‘Resilient’ is not a word I have used much before when talking about Serco colleagues. Not because I thought they lacked resilience – far from it – but because in recent years other qualities are more often noticed and talked about. Their unlimited and indiscriminate capacity for care; their instinctive honesty and straightforwardness; their appetite for innovation; their deep pride in delivering public services; and their desire to make a difference to the lives of others in the course of their work.
But the current circumstances, with a world upended, test us all in new and different ways, both in our work and home lives. What is it that keeps us going, what keeps us true to our Values, what drives us to keep making a difference? The answer is: rock steady resilience and an unwavering commitment to play our part to the very best of our ability.
This extraordinary, awful, year has tested our collective mettle as never before, and I have watched in awe and respect as my Serco colleagues have risen magnificently to the level of events.
- At the start of the year, we saw our colleagues in Australia stand firm in support of their communities and customers during the bushfire crisis;
- from February on, in every part of our business, our people have prioritised the needs of those who depend on them, even as they have managed the impact of this ghastly virus on their personal and professional lives;
- and even as we wrestle with crises of the environment, economy and public health, we remain invested in helping to shape the future through our role in helping Governments respond to a radically changing world.
- We have maintained our commitment to equal opportunity, to running a business that is blind to everything other than merit and talent;
- and, of course, many of our colleagues have had their own private struggles to contend with as well. At Serco, we are working hard to make it easier to seek and receive help and support, whether with parental leave, undertaking new developmental opportunities or overcoming issues affecting mental health.
Getting out into the business where we deliver our services and connect with society – and seeing all we stand for brought alive in bustling, energetic, enthusiastic animation – is the best part of my job. Opportunities to travel internationally have been limited of late, but I have visited prisons, hospitals and test centres in the UK. In these places I have the same experience as in other countries visited in recent years be it Australia, Iraq, Canada or Belgium, or any other of the 20-plus countries where we operate: I get excited on the way there by the prospect of seeing Serco people ‘doing their stuff’ and they never disappoint.
Serco people are not shy – they are spirited problem-solvers and tenacious champions for positive change. When I visit, I may think that they might want to listen to what I have to say, but it is always me who comes away the one better informed and educated – inspired by the new thoughts and new ideas I see and hear.
For me, the most important lessons of the recent crisis may be these:
- First, the resilience of our people, and their determination to ‘keep calm and carry on’.
- Second, at a time when other companies were saying their first priority was the safety of their employees and that everything was subordinated to that, we said that our first priority was the delivery of vital public services, and within that context we would ensure the safety of our workforce. Despite the rather unfashionable prioritisation, nobody from Serco seemed to blink an eye; they knew you cannot leave prisoners unfed, and hospitals uncleaned.
- Third, I have learnt that there is no limit to the generosity with which Serco people volunteer their views and opinions. It is a rich well that never runs dry, and from which we drink daily. To know what matters, and what to do, we need only to listen. And that, as I trust you will conclude in your review of our People Report, is something we are getting ever better at, and doing ever more with, every day.
Group Chief Executive