Serco Europe Response to Covid-19
In March 2020 the world faced an unprecedented crisis. The pandemic impacted our colleagues, our customers and our service users both professionally and personally. The speed of change which hallmarked the pandemic meant that Serco Europe chose to react quickly and proactively to protect our colleagues, support our customers and ensure continuity of service.
Safety, Risk, Compliance, Business Continuity and People Management are cornerstones of the Serco ethos. Our approach was designed to build on these cornerstones through the use of simple and visual messaging, policy, processes and programmes. It was critical for us that our approach was effective and flexible, delivered at a level close to our colleagues and our customers where we could react quickly to evolving requirements, deploy support where needed and ensure everyone understood what was expected of them.
We focused our approach on the following areas:
Stay safe, keep positive
We introduced a regular reach-out and communication programme across Europe and within the countries to ensure that our colleagues felt supported by Serco to prioritise their health and that of their loved ones. This messaging was carried through our countries to their staff, ensuring a local approach underpinned our organisational approach.
In order to succesfully implement our crisis processes, we have been conducting against a defined framework of controls which focus on the following areas:
- Clear governance in place by setting a regional and country crisis management teams
- Clear communication plans
- Establish robust processes to report, track and follow up
- Test outcomes
Lessons learnt from the crisis in Europe
Serco is able to provide services to its client remotely and outside customer site
Despite severe lockdown measures across Europe, Serco was able to support our customers with professionalism throughout the crisis, working round the clock with our colleagues, customers, partners to ensure continuity of our supply chains and services our requirements. At the peak of the crisis, 74% of our people worked from home. The change has been drastic since it happened overnight and employees across Europe had to adapt as swiftly as possible. While working out new ways of working and operating as a business, we ensured our teams were able to continue delivering high quality services to our clients.
The importance of supporting the wellbeing and mental health of our people
The mental and physical health and wellbeing of our people has always been a top priority for Serco, but it became even more crucial during these challenging times. Ensuring that we communicated with our colleagues both locally and centrally was a key element of success in our response. Communication must be balanced so that communication-fatigue does not settle in.
The personal impact of the crisis meant that our colleagues and those close to them may have fallen sick or been isolated such that they could not perform their role. Equally people were now working in a new and remote way, often with family obligations to balance. The scale and severity of the change stood to impact mental health and wellbeing. Bridging the gap was a critical aim for Serco so that our colleagues felt connected, motivated and positive.
Aside from communicating, making time to just interact was important. Across our organisation, we took the time to set up virtual coffee mornings and space to just engage with colleagues and check-in. This practice was actively endorsed by our taskforce and disseminated across our organisation.
Creating the right response model needs clear organisation and data
Protecting our colleagues and ensuring service continuity meant understanding where our people were, what their current living and health circumstances in the crisis were. Our local operations communicated contract numbers to our employees and established a process to track our organisational trends, understand what those trends meant for our service continuity locally and importantly ensure we provided support to those colleagues in need. In the Netherlands, our back office operations contacted each employee personally to check on them. In all other countries, contract managers were in touch with their teams on a regular basis.
In Germany, Spain and the Netherlands, our employees received a fruit basket with a “Thank you” card directly in their home. In some cases and by taking all the precautions measures in place the baskets were delivered in person from our back office teams. These actions were extremely well received by our employees in both countries and only emphasised the need for social link.
Working from home can lead to feelings of isolation and anxiety. We initiated a pan European charity action called Serco Care2Connect. We encouraged our employees across Europe to report small actions of kindness they were taking to support their community during the crisis and to post them on an app we had developed for the occasion. For each action, Serco Europe and the Serco Foundation have donated €10 to local charities chosen in each of the country we operate in. In total, more than EUR5000 were donated to support associations locally. The initiative received extremly positive feedback and really helped in creating a feeling of belonging and purpose.
