Is it possible for an Australian company to have a 25,000+ daily workforce, and not be a household name? Even though it’s been in operation for almost 70 years, and has a total of 100 offices either side of the Tasman?

In the case of Programmed—the country’s largest staffing, maintenance and facility management services provider—the answer is not only ‘yes’, it’s proof of an outsourcing specialist at the top of their game.

“We’re the people behind the brands”, says Kate Sossi, Group Manager Communications & Marketing, “the services we provide integrate so seamlessly with our clients’ businesses, that most people are simply unaware of our existence”.

A comprehensive service offering

Describing Programmed’s operations as ‘diversified’ seems manifestly inadequate. The company provides professional and skilled workforce staffing, electrical services and industrial maintenance, training services, property services and facility management—and that’s just for starters.

At its core, however, Programmed is simply a business that knows how to recruit and develop people. With more than 1,000 trainees and apprentices among its workforce, they can deploy the right person with the right skills to deliver many different services, safely, across thousands of customer sites each day.

From Rottnest Island to the MCG, the iron ore mines of the Pilbara to universities Australia wide, Programmed people are everywhere, doing everything from picking and packing on the factory floor, to installing high-tech sports stadium lighting, painting buildings and mowing lawns.

“When people ask what Programmed does, I sometimes think it might easier to list the services we don’t offer”, says Sossi with a grin.

A growing sensation

The early days of Programmed were a far cry from the present. Established in Victoria in 1951, Miles Paint Service as it was known, comprised its eponymous founder—Norman Miles—two others on the brushes, and a sign written station wagon.

Within five years it would land its first national maintenance contract. In 1971 it became a public company, and in 1975 changed its name to Programmed Maintenance Services. By 1986 it was operating in New Zealand and in 1999 became an ASX-listed company.

Multiple mergers and acquisitions would follow, each expanding Programmed’s capacity and broadening its capabilities. In 2017, the company was itself acquired by Persol, one of Japan’s largest staffing companies.

Overcoming challenges

There have been many challenges along the way, Managing Director and Group CEO, Chris Sutherland admits, most notably the GFC in 2008 and the mining industry downturn in 2015. “A general economic downturn will test most businesses”, he notes, “but the diversity of our operations generally helps mitigate the impact of sector-specific fluctuations”.

The company’s ability to remain flexible and responsive while building scale has also been key. Programmed uses its size to deliver technology and back office efficiencies, but delegates authority as close to the customers as possible. Should the needs of a customer change, Programmed quickly adapts.

Strong organisational culture is another major factor. Programmed champions four core values among its people: personal safety leadership; care and empathy; good old-fashioned customer service; and diversity, inclusion and equality. “Our employees embrace these values wholeheartedly”, Sutherland says, “they know the right thing to do, and make good decisions as a result”.

A super appointment

Choosing a superannuation provider is a critical decision for any business, but when your workforce comprises 25,000+ individuals on any given day—and double that over the course of a year—it assumes even greater significance.

To ensure the best outcome for their employees, Programmed evaluated candidate funds on five key criteria: fees and returns to member accounts; returns versus peers; insurance offers; member communications; and administration platform.

“AustralianSuper was superior in every category assessed”, noted Sossi, “the size of the fund, the quality of the people we met, and the fund’s performance against our criteria made them the obvious choice to be our default provider”.

An alignment in values—in particular a commitment to diversity— has served to strengthen the relationship between Programmed and its super fund of choice. For example, Sutherland and AustralianSuper CEO, Ian Silk, are both Male Champions of Change, and committed to improving women’s representation in leadership positions.

“A diverse leadership team and organisation lead to better decision-making and a better overall business’, Sossi says, “we want to make sure our team is as diverse as the customers we serve; as diverse as society itself”.

Learn how AustralianSuper supports women.