A note from Tracie Spires, Associate Director, Insourcing and Quality & Facilities  

During the coronavirus pandemic many businesses have cut back and customer service has suffered as a result; I am sure you have called a company this year and been on hold or redirected to a web page due to limited staff when all you want to do is speak to someone. It’s frustrating given how busy we all are, and companies have had a year to sort a customer focused solution but fail to, or perhaps even hide behind this as a way to cut back.

Quality and customer service is the bedrock of all good businesses, especially recruitment agencies; every action or interaction we make potentially impacts the quality of care a patient receives, or the education a child so richly deserves. Our affecting futures ethos reminds us of this every day.

It has been a year of significant change for all of us, however Athona have seamlessly adapted by focusing on what matters to our customers most, and supporting our clients and candidates across healthcare and education settings. The cornerstones are good communication, support, access to the right jobs, maintaining excellent standards of compliance, paying candidates accurately and on time and ensuring our clients get what they need in a seamless way, therefore reducing burden to an already stretched NHS and education sector grappling with a pandemic.

My overriding impression of conducting internal audits throughout the year has been one of pride, our teams have really focused on what matters to our clients and candidates, dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s to ensure those who are time stretched on the receiving end get an accurate and fast service.  The pride I felt came from the fact that the teams did this naturally given how embedded our quality management processes are, they simply worked within the core processes with passion and dedication to help focus on what matters, not letting our standards dip in any way.

During our external audit by NQA, the auditor was impressed by how we have adapted so rapidly and supported both our internal staff and national workforce and focused on doing what’s right and what mattered most in the circumstances. Thank goodness for the business continuity plan that we had in place for the unlikely event of snow days or having restricted access to our headquarters that has enabled us to work from home. This prior planning and investment by Athona focused on the importance of being a critical provider of services to the Health and Education sectors; who would have known we would need to enact it for the best part of a year?

I have been managing quality management systems for 12 years now, and working for Athona for seven, this is the seventh pass of the ISO 9001 Quality Management System audit for Athona with no nonconformities and this was the smoothest internal and external audit I have ever been involved in. By focusing on what adds value to our clients and candidates, and empowering our teams to share their passion to support clients and candidates through care, excellent communication, customer service and rigorous quality has enabled us to continue to deliver such critical services throughout the year.

So, Quality Management and ISO 9001 are a boring subject? Not at all! It’s the foundation from which all good businesses should embed within their organisations processes to focus on what matters to clients and customers and allow their staff to shine through with passion and care for the people they provide services to every day.