News 22 May 2024

Collaborating for success with ISO 44001

When it comes to official recognition of achievements in collaboration, ISO 44001 is the gold standard certification.

Mitie’s Customer Experience Director, Sophie Howard, played a key role in our organisation’s recent certification and will continue to enhance the way we collaborate. This will make sure our business relationships are built on trust and a mutual understanding of the importance of growth and sustained success. In turn, both we and our customers benefit from:

  • Enhanced innovation
  • Improved communication
  • Success in joint objectives
  • Reduced risk
  • Fewer disputes
  • Mutual understanding of values and behaviours

Achieving certification in ‘Collaborative Business Relationships’ is no mean feat. To help others improve their collaborative processes and culture, Sophie has reflected on the five critical components of gaining ISO 44001 and building a customer-centric culture. By focusing on these areas, both your organisation and your partners can experience the benefits of collaboration.

Four Mitie employees holding the BSI Certificate of Registration for ISO 44001, with the London Houses of Parliament in the background
Sophie and Mitie colleagues receive ISO 44001 at the House of Lords. (LTR: Philip Hendrikx, Business Operations Director; Sophie Howard, Customer Experience Director; Rebecca Stephenson, Performance Manager; Adrian Stevens, Director of Operations)

1. Communicate

Sophie said: “Communication is paramount for successful business collaboration. In preparation for ISO 44001, we first put the right infrastructure in place to train account teams within Mitie’s Central Government and Defence (CG&D) division. It was important everyone knew what gaining ISO 44001 involved, what our goals were and what would be expected of them. We created a Collaborative Working Policy and Corporate Relationship Management Plan. Everything was communicated via internal training sessions, townhalls, monthly newsletters, vodcasts and podcasts. A colleague suggestion scheme fostered a culture of openness, where every voice could be heard.

Buzz and excitement

“The activity created additional buzz and excitement about the benefits of collaborative working. It meant that we could create the same culture internally that we wanted to create with our partners. Employee experience is intrinsically linked to customer satisfaction, how we hire, onboard, develop, promote and bring our people on the journey. It is therefore fundamental for collaboration to succeed. Every Mitie colleague needs to understand the part they play and feel proud of what we do. This can only be achieved by communicating effectively.”

2. Designate

Sophie said: “Mitie has always been dedicated to collaborating effectively with other organisations. To be recognised for this with certification from an external auditing body like the British Standards Institution (BSI) gives us confidence that we are doing things right. It also gives assurance to our customers that we are a trusted partner who will build relationships based on mutual understanding and in accordance with an internationally recognised framework. A track record of happy clients supports retention and growth.

Chain of command

“ISO 44001 is increasingly becoming a contractual requirement across the public and private sectors. This is particularly true in the Defence space, which includes critical environments, where it’s also critical to work well together. Designating a chain of command to take responsibility for collaboration is crucial. It should start with a Senior Executive Responsible (SER) at the top of the organisation. The processes and behaviours required should be set out in a Corporate Relationship Management Plan. This must be cascaded to colleagues at all levels, who are designated responsibility for implementing the strategy to varying degrees. Everyone’s a stakeholder in making collaboration a success, but this must start with leadership demonstrating the right behaviours.”

3. Innovate

Sophie said: “Changing your organisation’s approach and embracing innovation is one way to shift the dial towards becoming collaborative strategic partners. FM providers and their clients should have open lines of communication and share their knowledge and best practice. Mitie did this via strategic collaboration boards with our clients, innovation forums and continuous improvement plans. This puts innovation at the heart of delivery, which aligns with the aims of ISO 44001. Throughout the FM industry there is more of an appetite for these innovative partnerships that respond to client need. A strategic partnership approach achieves so much more than compliance driven, transactional contracts.”

4. Mitigate

Sophie said: “To optimise business collaboration, and in line with the requirements of ISO 44001, it’s important to mitigate two key elements of any commercial contract. The first is risk. A collaborative culture and approach must account for the things that could undermine positive progress. This is something facilities management providers can do in partnership with their customers – after all, neither party wants a spanner in the works. Relationship risks identified also reveal opportunities for improvement, which can be implemented to improve contract performance.

Resolve rather than fester

“Secondly, a collaborative relationship depends on effective dispute mitigation. You can’t preach a culture of togetherness and shared goals if it falls apart the moment an issue is encountered. Implement processes that allow disputes to be handled appropriately, where issues are resolved rather than left to fester. Consider creating a joint Business Relationship Management Plan at the start of the partnership to provide a handrail to return to if a dispute arises. Monitor risk regularly and openly – you have to be transparent.”

5. Motivate

Sophie said: “Finally, there is one essential element of business collaboration that we haven’t touched upon – people. For contracts to run seamlessly, colleagues must understand they are part of the vision and what the organisation is trying to achieve. To bring them on the journey they have to be motivated and inspired. So, create an engaging mission statement, together with values and behaviours. These should be communicated in a Partnership Charter, with which everyone must be familiar. Make sure this is supported by regular communications to create a culture of openness, trust and a one-team ethos.

Motivated colleagues formulate success

“It’s easy to think that business collaboration is all about the customer experience, but actually it’s about the total experience of everyone involved, including employees. Motivated colleagues will help to formulate success, and they’ll be happier in their roles. What do happy and engaged colleagues do? They provide better services and collaborate even more. So motivating and celebrating success is an important aspect of collaboration – and certainly helped Mitie achieve ISO 44001.”

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