The Occupiers' Journal enhances the strategic capabilities of workplace management by sharing the challenges and best practices for aligning workplace strategy, corporate strategy, key business unit requirements, and peer functions, such as HR, IT, and corporate real estate.
Let us be lovers,
We’ll marry our fortunes together.
I’ve got some real estate
Here in my bag.
Whatever meaning you may attribute to this beautiful song, to me it reflects a very human feeling of searching, of travelling….of movement even. The need to ‘get away’, to explore, and find new things. Perhaps, to find meaning.
[without getting too political, “to look for America” will be a quest troubling many people right now! One cannot help think Paul Simon will feel more empty and aching now even than in the song.]
Who needs real estate? Who needs more than a bag, a pack of cigarettes, one of Mrs. Wagner’s pies, to walk off and look for America? …a bottle of water perhaps. And obviously a smartphone.
Imagine the words of the song now, almost 50 years later:
“Kathy”, I said,
As we boarded a Greyhound in Pittsburgh,
have you got a good WiFi signal?
The cashless, wireless kid on the Greyhound bus today, off “to look for America” has very different real estate in his or her bag. You will have seen the graffiti’d amendment to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, with WiFi added as the new basic need above all others…it feels like that sometimes.
Providing she has money in the bank, somewhere in the world, and a WiFi signal on the smartphone, she can acquire all manner of ‘real estate’ …fleetingly, temporarily, for a few hours or a few days.
Counting the cars
On the New Jersey Turnpike
The contemporary young Simon, and his Kathy, have no need of a car. They can ‘buy’ an Uber for a few minutes when they need it. Or hire a car for a few days, to drive up the coast perhaps. They can ‘buy’ an AirBnB room for a night, or a week. Or a whole house, for all their friends to meet. Real estate, in the bag, on the iPhone.
Now they want to work like this too…..
And why not? If you live like this, why not work like this too? It is the sharing economy, the experience economy. Owning things is for your parents. Smart people are now buying memories, not ‘stuff’.
The technologists are busy creating platforms and Apps for us to book anything, almost anytime, and almost anywhere. Their business developers are connecting all manner of assets with their Apps …putting the customer together with whatever they need, when they need it.
Early pioneers of corporate real estate used to say most organizations are ‘in real estate’ by default. Not any longer.
Every year, there is less need for any organization to be ‘in real estate’ in any way at all.
Corporate and commercial real estate operators may all be working for ‘booking platforms’ before much longer. A few organizations will still build their own HQ, and hold a few leases on ‘core’ parts of the portfolio. But everything else will surely be ‘bookable’.
Every Monday morning will be a little like that young couple on the Greyhound bus; a journey, a new day, a new place (or favourite old place). Somewhere you want to go, with people you want to be with. If you are a knowledge-worker, of course. If your work is talking, creating, writing, and connected to a device.
If you have been following the story so far, several managers are congregated in their corporate training facility, “to discuss what successful Workplace Management means to the Group Companies, who should lead it forward, and how”. It is the evening before the Away Day, and they have met variously in the bar, or passing through to their rooms. We have met Frankie (HR), Sam (FM), Jules (CRE), and Charlie (IT Strategy). As is often the case in large organisations, FM reports into CRE; Sam reports to Jules. But, nobody really knows how the plot is unfolding. Mostly because the HR Director, unusually, has called this Away Day, “so we actually talk to each other, and share information and experiences”. Why HR?
Frankie is meeting the HR Director, Rosh, in a nearby restaurant.
“I bumped into some colleagues from Real Estate in the bar” says Frankie, as they take their table. “There is some…well, intrigue, I guess you could say. They kinda think Workplace Management is their bag…wondering why HR is heading this Away Day”.
Rosh comes back quickly, with a slight air of excitement, “Yes, I’m sure there is! Intrigue, indeed. What do you think?” Rosh is a great mentor – teacher, even. To Frankie, it feels less a ‘manager-subordinate’ relationship than one of a post-grad and professor.
