The Sunlight Service Group Ltd (Part of The Davis Service Group PLC)
Nature of Business: The UK’s leading provider of textile rental and laundering services for industry
Location: Various – Holds over 50 sites UK-wide
Principal Contact: Julian Carr – Managing Director, Sunlight Textile Services
Part of the Davis Service Group Plc, Sunlight is the UK’s leading provider of textile rental and laundering services for industry, operating nationally from a network of over 50 sites. Sunlight has also built on its expertise to offer the rental of work wear and leisure clothing, washroom services, linen, towelling and related textiles.
Established in Fulham in 1900 as the “Sunlight Laundry”, the company originally offered domestic laundry services throughout London. As domestic demand fell, Sunlight developed a new service; renting and laundering bed and table linen for the hotel industry, as well as providing and laundering work clothing for both manufacturing and service industry customers.
During the 1980′s Sunlight also began providing services to hospitals and other healthcare institutions. This is now a significant part of the business.
The Organisational Needs
This has been a remarkable journey of enlightenment for everyone involved. In an ever-changing marketplace, Sunlight needed to consider the future of the organisation and what was required in order for it to evolve, diversify, and prosper. Having been originally established back in 1900, Sunlight felt that something needed to be done to invigorate the organisation from within. It was felt that the Sunlight people held the key.
The General Manager population is regarded as being critical to the success of the organisation. However, whilst some investment had been made in practical training, such as Health & Safety etc, little had been done to develop key people. The organisation had little sophistication in terms of development needs analysis. Generally speaking the General Managers had worked their way up through the organisation. They are mature people, generally without a university education who have been in their roles for some time, and many were finding it difficult to accept change.
Sunlight needed to motivate and empower their 43 General Managers, encouraging them to think strategically, be more organised and structured day-to-day, and more effective in their management and development of others. However, the first challenge was to find a training provider able to secure the buy-in of these key individuals. Based upon a number of recommendations received by Sunlight, Principle Practice was invited to put forward a proposal and costs.
As stage 1 of the training process Hazel Lowndes (MD, Principle Practice) spent several hours with the Sunlight Directors interviewing them and clearly articulating their business requirements of manager performance, their vision for the future and how they believed learning and development could deliver this.
Hazel then conducted structured needs analysis interviews with a cross section (18%) of the total General Managers for 2.5 hours each to provide the delegate perspective. Hazel also spent three days in the business understanding the operations, the business challenges and hearing the operator and customer perspective
before making further recommendations.
Progress would be measured using The Sunlight Leadership Competency Framework (based upon the Kirkpatrick 4 level evaluation model). This includes assessing the formal training evaluation, anecdotal evidence relating to integration into the workplace, individual performance improvement, and return on training investment.
Stage 2 of the training process is designing the intervention. Hazel designed an experiential programme of 3 x 3 day modules spread over a 9-month period: Organisation & Effectiveness, Achieving Results Through People, & Making an Impact. These were interspersed with back to work implementation, non linemanagement mentoring and third person teaching between modules. Accelerated learning with multi sensory input was carefully designed to be highly stimulating, participative and to transfer the responsibility for learning to the delegates who are treated as ‘teachers of themselves and others’ rather than as students.
The design was pitched at individuals in key roles carrying turnovers of between £2M and £10M with diverse educational backgrounds. The material had to be carefully designed to convey some very sophisticated concepts to a down to earth audience. Psychological contracts for confidentiality were made to build social/emotional security for the delegates. Critically, a deep understanding and empathy for day-to-day working lives had to be clearly demonstrated.
At stage 3 Hazel delivered The Sunlight General Manager Programme to 43 General Managers split into 4 groups between June 2009 and March 2010.
The culture at Sunlight was preventing the organisation from moving forward. The fear of loss of control was restricting the business. Sunlight knew things had to change. Finding a new way was a journey of faith – placing trust in the facilitator, and letting go of established out-dated practices.
Principle Practice & Sunlight have worked together to overcome 110 years of command-and-control behaviour and have brought a chink of sunlight into the Sunlight business. The willingness of these tough, no-nonsense mangers to let down their guard and let this ‘new age’ thinking move and inspire them has been truly remarkable, and quite literally life changing for many.
The organisation is now experiencing a period of change with regards its culture, collective behaviours, and the social architecture of the business. The results that are currently being seen have exceeded expectations. A series of recent follow-up telephone interviews have revealed the following:
General Managers are now benefiting from practical improvements such as:
Julian Carr, MD of Sunlight Textile Services comments:
“Our Line Managers now have a set of core goals they can work on together, and we have empowered them by asking them individually how can they do things better and what do they think they can achieve. Our Managers are taking the lead – they now realise that it is possible to manage in all directions, not just downwards, and our business teams are better focused on the bigger picture, and not just on immediate goals. There is a strong ethos emerging, and this will develop further over time.”
Michael Clegg – one of the delegates from the Programme – commented:
“The organisation now has a highly motivated team of senior managers with the ability to pass on the tools learned to other groups within the organisation. We all have a more focused approach on improving what we do rather than just doing the same old thing that we have always done.”
All delegates recently interviewed were asked ‘On a scale of 1 (None) to 10 (Significant), how much of a positive impact do you feel has been made on your organisation as a direct result of this Programme?’ The average rating came out at 8.2, with all delegates confident that this will greatly increase over time.
Because of the cultural impact Hazel has now been invited to work with the senior leadership team and the executive board. A more formal and effective appraisal system incorporating the new Sunlight Leadership Competency Framework is now in place to monitor progress and for on going needs analysis, as well as use in; performance, recruitment, succession and talent management.
Julian Carr adds:
“The real wow factor for me comes from the feedback received. Our General Managers have contacted me over the last few months and I can tangibly feel the excitement and buzz coming from them. This is incredibly difficult to create in this business. These are mature people who have been in their roles for some time. They can be very judgemental and often adverse to change. Now there is a mood of excitement and an acceptance that change is good. This is very refreshing and we have had no difficulty whatsoever in getting our people to buy-in to what was being done through the programme.
We originally selected Principle Practice based on projected business benefits. Costs were considered, but this wasn’t a deciding factor. We have not been disappointed. Hazel as an individual is exceptionally talented at conveying key business messages in a clear and practical way. There is no doubt in my mind that this training has already had a significant positive impact on the organisation, and the momentum is set to continue moving forward.”