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Tuesday
Apr232013

The Changing Nature of Facilities Management

Photo courtesy of Gensler

Last month, Gensler’s London office hosted a roundtable discussion with the British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM) International Special Interest Group to explore some of the more surprising results of our 2012 State Of Facilities Management Report. This being the document’s second year, we were able to compare findings and begin to understand what motivators and influences affect the way that facilities management (FM), as an industry, is operating.

Not only did the results highlight the changing nature of the workplace, with 68 percent of the respondents planning to implement some form of progressive workplace strategies, but it also provided insight as to how the role of FM in organisations is growing in diversity and scope.

At its inception, FM was, literally, managing a facility, principally what would later be referred to by the industry as “Hard FM”: maintenance, cleaning, HVAC work, etc. The key performance indicators for measuring the effectiveness of Hard FM are quite tangible: Have running costs increased? Are air conditioning complaints down? For some facilities managers, the role is still very much about this activity. But for a growing number of them, there is more and more focus on “Soft FM”: sustainability, transportation, effectiveness of the workplace for employees, and so on.

The roundtable explored this phenomenon further, and the members of the FM community we spoke with had some controversial ideas. Firstly, it was considered by all that the facility (i.e., the workplace), impacted effectiveness as much as IT, HR and other company policies. In that respect, the facility is viewed as a tool that helps an organisation achieve its goals. However, nearIy all recognised that no one within their organisations “owned” workplace effectiveness. There were shared stories about companies that had morphed or created a role within FM that did have a remit for workplace, but how did they measure these intangibles of workplace performance? (This was some of the former “bean-counter” mentality of Hard FM coming through.) The consensus believed that if facilities managers could measure effectiveness of the workplace as well as they could measure efficiency, it could be a powerful addition to their remit.

This lead to the discussion that perhaps the very title, “facilities management,” is too short-sighted and doesn’t reflect the modern FM industry, which looks after not just real estate, but also so much more of the soft aspects impacting staff. Is it time for FM to embrace its softer side? Should the job be called Facility and Employee Effectiveness and Wellbeing Management? And if FM doesn’t own this categorisation, who does?

Finally, we discussed the position of FM at the board level. Consider that operating and capital expenses of a facility over a decade are 1/15th the cost of employee salaries and benefits, according to a British Council for Offices study. With such negligible costs by comparison, is FM important enough for someone involved in it to sit at the board level, or could they Ieverage the facility as a key influencer in improving staff attraction, retention, and performance? HR and IT often sit at the board level, providing services and programmes to improve an organisation. Should FM measure the intangibles of the workplace and be offering solutions to management to affect the bottom line through maximising effectiveness and efficiency?

The purpose of Gensler partnering with BIFM to undertake this survey is to garner a deeper understanding of the issues affecting facilities management. The survey and subsequent roundtable were the first of a number of programmes to the FM community this year specifically exploring the changing nature of the facilities manager role.

Matthew Kobylar is interested in the question "What drives the decisions that companies make about their workplace?" As a workplace strategist and interior designer he is able to explore this question everyday with his clients. Matthew is the Workplace Practice Area leader of Gensler’s EMEA region. If you have a pressing question, why not contact him at matthew_kobylar@gensler.com .

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