Frankie replies, “Well, I know that collaboration is the goal. Not just out there with our business partners and suppliers, but here, across the support functions. I know that the boss wants to get rid of ‘stove-pipes’, and to get all of the functions facing one direction…and I guess that means all fully aligned with each of the business units”.
Rosh smiles, looking up from the menu, “Yeah, pretty much. The new CEO wants us to give staff every tool they need to perform at their best achievable level. Think sports analogies. Firstly, we want people fit and well, in body and mind….as far as practicable, of course! So, ‘wellness’ will be mentioned a lot. Secondly, we will ensure that everyone in the organisation goes through a review of their skills, and is offered training, or sponsorship on courses where required. We do a lot of that anyway, but it will be pushed harder. And thirdly, the ‘places’ we want people to work from will support them fully”.
“We have made a good start on the first two”, said Frankie, “but, what is our role, as HR, in ‘places’? That’s Corporate Real Estate, and FM. Are you saying….”
“Yes, I’m saying that will be part of my new remit” smiled Rosh, “We will all be on a steep learning curve.”
Frankie looked a little surprised, “I could ask a lot of questions…why? how?” she smiled. A confused smile.
“Don’t worry. We’re not actually going to be ‘doing’ the CRE stuff”, Rosh replied, “But, this is going to be an organizational transformation. It will not be comfortable, for many of the support functions. Selling it to staff in the right way is going to be critical. Hence, our experience of large change management projects will be what is needed right now.”
Frankie was not convinced, yet at least, “I get that…but how are we going to effectively lead a function like CRE, that we have little knowledge of?”
“Ah, you under-estimate what you know!” replied Rosh, laying the menu down, “think about it. One of our key goals is employee attraction…and retention. We’re in a competitive market. Unemployment in our sector is virtually zero. Everyone is offering similar…good…salaries and benefits. What can we do to differentiate ourselves, as an employer of choice?”
Frankie grinned, “Well you’ve kinda given that away …its ‘Places’, obviously …but I still can’t quite see how?”
“OK”, Rosh continued, “well, the CEO’s view is that the ‘places’ we ask people to work from are one of the last areas of effective ’employee benefit’…if, as we think is true…people decide to join us…or stay with us…because the experience of working in our places is better than they would get elsewhere. And we should know, as we measure this. But we need to do more, to understand why, and how we can continuously improve. And that is what we manage, and how we brief and guide the Workplace Managers.”
“I get it…I like it” said Frankie, “it is more the strategy and targets that we lead from. We don’t do the technical stuff…CRE does that…but we make sure that what they do is fully aligned with our ‘people’ strategies”.
“Exactly. And you are now part of the new People & Place function”, Rosh smiled, “HR is no more. The CEO hates the term…People!!…we employ people!! ..not Human Resources.”
“What do you think of the menu?” Rosh asked.
Frankie wasn’t sure how to answer. The dinner menu? Or the menu for tomorrow’s Away Day. Dinner was going to go down far better, she thought.
Scroll down for the story so far. Three managers met at the bar of a corporate training centre. Frankie (from HR), Sam (from FM – Facilities Management), and Jules (from CRE – Corporate Real Estate). There has been some discussion, largely around the mystery of why the HR Director has called this Away Day, “so we actually talk to each other, and share information and experiences”. But then, Sam met Charlie (IT Strategy) who provided an insight.
Charlie left, to get showered and changed for dinner. Sam was considering doing the same, just as Jules returned to the bar. “Got a few minutes, Sam?” asked Jules. As FM reports into CRE, Sam took that more as a statement than a question. Jules didn’t wait for a reply anyway, “I’ve had an email from the Finance Director …keen to engage an architect to do some modelling of what we may actually need in terms of the new HQ …options, stats, etc.”
Sam raised an eyebrow, in a Roger Moore style. “The FD didn’t mean ‘architect’ though, right?”
“Why not?” asked Jules, keen to get on to the real purpose of the discussion.
