ISS World Services A/S, Putting People & Partners First


ISS is responsible for the delivery of Integrated Facilities Management for a banking client in more than 30 countries; enabling them to do their best work. With 80,000+ Bank colleagues and 6,000+ ISS colleagues, this introduced many complexities at the onset of the pandemic. The company’s purpose of ‘Connecting People and Places to Make the World Work Better’ was tested to the limits, particularly as countries across the world had differing governing public safety rules.


Leveraging a global supply chain

With sites across APAC, ISS recognised the potential severity of the pandemic from early on. While much of the world was still observing the unfolding crisis, ISS utilised its global supply chain to deliver PPE and cleaning sanitisers at lightning speed, at a time when other companies struggled to access supplies. It worked to reimagine the bank’s operating model at zero cost, transitioning from 300+ buildings to 80,000 home offices overnight. It needed to ensure that the workplace, wherever that was, had everything to suit colleagues’ needs. A joint crisis committee ensured that decisions were made together, at pace. This rapid response mitigated many of the Bank’s risks, ensuring critical services were maintained. “ISS pulled out all the stops. We couldn’t have kept people safe without their help” – Global Banking Client.

Putting people first

In partnership, it was decided not to furlough ISS colleagues, ensuring they all received 100% pay throughout. Rotating shifts to minimise contact between colleagues, provided alternatives if someone tested positive. ISS’s Curated Workplace Experience team created new experiences that encourage colleagues to stay connected and fit, in body and mind; including new app technology.

Putting knowledge and how-to at fingertips

Enhanced controls were introduced in response to Covid-19. A team of experts were mobilised to ensure people could access critical systems. New cleaning routines went beyond minimum guidelines and focussed on high touchpoint areas and 3,500 cleaners were equipped to do this in just four weeks. Virtual communication channels created a global community and increased a sense of belonging, while webinars, safety alerts and virtual fireside chats gave everyone a safe space to ask questions. They empowered people to bring issues to light that leadership were not necessarily aware of and enabled adjustments to be made; driving an increased sense of purpose.

Creating strong bonds, professionally and personally

True to ISS’s culture of looking out for each other, the ISS India Quick Response Team dealt with everything from arranging hospital beds and oxygen tanks for colleagues and loved ones, through to finding blood donors. These activities were far from everyday tasks for ISS colleagues. “ISS has been very supportive. You are with me from getting a hospital bed to complete recovery. Thank you from the bottom of my heart” – Global Banking Client, West Region, India.

An innovating and pioneering mindset

ISS recognised that people’s fear of contamination would prevent them from feeling safe. In response, they created a revolutionary method of cleaning that used data and real-time testing to understand exactly what needs cleaning and when. Having accumulated 120 years’ of expertise, ISS could step up to fight Covid as a true expert in its field. Recognising the world was in turmoil, ISS also freely offered advice to other organisations. All this was delivered throughout 2020 and into early 2021.


By launching a co-designed service excellence programme, market-leading products, technologies and by continuing to drive a culture that gave all people a voice, ISS emerged stronger than ever before. The Bank was enriched by this array of unexpected experts from all levels of the ISS hierarchy, bringing ideas and advice.

During the crisis, colleague safety was paramount and it was vital that colleagues had not only the knowledge, but also the confidence to keep themselves and others safe. Cleaning protocols gave people reassurance, shifting from ‘It looks clean’ to ‘I know it’s safe’. It provided PPE to sites worldwide, including the delivery of 1.5 million facemasks to the Bank’s retail network of 950 branches. Hundreds of same-day site decontaminations resulted in zero business disruption and enabled cleanliness on par with that of a medical surgery, which was a crucial factor in the Bank’s decision to bring colleagues back into the offices. This also helped ISS to achieve its eighth consecutive gold ROSPA health & safety award.

During this time, ISS transformed itself from facilities management to total experience curation, focussing not so much on outputs as outcomes. We introduced our ‘Placemakers’ – people who make the world of work better. Performance management systems moved beyond managing facility performance to enhancing colleagues’ personal performance. Working environments and practices moved from a fixed workplace to anyplace, with an emphasis on creating the conditions for people to do their very best work. There was a more flexible and efficient use of space. Providing workspaces that were conducive to what people were doing resulted in increased productivity and employee turnover costs were also reduced.

The Bank’s and ISS partnership was tested to its core and emerged even stronger, with greater levels of trust and transparency. They recognised that ISS colleagues were risking their own safety to protect others. ISS used its own culture to fuel and inspire colleagues to create phenomenal workplace experiences for the Bank and how ISS treated people directly influenced the success and morale for their client. Throughout this difficult time, the workplace experience that ISS created and delivered helped the Bank’s leaders to attract the best talent. It created a workplace that encouraged people to learn and grow, enabling people to work to suit their style and preference, thereby encouraging more discretionary effort.

See other “Culture in a Crisis” case studies here