Prioritising people and practice with Serco Middle East

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Teren Tan, recently appointed Head of Emergency Services at Serco Middle East, shares insights on balancing operational safety and business development

What key career lessons will you bring to your new role as Head of Emergency Services?

One fundamental lesson I’ve learned is the importance of every individual’s voice within an organisation, regardless of their role or position.

It’s essential to listen actively to everyone, whether they are inside or outside the business.

The feedback and insights people provide can be instrumental in formulating effective plans and outcomes.

From a business perspective, having been on the government side, I’ve gained insights into how governmental processes work.

Often, they can be slow and cumbersome, yet sometimes decisions can be made swiftly, and actions can follow unexpectedly.

This has taught me the necessity for both patience and agility when dealing with government operations.

Additionally, my military experience has prepared me to be ready at any moment, the ability to respond to situations of an obscure nature at indifferent times.

I’ve had the privilege of being mentored by some exemplary senior officers and public servants before leaving the military, which has shaped my approach to business and leadership, especially in how we engage with and value people.

What are your immediate priorities for Serco in the Middle East?

The foremost priority is always people and safety.

We are examining our actions from a consolidation perspective, looking at all our services, contracts, and advisory roles under the emergency services umbrella.

A key focus is on how we integrate these elements effectively and communicate our strategies clearly to our teams.

Ensuring the safety of our teams is paramount, as it directly impacts our ability to maintain the safety of the communities we serve.

The immediate goal for my team and me is to ensure that everyone is aligned and moving cohesively in one direction.

What strategies will you implement for the strategic growth of Serco’s emergency services?

From a strategic standpoint, scalability and trust are critical to growth, especially in the third-party logistics world where reputation and historical performance influence client choices.

I absolutely see this as a long-term strategic vision for us and believe it is entirely achievable.

Whether this can be accomplished independently or if it requires partnerships is still being evaluated.

Strategically, our focus is on consolidation and enhancing our capability to scale and respond agilely to market and client demands.

Another key strategy involves proactive engagement with potential clients and maintaining strong relationships with them but also with our competitors.

Given the compact nature of our industry and community in this region, it’s essential to have open lines of communication.

This ensures that we stay ahead of industry demands and maintain safety as our utmost priority.

How do you plan to expand or enhance Serco’s training programmes under your leadership?

Serco has proudly operated the International Fire Training Centre in Teesside, UK, for many years, contributing to the training of thousands of international fire and rescue personnel.

In 2021, we launched a similar initiative in the Middle East, the IFTC Middle East, primarily servicing major airports.

This expansion has enabled us to provide training for national talent at various levels, from school leavers to middle and upper management.

Our goal is to continue this trend, particularly into Saudi Arabia.

Recently, we were recognised by the General Authority of Civil Aviation (Saudi Civil Aviation Authority) as an endorsed training provider.

This recognition has opened up dialogue with regulators about improving training quality.

A major focus is on the development of UAE and Saudi national staff who are the future of these sectors in both countries.

We want to support their progression through appropriate training and exposure, both locally and internationally.

As an international company, Serco benefits from global partnerships and resources, such as the NFCC in the UK, where we are an international affiliate member.

We explore various training modalities, including augmented reality, virtual reality, face-to-face mentorship, and traditional methods like staff exchanges.

Another key aspect is our management of the Emergency Planning College in the UK on behalf of the Cabinet Office, which focuses on national crisis preparedness.

This allows us to offer comprehensive training and support throughout an individual’s career, ensuring they receive high-quality, continuous development.

It’s critical to build lasting relationships with trainees and provide them with resources that aid their career progression.

This could involve cloud-based maintenance schemes and Learning Management Systems that offer ongoing, up-to-date training and skills development.

This ensures continuous improvement and readiness for revalidations.

We are committed to looking beyond short-term courses.

Our goal is to work collaboratively, providing the necessary support to meet the evolving demands of their roles in the emergency services.

How will you ensure talent is trained, retained and developed?

To maintain quality and consistency for our clients, the governments and the communities we serve,  talent acquisition and retention are critical.

In a competitive market, it’s essential to attract and retain the right people, ensuring they are fairly and adequately remunerated, which in turn helps them take care of their families.

It’s also considering the total reward package, at Serco all our staff have access to an employee wellbeing programme where they can talk to counsellors at any time to discuss physical, financial or mental wellbeing.

We pride ourselves on our development programmes and we have a number of initiatives in place from the online learning platform, Serco Academy, through to Accelerator courses with Hult Ashridge and Oxford.

Mentorship is also something many of our colleagues take part in, and having access to global talent gives them insights into international best practice and challenges.

How do you envision the evolution of Serco’s emergency services in the coming years?

I envision our emergency services evolving into a scalable and agile workforce.

As a business our purpose is to impact a better future and one way we can do this is through improving citizen and resident safety through fire and rescue consultancy, training and operations.

Our primary focus is on demonstrating the quality of our work and the dedication of our team who deliver these services every day.

For me, the top priority is always the safety of our people who are out there doing the hard work.

Secondly, it’s about maintaining our reputation and our ability to adapt to market demands regarding agility and scalability.

What legacy do you aim to build in emergency services through Serco?

A mentor once advised me that the goal should be to make your job redundant—if you’ve trained everyone well enough and given them fair opportunities to succeed to the point where your role is no longer necessary, then you’ve truly succeeded.

The principle of imparting as much knowledge and skill as possible to those around me is what guides me.

My aim is to enhance the collective capability of our team, ensuring that everyone improves together.

That’s the kind of legacy I would like to build.

This article was originally published in the June 2024 issue of International Fire & Safety Journal. To read your FREE digital copy, click here.

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