In an exclusive interview with FM Director, our People and Culture Director, Kelly Dolphin, shares her remarkable career journey to date.


From her early introduction to the cleaning sector to her commitment to upholding high standards, and the deep appreciation she holds for the invaluable contributions made by our frontline colleagues on a daily basis, she shares it all.

An Enlightened Experience

“My first job after leaving school was in recruitment, mainly for blue collar workers, and I’ve worked with a lot of low-skilled, low-income people that were not always treated that well,” she explains.


“I took a part-time cleaning job at the age of 17 at a local hospital, and this was my first introduction to FM. We were taught by two ladies who had an absolute passion for cleaning and making sure everything was done right. It was a great introduction to the cleaning industry, and I’ve always remembered how great they were,” she says.


Ms Dolphin states that her early experiences have been fundamental in allowing her to empathise with and support colleagues throughout her career to date. One of the most important aspects of her extensive work experience is that it has always been focused on providing varied and in-depth support to other people.


“Not everyone gets access to those opportunities, so a big thing for me since I’ve worked in FM is making sure that there’s equity of opportunity throughout,” she says.


Support for all team members has been a major focus for Ms Dolphin, including engaging with the government’s Apprenticeship Levy from its launch in 2017 while working for Aktrion. “At Aktrion we got ahead of the curve and set up as a recognised training provider, then created a team to self-deliver our apprenticeships.


“That helped a lot of people that worked for the business already to upskill and also supported the new, younger people that were joining the company,” she says. These actions tied in with government aims to both reduce youth unemployment numbers while assisting those already employed to gain more skills and experience to support their career paths.

“I really felt that I found my feet in the funded learning sector and having joined Aktrion. This was purchased by Atalian Servest, and I was then offered the role of head of learning and development. I worked in that role for around four years, then group CEO Colin Shute approached me to ask if I’d like to work for SBFM.”


Before leaving her former employer, Ms Dolphin began working with Matthew Chapman who is now the SBFM CEO, which led to the launch of a number of initiatives to assist and support colleagues to feel more engaged with and valued by the company. “When people work on site, they often feel more connection with the client than with the people that pay them, because they spend their day there. We’ve got nearly 7,000 people working for us, so it’s not always easy to keep everyone feeling that they’re a valuable part of the business and I think that’s a general issue within the industry,” she continues.

Increasing Diversity

Another wide-ranging issue within FM is the lack of diversity within senior management teams, says Ms Dolphin. “We’ve got one of the most diverse board of directors in the industry, however, and we’ve also launched our Evolve initiative, which supports sustainable job opportunities for people from disadvantaged backgrounds,” she continues.


“We work with a lot of Impact Partners, such as a number of charities and we’ve also signed the Armed Forces Covenant, and Colin and I sit on the employment advisory board for HMP Wealstun, helping ex-offenders back into work. We recently presented to Minister for Prisons, Parole and Probation Damian Hinds to hear about all the successes we’re having with Evolve, so that’s really positive.”


Looking at the SBFM operation in more detail, she uses its contract with PureGym to explain the numbers of opportunities available for those aiming to progress their careers: “So we have 1,000 cleaners on the contract, and we have 15 area managers, three regional operations managers and an account director, which adds up to 19 professional routeways per 1,000 people.


“Not everyone wants to be a manager, but for those that want to progress we do all we can to support them. We’re also working with clients and Impact Partners to help everyone engage with the clients’ culture and help them become a part of their team and talent pipeline.”


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