Sam left a short pause, for Jules to continue. But it wasn’t going to happen, so Sam replied, “Well, just that I thought we might develop an outline brief first, so we can give the architect a better idea of what we are looking for”.
Jules wasn’t in the mood for a philosophy on how to deliver buildings, having owned the firm’s ‘estate plan’ and appointed teams to deliver major capital projects for years. Jules replied, “Have you read the RIBA Plan of Work, Sam? Stage 1 – Preparation and Brief. Architects are trained to take a brief …and we have the experience to brief the architect …where’s the problem?”
Jules assumed that Sam wouldn’t know, having moved from a hotel management background into FM. But overlooked the fact that Sam had worked on the development of hotels.
“Stage 0 – Strategic Definition… added in the new 2013 Plan of Work” replied Sam, “and you find me an experienced architect who has a deep knowledge of that, and I’ll buy you an expensive dinner, Jules”.
Jules retorted, impatiently, “So, what’s solution? I was just going to ask you if you have experience working with any of the large firms?”
“I have worked with a couple” Sam replied, “But, in the hotel group we had an evidenced-based design …EBD… approach. This was actually led by the marketing team, and their customer insight managers. In fact, it was essentially a research function. The unit head had a PhD in Organisational Anthropology …really interesting guy. If you walked through a hotel with him, you saw it differently – not just a building, but a series of processes and human interactions, stimulated or facilitated by the physical environment.”
Sam realized that Jules had switched off. Time to step back, and build up slowly. Sam knew that architects, surveyors and engineers…the building team…we’re generally not well versed in social science. But that was exactly what this project needed. Behaviourists, psychologists, organizational development …maybe from HR? Maybe there may be people in Marketing? Certainly, there were consultants out there. But not architects!
“You look a bit tired, Jules” said Sam, “Shall we get some dinner?” Jules agreed; not sold on all this research stuff, but hungry. It was tiring working with Sam…but, grudgingly, it was interesting.
Scroll down for the story so far. Three managers met at the bar of a corporate training centre. Frankie (from HR), Sam (from FM – Facilities Management), and Jules (from CRE – Corporate Real Estate). There has been some discussion about a potential plot unfolding. Mostly because the HR Director has called this Away Day, “so we actually talk to each other, and share information and experiences”.
Back at the bar….
Frankie has left, for dinner with the HR Director. Jules has gone to catch up on emails. Sam is left thinking. Is this the opportunity for FM to get out from under CRE? And more importantly, the cost-reduction focus of Finance? The new HQ project could be an opportunity to prove that FM is not a ‘bolt-on’ to CRE. Sam recalls some of the experiences gleaned in setting up hotels, and how much of it can be transferred to the new HQ facility.
As Sam considers the move (in more ways than one), Charlie, the IT Strategy guru, crashes through the doors from the gym. “Hey Sam, how’s it going? You’re looking a bit serious there.” Sam looks up with a smile. Charlie is an atypical IT colleague. Being extrovert in IT tends to mean looking down at someone else’s shoes. But that’s not Charlie.
“You may look serious in a moment, when I tell you what CRE are up to with the new HQ” chuckles Sam, as he finishes his bottle of Eurofizz. “Two more beers please, barman …Charlie has worked up a thirst”.
“Thanks. So what’s up?” asks Charlie, perching on a stool next to Sam at the bar. “Don’t tell me… we are moving in twelve months? …I’ll need to tell the Telecomms this evening to be inside their SLA delivery time!” Sam smiles, knowingly. You can control any part of the move project, providing you work around the TelCo.
“No, I’m just kidding with you Charlie” says Sam, holding back on relaying what Jules has just revealed. Best to let Charlie find out when it comes through on email. As it will, no doubt. Sam continues, “I’m actually thinking about the potential role HR sees itself taking, and how we fit into that. Assuming that we’ll find out tomorrow?”
