Tell us about your organisation
Compass Group UK & Ireland is the largest food and support services company in the UK. Before COVID-19, the company was serving three million people a day and working in around 6,000 locations. As well as serving meals to school children, university students, patients in hospitals, oil rig workers, in sports and leisure venues, to the military and in workplaces, Compass also works behind the scenes to provide guest services, cleaning, security and facilities management.
What challenges were you trying to address?
Before lockdown was officially announced, sites across the country were rapidly closing, with the sports and events sector almost shutting down overnight, followed by about half of the workplaces we serve, and some schools, colleges and universities. The shape of our business changed very quickly and with this, the services we provided and the way our business was supported by our people needed to change. The impact on our people and their jobs was going to be significant and some tough decisions had to be made, looking not only at the current climate, but crucially thinking about the long-term future.
Why did you choose redeployment?
We rely on our brilliant people to deliver world-class food and service every day, and this crisis is no exception. There were areas of our business that needed more people and others less – so we had to redeploy our teams to where they were needed. In the initial weeks of the pandemic and as lockdown was announced, the picture was constantly and rapidly changing. We had thousands of employees who could be redeployed, both within the business and externally, in other industries with a surge in labour demand. Parts of our business, such as healthcare, also had a growing demand for staff, due to colleagues self-isolating, parents not being able to work with children at home, and the increased support needed at hospitals and care homes.
We were keen for our employees to keep working where they could, not only providing them with a regular income and financial stability, but ensuring our best people were engaged and felt part of the wider endeavours.
How did you roll out your approach?
Those first few weeks were crucial - we’re particularly proud of the speed in which we reacted to this crisis, getting set up to redeploy staff in a matter of hours. This was largely down to the technology in place to manage our employees and their shifts, alongside the strategic direction our leadership team took us in.
Our Levy team, led by Jon Davies, Levy UK (sports and leisure) MD, have extensive experience on operations where we need to recruit, train, and then have the right people working in the right positions for example many football grounds across the country and large horse racing events.
It was a huge undertaking and important for our people, that the process was managed sensitively and well. We were under pressure to get our people moving as quickly as possible – our clients needed us to deliver. Plus, as a business, we wanted to react and help during this crisis.
We created a new specialist team to redeploy our people to where they were needed most. Headed up by Jon, this included HR experts, but also contract directors and marketing professionals. This was to ensure all activity was streamlined, with clients and employees, but also that these changes were communicated clearly, and that each person had the right knowledge and training to do their job.
What have the results been?
In those first few weeks of lockdown, we filled over 10,000 shifts through the redeployment of over 700 staff, covering over 40,000 work hours across 32 venues nationwide.
We have been able to support the NHS when they were under pressure over Easter, pull together an Essential Boxes programme and help the many other businesses who are critical to the national efforts against the virus.
We were able to support clients who required additional labour, such as Asda who needed help with the initial demand. We moved some of our people from our Asda cafés, to offer much needed help on the shop floor. They were joined by others from across our business, for example from our sports sector. We saw people move into roles across our hospital Trusts, filling positions such as cleaners and porters. Others were taking on jobs across our defence sector, including cleaning and catering positions. It’s meant that we have been able to provide support at a critical time and manage any pressure points.
Our sectors were working really closely together and communicating in smarter ways, being able to redeploy people locally, through our vast network. It has helped pave a roadmap for the future, introducing more flexible working models and providing more regular work at consistent pay rates for our people, rather than relying on agency staff. Who would have thought our healthcare team and sports sector would be working hand in hand?
Jon Davies, MD Levy UK commented: “We had systems and strategies in place for identifying talent and positions in our business, but cross sector collaboration on a large scale was needed and we’ve now refined these processes even more during the crisis. It’s been a learning curve and we’ve gained some great insights into how this knowledge can be used in the future.”
What advice would you give to other businesses?
Our advice to businesses is to rethink your current structures, identify where skills are transferable and bring your employees on the journey with you. Communication has been key to supporting clients and our people. Agility and speed were also vital and we’re really proud of how our people responded to support the national effort.