UFI, the association that brings together the world's leading exhibition institutions and operators (630 in 85 countries), has recently published its list of annual awards recognising the best initiatives undertaken in different areas of activity. In this edition the UFI ICT award has gone to IFEMA, which was a finalist with Fiera de Milano SpA and UBM pic of London with its business-focused and forward-looking technology process project developed in recent years. Furthermore, it has been selected as a finalist in the UFI Education Awards for its master project to analyse and optimise its employees' skills and profiles.
According to its executive chairman, Luis Eduardo Cortés, “For IFEMA, the prizes acknowledge the excellence of our management model: a best practice which has made us an international benchmark, not only in the exhibition sector, but also as a public entity capable of generating its own resources and obtaining the funds necessary to run its projects without requiring public money”.
The ICT Award
Titled "What have you done to prepare your ICT equipment for the future?", IFEMA's entry was prized for balancing the company's internal development and the management of outsourced contracts, along with the appropriate selection of new applications, systems and tools and upgrading the IT skills of the professionals involved. These key elements form the core of IFEMA's efforts to anticipate its future technology needs. "We have gone from being a horizontal organisation, based on the structuring of development teams by technology types, to a structure based on functional, business-focussed aspects and balancing our strategic resources to achieve our objective", explains María Martínez, IFEMA Organisation, HR and Systems Director.
The attention that IFEMA has devoted to its ICT development has had a direct impact on its sales, marketing and customer care channels, as well as on strategic tasks with higher added value. With a better use of the resources in its IT Dept., IFEMA has improved management of its exhibitions and trade fairs and has reduced costs by assigning internal staff to new projects. Likewise, it has increased customer participation in hiring processes through its website applications, leading to a reduction in internal costs through the online sales systems and eliminating mistakes through a high degree of automation. The results of the process focus on greater flexibility and responsiveness to business needs with new technologies, a turn towards outsourcing, automation and the integration of systems and processes, as well as compliance with safety regulations and quality orientation. All of this has had an important impact on the company's bottom line, as it has been able to cut the cost of managing exhibitions and conferences, boost the sales capacity for space and services by offering online services and increase customers' involvement in hiring processes using web applications.
The UFI Education Award
The UFI awards aim to recognise creativity and innovation in the exhibition industry and the results-focused initiatives carried out by operators as the key to success. With this as its goal, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry also gives out the UFI Education Awards, in recognition of the need for continuing vocational training in the exhibition sector, in search of the best organisational development initiative of the year. The IFEMA project entitled “Just the way we are” was a finalist alongside the Hong Kong and Shanghai exhibition centres. It is a programme designed and developed in recent years for all the company's employees, aimed at improving and optimising skills and teamwork, as well as capitalising on the potential of their personalities and professional capacities to add value to the company.
The programme used the MBTI tool, which is structured into five HR training and certification stages: design and implementation of a communication plan; organisation of sessions with the participants; individual sessions to report back the results; group work sessions and horizontal meetings with different professional bodies and profiles.
The results of this finalist programme created a blueprint for mostly all IFEMA employees: they are practical problem-solvers; swift at making and implementing decisions; oriented toward project organisation and focused on results and final objectives. The tangible results of analysing and executing the programme have been an increase in employee motivation, reductions in stress levels, swifter conflict resolution, more efficient meetings, improved labour relations, the creation of new work teams and improved productivity due to staff being better matched to their positions.
The implementing of this programme in IFEMA has fostered an intense functional mobility process, optimising capacities and skills in new posts and roles within the company. In total, since its implementation, there have been 81 functional changes in the company (19% of the workforce), based on matching suitable profiles to different skills. Thus, in the latter years of the crisis, IFEMA has committed to its workforce, encouraging and retaining talent and relocating staff in new positions with new responsibilities in order to build their skills and internally assume tasks and duties that had previously been outsourced with its own fully trained teams.
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