Comment: The world’s best and worst reality show

Published: 12 May 2020 - 8:30 a.m.

Over recent weeks we have seen governments, industries, companies and individuals being pushed to previously unthinkable limits. It has been the world’s worst reality show, where each of the contestants is constantly assaulted with new and more terrifying problems to solve while the stakes constantly grow higher around them. It has been grim, tense, anxious, frustrating and difficult.

And yet.

Over recent weeks we have seen doctors, nurses, policemen, the military, cleaners, security guards, delivery drivers and warehouse staff (just to name a few) demonstrate what it means to be a hero. It has been the world’s most life-affirming reality show, where contestants rise above their challenges, put it all on the line and do everything they can to fight against the rising tide. It is proof that hope is most definitely alive in the human spirit.

Starring in both reality shows is the FM industry. Like the other businesses profiled on these pages, COVID-19 and all of its unintended consequences have done their best to pull the rug out from under Transguard, and we’ve had to make some difficult decisions in order to ensure that our company is even stronger once the pandemic is over. For example, in March our management staff took a pay cut of AED1m to show their solidarity with our 12,000 site-based employees who we were forced to make idle due to paused or cancelled contracts. Was this the easiest choice to make? Absolutely not. But was it the right decision, both financially and in terms of morale all across the business? 100%. The feedback I’ve heard from people both in and out of Transguard has reinforced my belief that by striking a tone of support and cohesion within our own company we are setting a standard to which other service providers will be expected to aspire, most especially in the FM sector.

This leads to my next point, which stands in stark contrast to so many of the headlines that dominate my news feed (and probably yours as well): COVID-19 has exposed our strengths. I have many examples, but three in particular are having a galvanising effect on our business.
Transguard’s training is second to none, and in response to the massive upswing in market demand for cleaning and fogging we equipped many of those same idle staff with the knowledge, skills and PPE they need to help fight the virus. This had the multi-fold benefit of expanding the skills of our workforce, which in turn grew our pool of available talent, which further ensured that we were more than ready to cope with the increased demand. Employing a veritable “army” of professional cleaners that can be dispatched at a moment’s notice adds to our existing USPs and potential clients have yet another incentive to work with us.

Meanwhile, Transguard’s capacity for innovation has always been apparent, whether that’s in new service lines or in the way we constantly raise the bar for customer service, but in response to COVID-19 we’ve pushed even our own boundaries and created entirely new physical products. Our three new Misting Tunnels were conceptualised, designed and built by our in-house team and because they are incredibly efficient in terms of both sanitisation and cost, they have quickly become one of our most popular managed services. Not only that, we’re also tapping into a completely new client base with an automotive option that sanitises cars, trucks and lorries in a matter of seconds.

At the root of everything we accomplish; however, is one common denominator: Our people. From the ground up, Transguard is blessed with passionate, loyal team players who have gone above and beyond in their dedication to our company and their fellow employees. I have often spoken about the importance of building the right team, but the events of 2020 have given me even more reasons to be grateful for the people who have wholeheartedly embraced new challenges and surprised even themselves with the results; the people who not only answer the phone in the middle of the night but who have the answers I need when I do call; the people who are consistently positive and the ones who doggedly chase down solutions to problems that they couldn’t have imagined six months ago.

What does all of this mean for the reality show we’re all unwillingly participating in and, more specifically, for the FM industry?

For starters, the world has woken up to the fact that good FM is absolutely vital. Before COVID-19, FM was largely an after-thought and, as we all know, one of the first things to be cut from budgets. In a post-virus world, I hope clients wouldn’t make that same decision, or at least not as quickly.

To me, it is obvious that if we want to do more than survive, it is imperative that we dig deeper, think more strategically and work more aggressively to break out of old habits so that we can meet these new challenges. However, none of that should come at the expense of the heroes on the front line. After all, whether we’re the star players or have a supporting role in the fight against COVID-19, our ultimate responsibility as the FM industry is to emerge with our humanity intact.

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