After working its way to the top, Asia MD by Rentokil Initial is all about empathy and active listening

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This is not surprising, as Mark Gillespie believes that the measure of success rests almost solely on employee satisfaction with working with the company.

To encounter Marc Gillespie (picture above)Regional General Manager, Asia and MENAT, Rentokil Initial. His three decades of professional experience has taken him through many different roles and projects – starting in finance, before taking on his first in-house role at a pharmaceutical company after qualification. It was then that he decided it was only natural to venture into the hygiene business, thus starting his career at Rentokil Initial – which he says opened up great opportunities for him in his career.

“During my last 18 years at Rentokil Initial, I have had many great experiences and natural ups and downs. One of the highlights is definitely being able to learn and grow from finance to a leadership role broader picture and understand the business beyond numbers and numbers,” Gillespie tells us.

“The most difficult recent part of my career was during the peak of COVID-19. We encountered many human challenges and were forced to automate many of our operations and work remotely in a short time. It was also a difficult time for our team as many of them juggle multiple roles outside of work as sons, daughters, partners and/or parents, careers and it was difficult to balance family responsibilities with the change. However, we were fortunate that our company had a strong people culture, and we were able to communicate openly and offer flexible working arrangements as needed.”

In this interview, Gillespie shares how he works with the CHRO to make employees happy, his perspective on the key talent challenges in the hygiene industry today, the skills future CHROs should have to meet changing talent priorities, and more.

Q How would you describe your leadership style? How has it changed over the years and what experiences have helped shape it?

Personally, I believe that the measure of success rests almost solely on the satisfaction of our colleagues working with us. Thus, it is important to always be close to the field and to be in contact with our staff, to enable us to be fully aware of any concerns they may be facing. As someone who worked from the ground up, I fully understand and sympathize with my colleagues and some of the challenges they may face as an entry-level executive or as a newly appointed leader. I frequently catch up with my team to uncover any concerns and encourage them to work closely with their team members, fostering an open culture where colleagues feel comfortable sharing about anything and everything.

Q How closely do you work with your CHRO, and on what topics/issues?

Like any other company, our CHRO oversees various HR initiatives such as recruitment, retention, talent development and corporate culture. In addition to being involved in the recruitment and retention processes, I enjoy working with our HR team on talent development programs to upskill our existing workforce so they can work more effectively. and develop their skills. This includes designing training and development programs that could benefit our workforce.

Having worked at Rentokil for almost 18 years, I am also passionate about driving a positive and open company culture like what I have personally experienced. I work with the CHRO to come up with ideas on how to make our colleagues happy to work with us, which includes collecting genuine feedback from colleagues, from all colleagues at all levels, and also discussing with the CHRO about how we can potentially resolve any issues. and make working at Rentokil a great experience.

One of the things I’m most proud of is our company’s diversity and inclusion practice. We have colleagues from all walks of life, working in the field and behind the scenes. We insist on treating each other with respect and fairness and work towards a more diverse workforce. We now have 40% women in the management team and are working to reach 50% by 2025.

Q What do you see as the biggest talent challenges in your industry right now?

Hygiene has always been a top priority, but even more so during the pandemic. With an increased focus on hygiene, there has been an increase in demand for our services, especially with the reopening of workspaces. While a strong year-over-year revenue increase in the region is much appreciated thanks to the hard work and dedication of our team, talent shortage have been a challenge for us as we struggle to recruit and train new colleagues.

One way to counter this is to adopt new technologies to increase efficiency. It also means that we need to train and develop our workforce to adopt these technologies which may be difficult for some colleagues to adapt. We work with completely different groups of colleagues – baby boomers and Gen Z. These groups are very different in their background and exposure, which adds value to the team. Thus, it is important to review training programs and assess their relevance while aligning them with the employee’s career path.

Another challenge, and an opportunity, is meet the needs of customers and colleagues for more sustainable and environmentally friendly ways of working. Sustainability has been a priority for us at Rentokil Initial and our team works hard to achieve our very strict global sustainability goals.

Q How do you think talent priorities have changed today compared to five years ago?

The pandemic has certainly caused some shifts in talent priorities. Work is no longer just about monthly pay and we can see that the focus on mental wellbeing is getting stronger with the pandemic and working from home. It is more important than ever to listen to our colleagues, empathize with them and work with them to make our work at Rentokil Initial a great experience.

Growth and development is also a priority for colleagues these days and we focus on identifying emerging talent and developing people to maximize their career goals.

Q What skills should future CHROs have to deal with it?

Future CHROs must be ready for change management. They must be highly adaptable and able to effectively communicate and manage any changes in the workforce.

We have seen changes in the workplace during the pandemic. To avoid sudden changes in our workforce and help them adapt better, it is crucial that the CHRO is able to prepare our workforce for any necessary changes and help them integrate into these changes seamlessly so that the work process can continue with a minimum of stress and disruption for our colleagues.

Q What is your #1 advice for budding leaders, and even for your children who look up to you as a role model?

Build a culture of feedback by being an active listener. This way, you can improve work efficiency while maintaining high standards of employee satisfaction. The best way to do this is also to lead by example. I like to be open and have frequent casual conversations with my team to gather feedback and verify it, making sure it’s going well. I think it would also encourage them to do the same with their colleagues, fostering an open culture within the organization.


Photo / Rentokil Initial [Pictured: Mark Gillespie, Managing Director, Asia & MENAT, Rentokil Initial]

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