Watch our short Serco Care2Connect video:
Giving the right tools
During these unprecedented times where many people have been working from home, in self-isolation or delivering essential front line services under challenging circumstances, it is has been more important than ever to take care of our people mental health. On the 18th of May, all EU based Serco employees were given access to the Thrive Mental Health app. This investment has been made to give colleagues the opportunity to take greater control of their own mental health and supply access to services that have clinical evidence of improving mental health. The app content is country specific and can redirect people to local mental health support centres or clinics.
Collaborating with our customer
We strongly believe that the cooperation with our customers was instrumental in supporting the wellbeing of our employees. Your approach to communicate clearly, share resources i.e. PPE, chairs, screens with our employees have enhanced our ability to support them during the crisis. Once again, we would like to thank you for the excellent cooperation during the past few months.
Recognising our People
At Group level, we have introduced our Thursday Thank You Note internally and on social media. Our 'Thursday Thank You' consists in taking a moment to thank our frontline colleagues around the world who are working tirelessly throughout the crisis to support our customers and local communities. We have published Thursday Thank You notes for our employees globally every Thursday for the past four months as we believe recognising the amazing work they do is essential. Please see a few European examples below:
Defence Team in Belgium
Thursday Thank You recognising our Defence Team at Heverlee and Meerdaal military bases in Belgium.
Space Teams in Germany
Clear governance is key to ensure customer's operations are running smoothly
In the early stages of the crisis, we have set up a crisis response structure which balanced a central and local approach. A central leadership taskforce was established at European level, with local crisis response teams being set up in each of our operating countries. Clear responsibilities within the taskforce were established and guidelines and the measures defined have been successfully implemented across our organisation. All core areas of our business were covered by the taskforce.
The interface of our taskforce with our country crisis response teams was critical to share ideas and learnings was key in directing our crisis response. Our structure meant that we were able to deploy our resources intentionally to support our colleagues where most needed. Our structure enabled us to identify and develop a clear standard response to the crisis, to evolve the response and to ensure that it was tailored to meet local customer requirements and regulatory rules. It also enabled us to benefit from our global organisation in providing a channel for the exchange of ideas and best practice.
As part of a global organisation, our taskforce members also interfaced with Serco at a group level, ensuring that we could share our ideas and practices, learn from others and ensure that we evolved our response correctly.
For Serco, the set up of a pan-European Governance for the crisis, combined with a strong local interface through the local crisis response teams, has proven to be an effective strategy.
The cross-functional team put in place can be summarised as follows:
Clear processes are crucial to ensure the health and safety of our people and quality of services
Serco Europe has monitored the situation at all levels of the organisation. In our own offices and contracts, we used statistics and analytics to monitor the situation. This monitoring occurred daily for the first three months of the pandemic, later moving to weekly. To monitor the evolution of the pandemic spread, our governance structure remains active today.
We also implemented a weekly call to follow up on live actions and issues. Some examples are included below:
- Home-Work Assessment with Divisional HSE Leads:
- Teleworking remains the norm until further notice.
- ALL vulnerable individuals should continue to stay at home
- Remobilisation following the guidelines established in Europe:
- all Serco managed offices have risk assessments (for each country and for each service and contract.)
- PPEs and communication plan in place
- Company Doctor is involved
- Workers’ representatives are consulted
- HSE situation assessed before moving our people
- Post-incident processes for each Country
- Safety Steward appointed to ensure a safe work environment for everyone and to support others colleague in explaining and ensuring the safety rules are being understood and implemented by all
Requesting feedback to always improve our response
A very important lesson learnt from the crisis is the need to assess our process on a regular basis and always adapt. We focused on continuous feedback and assessed our processes and activities. We have requested regular feedback from our people to confirm that the measures we have taken were positively received.
Going back to the office requires discipline and flexibility
Although teleworking remains the norm in most of our European Head Offices and at our customers' sites, Serco is ready to welcome our employees working in our Serco-managed spaces safely. Watch our 'Back at the Office" video:
In addition to rebranding our entire office spaces with COVID-safety related visuals signage, we have also introduced a Safety Steward Sytem. A Safety Steward is a colleague who is here to support others in explaining and ensuring the Covid-19 safety rules are being understood and implemented by all. They have all followed a specific safety training and are supported by our Health and Safety specialists and HR community.