson

Grace Lewis

Jaime Lloyd-Jones

Mary Appleton

Sophie Wade

Smadar Cohen-Chen

Ashleigh Cresswell and Andy Grant

Sabrina Stubbs