Bringing together the workplace tribes

By James Sutton

Edition 3 – June 2014 Pages 36-37

Tags: workplace design • facilities management • human resources

The world of work is always changing. We know it. You know it. In fact, there are a whole host of people that know it, but depending on what side of the professional fence you sit on, you might approach it in different ways, looking through a different lens or with a specific focus. Or are you already bridging the professional gap?

Workplace change and the numerous ramifications of it are well documented. In a world that is changing, at frightening pace, it is strange to think that many of the ways in which we work are so entrenched in 20th century thinking. We need to break away from this and outline what the future is going to look like and how we should adapt.

Or do we already have the answers? This ground is well trodden. However, it could be time to reassess our thinking and the way we approach this challenge, ensuring it becomes the norm for organisations around the world.

We need to constantly reflect and challenge our thinking on the future of the workplace based on the changing environment and the generations set to be the workforce of the future.

As a professional body for FM, we knew that we had to place specific focus on this area. Our Futures Group, chaired by Chris Kane, CEO of Commercial Projects at the BBC (see pp19-23), was created to reassess the future of the facilities management professional in this evolving world. It will look at the blurring of lines between business functions and try to understand how FM, along with other professions, can provide the organisations they support with a ‘total capability’ view that can help achieve organisational objectives.

The first of these functions that came into focus was another key dimension of productivity, other than ‘place’, that has to be managed in an organisation; ‘people’.

At our Th!nkFM conference we announced a collaboration with CIPD, a professional body for HR and people development. We heard from their CEO, Peter Cheese, the first speaker on the day, who was clear that the working environment is a reflection of the corporate culture which in turn will have a profound impact on the performance of an organisation. Throughout the day we continued to hear about how the workplace was intrinsic to business success.

Following the announcement we have received many positive messages but we were also reminded of a host of articles and reports that have, and are, exploring the very things we have set out to explore. So why bother?

Well, this isn’t solely about two professional bodies working together to form an opinion. It’s about two professions collaborating to collate, curate and funnel leading edge thinking and disseminating it out to the two communities responsible for people and place.

So, many of the challenges that both parties are discussing are exactly the same, albeit with a slightly different lexicon, so it makes perfect sense to align and converge this thinking into a single pool of discussion and debate.

In terms of the work that will take place we are looking to bring together the leading thinkers, from both professions, and the workplace in general, and create the environment in which we can harness their ideas, thoughts and suggestions. We will then engage a broader community of practitioners and ensure that we can make the transition from thought leadership, through to good practice and finally common practice.

After all, whilst the conversations and discussions have been going on for some time, we still find ourselves in a position where examples of synergy between people and place are arguably the exception rather than the rule.

By engaging with two communities of professionals we are issuing a call to action. Let’s have the discussion, celebrate and showcase the great examples already out there of good practice, outline how it looks going forward and then empower practitioners with the knowledge and tools to make it a reality in their organisation. It will not be overnight but we have outlined our ambition.

And, it doesn’t stop there. We need to engage with the procurement professionals, IT professionals, finance, customer service and so on. The more the merrier, because it is only when we begin to get these tribes talking together, using common language, that we will begin to see the benefits. This is about systemic change.

In the coming months we have a number of activities planned which will have crowdsourcing methodologies at their heart. Join us, contribute and be part of the future. Our role is to facilitate the debate, work with those at the heart of the challenge, to move the conversation along and help understand and shape the workplace of the future.

The ultimate aim is to make a difference, showcase the powerful impact those that manage the workplace can make through collaboration, building bridges and breaking down silos. W&P

About the Authors

James Sutton

James Sutton is the Chief Operating Officer at the British Institute of Facilities Management.


… There have been numerous conversations about the evolution of the workplace but we wanted to make sure that the views of these two vital communities of professionals are brought together. We want them to share their thinking and work together to bridge the gap between people and place as we aim to add to the next instalment of the workplace’s evolution.Working with CIPD forms part of our strategy of bringing the right people from outside of the FM profession to analyse, debate and challenge the latest thinking that impacts on the world of business, the economy and wider society. (Gareth Tancred CEO, BIFM)

The very nature of work is changing. The unprecedented scale and pace of change in the economy and the world of work means there is a critical need to ensure the ways we work, our workforces and workplace cultures are fit for today, and drive performance and growth for the future. Workforces are more diverse, with greater flexibility demanded on the part of both employers and employees, bringing new challenges and opportunities in workforce planning. The physical workplace is one of many factors in modern management and work that needs to adapt, with business leaders needing to continually innovate and challenge conventional wisdom about what drives performance and engagement. That’s why we’re pleased to be working with our colleagues in the facilities management industry to explore the issues, and to find solutions to the challenges they bring. (Peter Cheese, CEO, CIPD)


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