Facilities Management Middle East
Body and mind
WORKER WELFARE NOT JUST PHYSIOLOGICAL BUT ALSO PSYCHOLOGICAL WELFARE, EXPERTS SAY AT FM CONFERENCE 2021
At the Facilities Management Middle East Conference 2021, in the second panel discussion titled “The Importance of Worker Welfare”, the panellists included Saima Ahmad, group director, human resources, EFS Facilities Services, Prabhu Dharmarajan, director – human resources, Dulsco, Marwan Othman, executive director – Human Capital and Administration, Imdaad, and James Smith, general manager, Emrill.
The moderator Prabhakar Kesavan, regional general manager, Voltas – International Business Operations Group, started off by asking the basic question on what worker welfare really meant.
Othman responded by saying that
at the moment there appears to be some misunderstanding on what worker welfare ought to be. He elaborated: “Unfortunately, when we talk about welfare of an individual or an employee, it only means salary or accommodation. If you ask me, there is no limit to the initiatives that covers the welfare of an individual.” He said that we should put ourselves in the shoes of the workers and others to understand worker welfare. “Welfare does not only cover just one part; it should cover both the physical and mental aspects of that individual. We need to list all these aspects. I think you can have one list that you can follow regarding welfare but that needs to be updated as per the needs of the individual.”
At Emrill, Smith revealed that the firm involves the workers in all the decision making process. He added: “Once we do that we’re going to get a happier workforce. We’re going to get people engaged. And we’re also going to see the staff retention levels increase. You need to look after your people, and there will be greater loyalty. They need to be part of the process.”
Kesavan brought the conversation back to the point where worker welfare should be about both the physiological and psychological well-being.
Ahmad took a step further and said that it is about paying attention to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Explaining further, she said: “The FM industry is a people’s industry. Worker welfare in an FM industry
should be at its core. We need to start from the foundation of an organisation by setting up values, culture, policies and procedures, and ensuring that Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is met for our people.” She said that this meant starting with shelter, food, safety and security, to the sense of love and belonging. And finally to aspirations and self-esteem of the workers.
Dharmarajan appreciated that the FM industry is bringing important aspects like worker welfare to the fore. What worker welfare was 10 years ago is dynamically changing year-on-year. Citing Expo 2020 as an example, he said that there was a lot of emphasis by Expo 2020 on worker welfare. “When we won our waste management contract, around 50% weightage was on worker welfare. So this is where the industry is moving towards, and this is the importance given to worker welfare.” He also added that worker welfare is also dynamically changing in terms of Dulsco’s approach towards a diverse workforce. “The mindset has to be dynamically shifting towards managing different diversity here, that’s where I see a gap and that needs addressing.”
Chiming in on diversity, Othman added: “In Imdaad, we have more than 33 nationalities and we ensure that we treat everybody exactly the same. It’s not about race, colour or religion. One of the most important things that we need to do is employee analysis. It’s not about what we think they need. It’s what they really need. We should be carrying out employee satisfaction surveys so that we can identify the needs of individuals.”
Emrill too boasts a diverse workforce. Smith added: “We also have a lot of blue collar workers who live together. We also need to understand that they’ve got families back home and they want to keep in touch. So we give them additional WiFi broadband speed. They’re our workforce, our assets, and we need to make sure that they’re looked after.”
Dharmarajan also added that one has be culturally sensitive when it comes to diversity. He said: “It is the organisation’s responsibility to educate the team who is managing the blue collar workforce to understand how to manage different cultures.”
The topic of subcontracting was also broached by Kesavan and how companies can ensure work welfare is being adhered to by the subcontractors.
Smith said: “We’ve got subcontractors that work with us, and we want to make sure subcontractors follow the same standards that we follow. There’s nothing worse than two workforces working on the same job, and one team’s getting nothing while the other is getting everything.”
Ahmad concurred by saying: “We need to first set standards for ourselves and implement them on the ground, evaluate ourselves, look at the impact analysis, and then engage with the subcontractors and show them the impact on resulting productivity. We need to make the subcontractors understand how these benefits that we give to our people help the business in the long run. So you need to set the standards and ensure that these standards are met. You have to walk the talk.”
Othman reminded that trying out initiatives is a cost only if there are no returns. “If what you spend has returns, then it’s no longer a cost, but an investment, because for every person that leaves, you have to invest in terms of recruitment. So it’s really not a cost if it has returns and we need to focus on the returns that are coming from these employee welfare initiatives.”
Othman left the audience with a quote from Richard Branson, “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough, so they don’t want to.”
The Facilities Management Middle East Conference 2021 was held on 29 September in Dubai.
IF WHAT YOU SPEND HAS RETURNS, THEN IT’S NO LONGER A COST, BUT AN INVESTMENT, BECAUSE FOR EVERY PERSON THAT LEAVES, YOU HAVE TO INVEST IN TERMS OF RECRUITMENT. MARWAN OTHMAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR – HUMAN CAPITAL AND ADMINISTRATION, IMDAAD