“I’ve already had a pre-meeting” says Charlie, “with my boss and the HR Director. They have been in a huddle quite a bit recently. The new CEO is very keen to give staff every tool they need to perform at their best achievable level. They have even been bandying about sports analogies. The CEO wants people fit and well, in body and mind…. probably why she called me in, right?”
Sam grinned, “Fit in body, Charlie …not sure about your mind! …not sure I even want to go there!”
“Funny…but, no, seriously. HR is only in the driving seat tomorrow because the CEO is in Paris with Macron. She is friends with his wife, Brigitte, so I was told. The HR Director is a safe pair of hands”, Charlie pauses “not my words…but this is going to be an organizational transformation. Selling it to staff in the right way is going to be critical”.
Sam’s day just got even better. This was now looking like a real opportunity for FM to play a significant role in the firm’s performance, …even it’s reputation in the sector. It was starting to make sense now. This was not going to be an HR Away Day with invitees. This was looking more like the start of a new company culture, led from the top.
Charlie continued, “We have been briefed to ‘think out of the box’ on this one. Really push the envelope”. Sam was getting full MBA delivery mode here. “Performance and agility are the top priority. Procurement will be involved, of course, but not in the usual penny-pinching way. We don’t have a blank cheque here, but the CEO wants a ‘wow factor’ to attract the smartest kids coming out of Uni. We have to give them better ‘kit & comms’ than they have in their pocket. And free them up to use it.” Charlie was on a roll now, smiling “our IT Operations guys are going to have to live with a lot of flexibility and user customization. Set the people free!”
Sam chipped in, “Great – fewer desks, more sofas!”, half-joking. That had not been the culture of the firm.
“Absolutely!” exclaimed Charlie, “fewer desks, no desk phones, no PCs, …and as wireless as we can get it …we’ll have a bun-fight over printers, but the fewer the better”.
Sam paused, deliberately, “It’s gonna look more like a hotel”. That was a plant, and well timed.
Charlie thought for a few seconds, and replied, “Yeah, I guess you’re right. I hadn’t quite thought of it like that.”
Sam and Charlie were going to get along on this project. Now just to take the others with them….the tough part.
If you have read the story so far, in Part 1, three managers met at the bar of a corporate training centre. Frankie (from HR), Sam (from FM – Facilities Management), and Jules (from CRE – Corporate Real Estate). There has been some usual banter, but underlying that, is a plot unfolding? The HR Director has called this Away Day, which has surprised Sam and Jules. Apparently, “so we actually talk to each other, and share information and experiences”. They are not convinced.
Back at the bar….
Frankie has left, for dinner with the HR Director. Sam asks, “So what do you think, Jules? Is this an HR Away Day, with invitees from other Group Functions? Or, is something else going on?”
Jules went off to boarding school at the age of seven, so politics and intrigue come naturally. With a degree from a leading University, and ten years with a commercial real estate firm, Jules fell into CRE when a client offered the chance to move across to their in-house team.
“Definitely something more than just an HR Away Day” Jules replies, “Its not just CRE and FM being invited – I saw Charlie, Head of IT Strategy, in the car park. Procurement are here too. It looks like someone is trying to bring us all together. I guess we’ll find out in the morning!”
Sam nodded, leaving a silence to see if Jules would say more. It was unlikely. Jules was the deal-maker, a collector of information from all sources, but disseminated very little. It was the way of the broker. Information is power. But the rules of the game were clearly changing. Collaboration was the new game, and Jules was having some difficulty with it.
“You always have your ear to the ground, Jules” said Sam, smiling. “How’s progress with the search for the new HQ?” Sam wasn’t convinced that the firm needed to move, and was even less convinced by the buildings being considered. But more worrying for Sam was the limited input FM had so far been able to gain.
Jules took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, “Well, the size of floor-plate we are looking for is scarce. There are developments in the pipeline, but not much choice if we want to move in the next year or so”.
Sam gave Jules a raised eyebrow, “I hope its more ‘or so’ than ‘next year’ Jules. We have three years on the existing lease. There is a whole programme of work to do before moving – staff engagement, comms, workplace design, mock-ups, furniture…not to mention the move planning itself.”
