Why raising standards leads to cost savings

7th December 2017

By Mark Hicks, Passenger Services Director, Wilson James

Wilson James has always had a different approach to the norm in the security industry. Our philosophy is that without good people you don’t have a good business. This means investing in people – in wages, in training, in management – which at the outset means higher costs. Our view however is that raising standards actually saves costs in the long term.

In September Wilson James added Liverpool John Lennon Airport airside security to its North of England portfolio, which includes Tate Liverpool, the Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester, the National Railway Museum, York and the National Science and Media Museum, Bradford.

The first thing we did was to work in close collaboration with Liverpool Airport. One of the airport’s three strategic priorities is to focus on its people by investing and valuing colleagues and partners across the airport, and in the community, by being an employer of choice. With their approval we immediately raised the salaries to achieve the full industry standard. With the security team at the airport almost entirely drawn from the Speke and South Liverpool area, there are few better examples of how the airport’s success has a direct benefit on the local economy and in communities in need of good employment opportunities

We introduced new uniforms that were dual branded Wilson James and John Lennon Airport. It sounds like a small thing but people are proud to work at the airport. In the past, the uniform only had the name of the previous contractor and this made them feel like they weren’t part of the team. One of the airport company’s values is a ‘One team’ approach, working together to achieve business success and dual branding helps give a sense of purpose, focus and inclusion. It’s emblematic of the way we work in collaboration with the client: we’re all part of the same team.

We’ve invested time in the transfer process.  We met 138 out of 140 staff members to talk to them about our focus on engagement and fostering a ‘yes’ culture. You can’t – and we wouldn’t want to – do that remotely. You need to be on site, listening. It often means 5am starts to get there but the operations manager, myself and head of training are all at Liverpool John Lennon regularly.

We are committed to our sites for months and years to come. We’re not about the short term. John Lennon Airport shares the same view that treating people with respect and acknowledging the value that staff bring to the airport is important and the airport was keen to support us in achieving this.

The result speaks for itself. When we took on the security at Liverpool John Lennon Airport, they were losing 6% of their staff every month. Since we took over, we’ve had no resignations.

Our view is that raising standards actually saves costs in the long term. At a basic level, recruitment is expensive, involving admin, training, overtime to cover positions, uniforms etc.  At a deeper level, retention of staff through investment in their wellbeing not only affects the bottom line, it boosts morale, builds team dynamics and future sustainability. If your team come to work smiling, they give better customer service, passengers are happier and ultimately so is your client.

Investing in treating people properly – investing in wages, management time and training – 100% makes good business sense.

Image used by kind permission of John Lennon Liverpool Airport