• International Workplace
  • 21 February 2017

A career in corporate responsibility

Last month, Leanne Williams from facilities management service provider ISS was awarded a prestigious young manager award by one of the City of London’s leading livery companies. David Sharp asks her about her about her career and why corporate responsibility is so important to her. 

Joining ISS through the company graduate scheme, Leanne initially wanted to get the chance to manage people.

Starting her journey with ISS in the healthcare sector, she worked at its large facilities management contract at the Royal Liverpool Hospital. It was here that she really saw the impact FM service providers can make within the hospital environment. Though she enjoyed subsequent placements with ISS business units in defence and education, she knew she always wanted to end up back in healthcare. In the past year, she was pleased to return to where it all started for her, at the Royal.

What formal qualifications and informal training have you had to help you get to where you are today?

Having a degree in Biological Sciences helped develop my passion for the environment and an understanding of how we as a species have an effect on the world around us. It was particularly during my year abroad studying at Oregon State University that I really changed my way of thinking, or to quote Aldo Leopold [an American author and environmentalist] I developed my ‘ecological conscience’. From there I knew I wanted to go into corporate responsibility, and I’ve been lucky in that my graduate scheme put me in a position where I had access to a wide network of individuals with whom I could learn from.

Since returning to The Royal Liverpool as Sustainability Manager I have started a long distance learning masters in Environmental Law which I hope will give me substantive knowledge on the legislation behind the area that I am most passionate about.

In terms of informal training, throughout my placements I have had the opportunity to experience a wide variety of people and micro-cultures that have assisted in my understanding of our people and the different types of customers I may come into contact with.

Which learning interventions do you think have most influenced your personal development?

To date, the most influential training that I’ve had has been through the ISS graduate scheme. When I first joined the industry three years ago I had yet to really find my own management style and identity. Whilst I have always held a strong set of values, it has taken time to develop myself in a way that communicates these effectively. Through formal and informal coaching and on the job training I came out of my shell, resulting in a much stronger person than I was before both in and out of work.

Can you tell us a little bit about your role and how you think corporate responsibility plays such a vital role in FM?

The Sustainability and Social Value Manager role has quite an expansive scope. My day-to-day role encompasses working with key groups within the hospital such as the Trust’s Head of Sustainability and the wider hospital Sustainability Group, the hospital’s charity and engagement team as well as local and UK-wide ISS staff to deliver the sustainability agenda of our new contract. I also hold a CR champion role for the division I sit in within healthcare, so am responsible for the reporting to head office whilst at the same time sharing information and best practise with the teams on the ground.

Corporate responsibility is important in FM for many reasons. People are at the heart of FM; from the people on the front line delivering our services through to the customers we interact with and CR strives to enhance the welfare in these people and their environments. Through engaging with local communities and charities, and enhancing the environment in which they live we can enrich the lives of our staff and customer base which results in a more efficient workforce.

What difference do you think your role makes day-to-day?

My role brides a gap between the company, the local community and our workforce. It’s quite hard to measure the scope of those who the role reaches, but in essence it aims to make a positive impact on end users through upskilling the young workforces in the form of work experience programmes, improving health outcomes of potential patients through the hospitals charity work or even just working on making staff feel valued and listened to within their job role.

How do you see the corporate responsibility agenda developing in the UK over the next few years?

I think prior to the recent political changes both in the UK and the US, we were seeing a shift in focus/attitude and the public were demanding a more holistic approach from larger businesses when it comes to sustainable engagement. With the uncertainty of the political landscape at present it might be slightly more difficult to keep CR on the agenda and buy in at the top is crucial, but I do believe it presents us, and the government, an opportunity to really define the direction in which we want to go.

In terms of Brexit I really do believe we are at a crossroads. In one direction, we lose the importance of CR in the overall change piece, but in the other we are presented with a starting point in which we can set the scene and map out the direction we wish to go in. The heartening thing about CR is that regardless of whether you were in the Leave or the Remain camp, the majority all want the same thing in terms of community engagement, enriching the lives of employees and the local community, supporting the local area and economy, improving health outcomes, reducing poverty, reducing unemployment, and upskilling workforces.