Sam could feel the tension rising, but stayed the ever-cool, unflappable Hotel Manager. Almost two decades in large hotel groups around the world had trained Sam to work with anyone. Many people had felt the difference when Sam took over FM a couple of years ago. Heads of Business Units had fed back up the line. Marketing loved Sam, as visiting customers and VIPs had commented on the great ‘atmosphere’ and slick management of corporate events.
But Jules held the CRE purse strings, and had the ear of the Finance Director. Sam was poised to jump across to another function, and get out from under CRE, if only the chance arose. Jules knows that. If Sam was able to get FM under HR, then a big part of Jules’ power base would vanish.
Jules brushed off Sam’s concerns, “We have time. There will be at least a year after we sign up, and we haven’t found anywhere suitable yet. But our current landlord has indicated that they may redevelop if we exit, and may accept an early lease break. That could mean a saving – our current lease was signed at the top of the market”.
Sam knew there was little point arguing. If there was an identified saving, it would be in Jules’ performance review! Sam could expect a myopic focus on Jules’ bonus until that was in the bag! And that would be true of the Finance Director too. But what if a case could be made, convincingly, to move FM under HR & Organizational Development?
Sam was convinced that the physical workplace, design and services, was all just part of the employee package. It’s what a staff member expects, working for one of the Group companies. Maybe the new CEO had seen this too? Maybe that’s why the HR Director had been tasked with bringing all the support functions together?
Jules left the bar to catch up on emails, whilst Sam ordered another beer. Tomorrow may be the start of something.
Three managers walk into the bar [always a good place to start]. They all have gender-neutral names, so I’ll leave you to work out whether they may be male or female. Not that it matters in this context.
Frankie gets there first. “Hi. Large glass of wine please. What do you have?” The young barman pauses, and replies “We have…red…or…um…white. Um…oh, and pink”. Frankie thinks, and orders a beer. Its a corporate training centre. What can you expect? A wine list?
“Hey, Frankie – I’ll get that. And another please barman” says Sam. “It’s good to see you’re here representing HR – we don’t get chance to talk in the office”.
“Thanks Sam. Well I do walk up to your floor, but you’re never at your desk. And booking a meeting room is an operation in itself. I blame FM [smiles]” says Frankie, as the barman opens two bottles of bland EuroFizz. There’s no real ale either, as usual.
Sam thinks quickly, “Well, there’s the thing, you see. If HR didn’t insist on everyone having a desk, we would be able to create more meeting rooms…most of my team, especially me, are rarely at our desks [smiles back]”. Touché. Or touchy. This has been a battle ground for a while.
“Anyway, that’s why we are here, right?” says Sam, “to discuss what successful Workplace Management means to the Group Companies, who should lead it forward, and how…should be interesting”.
Jules jumps in, now off the mobile, “Hi Sam. Hi…Frankie? We haven’t met. I’m Head of Corporate Real Estate…CRE on your agenda. Good to see HR is here”.
Sam looks surprised, “Hey, Jules. I didn’t realise you hadn’t met Frankie. I thought you would be up in HR all the time, with your headcount planning files”. Jules smirks, with a knowing look towards Sam. Both know very well that HR is a net receiver of information, and has the reputation for never having current data.
Frankie knows. “That’s why the HR Director called this Away Day, of course. So we actually talk to each other, and share information and experiences”. Jules smiles, “Yeess…mmm…I read that on the agenda too. I sniff an ulterior agenda, not written on that paper there Frankie”.
Frankie knows, again. The HR Director is on the Group ExCo. But CRE reports into Finance, not even to the FD, but one level down. And FM reports into CRE, as it has done for many years, since the Group ‘centre’ was formed. The HR Director has initiated this Away Day. But only Frankie knows why.
“Jules, you old cynic. We just want to share information and experiences.” says Frankie.
Sam chips in, “Its unusual, that’s all. We usually have an Away Day with just CRE, FM and a few people from Finance. We may get a pitch from HR, but that’s usually about it. …I mean, it’s good. But, we were surprised that this is being led by the HR Director.”
Frankie is thinking how to reply, without giving away tomorrow’s opening speech by the boss. But, avoids it with a quip resembling Theresa May, “It’s about strong and stable governance!” she smiles.
Jules snorts, “It’s gunna be a beautiful thing!” in a bad Donald Trump impression.
They all laugh, and move the conversation onto politics. But Frankie knows. Its not going to be a beautiful thing. At least, not for Jules and Sam.
Is Facilities Management Strategic? What does it mean to be a strategic business resource?
Those questions are crucial to the future of the Facilities Management (FM) profession.
Please contribute to an important conversation and research project addressing the current state of the FM profession by helping to answer those questions. If you are an FM professional I invite you to participate in a brief global online survey about your FM organization and its current role and relationships, as well as your views about current challenges and opportunities for FM leaders.
The survey includes just 15 questions and will take less than 15 minutes of your time. Click here to complete the survey:
This survey represents an important opportunity for you to contribute to a global conversation about the emerging strategic impact of facilities management. If you complete the survey, we will be happy to send you a summary of our findings once the study is completed.
The 2012 report can be downloaded for free at this link.
We are also interviewing selected senior FM executives and professionals as part of this project. If you are an FM practitioner who has tackled a strategic project for your organization, we would like to interview you; please contact me directly at my Occupiers Journal email address: firstname.lastname@example.org, to volunteer your story.
One more thing: fellow Occupiers Journal director Paul Carder and I will discuss the project and offer preliminary findings at education session 7.03 at World Workplace in San Diego, California, on Friday morning, 7 October. Hope to see you there!
This is a simple post. It is intended to cause a good-natured argument amongst professionals.
I’m more interested in how things are achieved, by whom, than perhaps by the end result. Take workplace transformation as an example. I’m not an architect or interior designer. Pictures of cool new spaces don’t especially interest me. I gave up sitting in ball pools when my children grew out of them. Like my good friend Mark Eltringham, I agree that “the reality is that for the majority of people, the office of the future will be a sober and nuanced evolution of the office of the present“. People like to feel that they are being treated well, their comfort and happiness is somewhat important to their employer, and they see money being spent on their new environment. But trends, fads, gimmicks and aesthetics are very personal – one will never please everyone, so I take little interest.
What really interests me (and many of my colleagues in the OJL network) is how organisations cascade their strategic aims to the various “workplace” professionals in their team. And how that team organizes itself to deliver spaces and services which are aligned and support the organization’s goals.
In the past (vague, I know… lets say, 10-15 years ago +), we all talked about the Finance Director (or CFO), and what she wanted to achieve. Buildings, and fleets of buildings (real estate portfolios) were, and still are of course, a significant expense to most organizations. Cost reduction was king, and therefore the CFO was the focus. Corporate Real Estate (CRE) grew out of the 1980’s onwards, and became the lead function in managing real estate. Facilities Management (FM) was operational, and mostly reported into CRE.
Of course, the CFO’s office is still involved, especially in large capital programmes. But the fat on the bone of real estate portfolios has largely been well trimmed in many (most?) organizations. CRE leaders have realized that tinkering with FM costs is the proverbial water in the wind. The larger cost savings come via portfolio rationalization (as do energy savings, by default). Much of that has been done too. What’s left is ‘fine tuning’ of buildings, to operate as closely to the ideal of the efficient factory (sweating the assets) or the efficiency of the airport, with people coming and going, checking in and checking out, throughout every day. Hot desking – or at least, fairly warm!
In the present, the focus has shifted to the Human Resources function (CHRO, if you must). Especially now that the economy in many regions has slowly dragged itself out of the deep financial malaise we all felt since 2008/9. Organizations are moving from survival mode, back to competing. And competing for ‘talent’ is once again a hot topic. As is getting the most out of people and resources (productivity) once an organization has successfully recruited people.
HR has grown in strength and influence (imho), and in many cases has become more strategic and future-oriented than it was in the past. Tools such as ’employee engagement metrics’ provide hard data (there is literature supporting, and criticizing, most employee engagement efforts – but there is no denying it is everywhere). People are expensive, and if we know what makes them ‘tick’ then HR can drive transformations in many areas of the organization. Workplace is one area. It is believed (at long last) to make a difference to how people work.
So HR is currently greater than Finance,
…Finance is greater than CRE (Workplace still has to stick to financial constraints of course),
…and CRE is greater than FM.
HR > Finance > CRE > FM
For now, at least.
FM is still operational. This twitter discussion this afternoon convinced me of that. Once again. I don’t see much change from the picture Jim Ware and I painted in the RICS-sponsored “Raising The Bar” (RTB) reports we delivered in 2012 and 2014.
We are starting work now on the third RTB study, thanks to RICS continued support. So if you violently disagree with what I have written above, do please comment below. Or email me, or Jim. We would love to hear from you.
You are probably quite familiar with the term “evidence-based design” (or EBD) as a corporate real estate, FM or workplace professional. In fact, there is a new EBD Journal. You may not have heard of “evidence-based management”, but it is a logical extension of practice started in healthcare, where ‘evidence’ to support decisions is clearly vital, and must be based on science (not just opinion). I’m sure we have all witnessed management decisions seemingly made on the basis of personal choice, politics, or fad. So, bringing sound evidence in to support management decision-making must be a good thing.
Denise M. Rousseau, Ph.D., is the H.J. Heinz II University Professor of Organizational Behavior Management Collaborative at Carnegie Mellon University, and editor of one of a number of books on the subject, including “The Oxford Handbook of Evidence-based Management”.
Denise Rousseau and Eric Barends (2011) applied the principles to human resource management (HR), and open their paper on ‘becoming an evidence-based HR practitioner’ with a useful definition:
Evidence-based HR (EBHR) is a decision-making process combining critical thinking with use of the best
available scientific evidence and business information.
It seems to me that this practice could (and should) be applied to Facilities Management (FM).
There has been much discussion in recent years about the similarities between HR and FM, and the need for the two disciplines to work more closely together in organisations. This lengthy extract from Rousseau & Barends (2011), I believe, could equally have been written about FM:
Managers have diverse disciplinary backgrounds. HR practitioners have no single credential that authorises their expertise, and the occupation is open to those with no degree and those with several. There are no regulatory requirements regarding the education or knowledge an individual must have to become a manager or an HR professional. The HR industry associations SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) and CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) administer examinations to certify member expertise. At present, the SHRM exam is not highly evidence-based, instead supporting industry standard practice. In contrast, CIPD (active in Ireland, Britain and elsewhere in Europe) focuses more on science-based knowledge and aligns with masters’ level university programmes throughout Europe.
If you swapped ‘HR’ for ‘FM’,…’SHRM’ for ‘IFMA’,…and ‘CIPD’ for ‘RICS’ this statement could almost be written about FM. So, what is good for HR could be good for FM.
Example: knowledge-worker productivity
One leading consultancy in the UK, Advanced Workplace Associates (AWA) has been digging into this subject, with their research partners, the Center for Evidence-Based Management (CEBMa). Together, using an evidence-based management approach, they have identified what they call “the 6 factors of knowledge worker productivity” (AWA, 2015). This has been a thorny subject for many years, with a lot of opinions being traded, but often without a scientific approach. AWA and CEBMa have put aside opinion, and reviewed 161 papers, after screening for relevance excluding 102, leaving 59 relevant studies.
(nb., you can read the full process in Barends, Plum & Mawson (2015) listed below. This is part of Eric Barends’ published PhD thesis, and therefore detailed and robust).
Having worked with a few consultancies and service providers in the FM sector, this level of robust analysis of scientific evidence is rare, in my opinion. And could mark the start of a movement towards ‘evidence-based FM’, if the approach was copied by others in the sector.
The team set out to answer the following key questions:
1.What is “knowledge work”?
2.Which of the factors that have an impact on the performance of knowledge workers are most widely studied and what is known of their effect?
3.How do these factors enhance the performance of knowledge workers and how can they be measured? In addition, what are the implications of the findings for management practice?
Reviewers from CEBMa conducted a Rapid Evidence Assessment (REA) of the available scientific literature and AWA used its knowledge and experience to translate the academic findings into practical guidelines.
Results: practical guidelines
Eric Barends (2015) PhD thesis, Chapter 5, Annex 1 lists the practical measures (in the form of a useful questionnaire) derived from the scientific literature: Measuring the 6 factors
(The level of each factor can be scored as follows: Strongly agree = 5; Somewhat agree = 4; Neither agree or disagree = 3; Somewhat disagree = 2; Strongly disagree = 1. When the aggregate team score is low (e.g. below 3.5), this is a strong indication for low team performance)
When reviewing the 6 factors below, an FM/Workplace manager could useful consider how the physical working environment provided, and the facilities and services in the FM provision, may help to raise the score to 4 or 5.
Factor 1: Social Cohesion
1.Members of our team like to spend time together outside of work hours
2.Members of our team get along with each other
3.Members of our team would rather get together as a team than go out on their own
4.Members of our team defend each other from criticism by outsiders
5.Members of our team help each other on the job
Factor 2: Perceived supervisory support
1.My supervisor is willing to extend him-or herself in order to help me perform my job the best of my ability
2.My supervisor takes pride in my accomplishments at work
3.My supervisor tries to make my job as interesting as possible
4.The organization values my contribution to its well-being
5.The organization strongly considers my goals and values
6.The organization really cares about my well-being
Factor 3: Information sharing and TMS (transactive memory system)
1.Our team members share their work reports and official documents with other team members.
2.Our team members share their experience or know-how with other team members.
3.Information to make key decisions is freely shared among the members of the team
4.Our team members trust that other members’ knowledge is credible.
5.Our team members are confident of relying on the information that other team members bring to the discussion.
Factor 4: Vision and goal clarity
1.This team has clearly defined goals
2.Our team goals are clear to everyone who works here
3.It is easy to explain the goals of this team to outsiders
4.I have specific, clear goals to aim for in my job
5.If I have more than one goal to accomplish, I know which ones are most important and which are least important.
Factor 5: External communication
1.Our team members use information obtained from external teams everyday
2.Our team is contacted by outside teams for knowledge and information
3.Our team scans the external environment for ideas and solutions
Factor 6: Trust
1.Our team members withhold information from each other
2.Our team members withhold information from the management
3.Our team members in general trust each other
1.The management trusts the team to do their work well
2.The team members can trust the information that comes from the management
3.The management withholds important information from the team members
4.The team members are able to express their views and feelings towards management
Application to FM and Workplace/management
It can be readily seen how the evidence from the almost 60 papers reviewed in detail has delivered these ‘6 factors’ as set out above, and how a consultant or in-house change manager could drop these factors into a spreadsheet tool and create a useful survey tool.
It is less easy to see how an FM/Workplace manager could use these ‘6 factors’ directly. But it does provide a sound list of the factors which affect knowledge worker productivity, working in organisations and teams. However directly applicable, the advantage of this evidence-based approach, above the many lists created by knowledgeable consultants and FM practitioners, is that the ‘6 factors’ above can be traced back to scientific evidence from peer-reviewed academic journals.
Academic partnerships to create new knowledge in FM
What is set out above is a great example of a consultancy partnering with academics, to bring robust academic findings into FM and Workplace practice. It would be good for the developing FM profession to see far more of these academic-practitioner partnerships, which would deliver knowledge into FM practice. There is a large amount of peer-reviewed academic knowledge ‘locked away’ in academic journals which, as AWA and CEBMa have shown, can be collated and transferred into practice.