The future of facilities management – is it to be workplace management?

Why is there such a gap between the level of service you would expect in a hotel and that which you are likely to receive in so many workplaces?

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By Graham Jervis

Edition 2 – February 2013 Pages 24-28

Tags: brand • customer experience • engagement • hotel • service

Facilities management (FM) has long recognised that its role involved addressing the needs of physical assets, technology and people. The relative importance of these three, however, has changed over time as the increasing technology content of buildings and regulations have introduced greater focus on assets and technology. Now, the emphasis for FMs needs to be more concerned with people and in assisting in the cultural changes that accompany a more mobile, sustainable future.

In 2008 The Chartered Management Institute said: “Tomorrow‘s workforce will be increasingly individualistic, older, more mobile, more international and ethnically varied and, in the cases of skilled employees, far more demanding of their employers. Tomorrow‘s managers will have the unenviable task of trying to harness these forces of change rather than being overwhelmed by them. Such a task will require them to be flexible and creative.”

In the same year, at a EuroFM Futures workshop in Zurich, the changes facing FM were summarised in this diagram (right) which illustrates the forces that are changing the characteristic of the workplace. Increasing need to accommodate the environmental concerns over sustainability is a long term trend that will affect all businesses and will not allow an organisation to ignore changes it has to make in its operations and investments.

Another major force at work in the short and medium term is cost reduction to survive the current economic problems that beset the developed world. Many would contend that in order to achieve both, in the medium and long term, we shall require significant cultural changes; changes in the way in which we view the use of space and how we shift from today’s adherence to standardised processes and central control to a more localised active involvement of people and their self-determination.

These are significant changes which shift the focus from physical asset management to design, development, provision and maintenance of workplaces that encourage and support peoples’ productivity in all the types of work they do.

However, asset maintenance and provision of building-based services remain, making the job of the FM very demanding and probably too wide to do alone. The collaboration of other service functions (HR, IT, procurement, legal, etc.) and the business itself is, and will be, the foundation for the management of workplaces.

It is with this diversity of management responsibilities that I see a need to bring the existing core capabilities of FM, recognised by BIFM, IFMA and others, together with the best practices which we in AWA have developed with clients. The issues of an agile working world can then be brought into a single management model. The model I chose was influenced by an early IT service management framework developed by CCTA and which I felt may assist in dialogues with IT, by providing some common language.

Before going through our approach to best practice workplace management, let me answer the question: “What is workplace management?”

I would contend that the only asset that an organisation really has is its people. Management of the workplace is about providing environments that allow people to work at their best. In other words, physical assets and services are enablers and it is the responsibility of FM, IT and other service functions to provide these at an economic price. Workplace management is totally about designing and consistently delivering effective and economical workplace experiences to everyone, whenever and wherever they work and under any business condition. All the capabilities in the model enable this.

The model

Let me take you through an overview of the model so that you can get a flavour of what is covered and how it responds to the demands of the future. It consists of 10 capabilities, see below.

Strategic Management involves the creation, championing and leadership of the workplace strategic plan which needs the involvement of the C-suite executive, CRE/FM, HR and IT functions and their support and endorsement of the corporate vision and goals that the plan is based upon.

The workplace manager will need to have much closer access to high level business plans and have an understanding of the direction and scale of the future headcount, type of work and locations. The strategic plan should support the image that the organisation wishes to project into its markets but also embrace the experience of the workplace that is consistent with that image. It is time that such an executive was located on the same floor as the C-suite executive rather than next to the plant room. It implies great changes for CRE/FM executives and for some it will be well out of their current comfort zone. For others, the changes are already taking place where C-suite executives have recognised the importance of supporting the changing ways in which their people work.

The Client Relationship role is vital in the future, given that the workplace manager will have to develop a closely involved role with business units. In my view, business units should be charged directly for the resources that they consume, and they in turn will seek continual better value for money and demand better understanding of their evolving needs.

These management demands will require internal enhancements in the skills and nature of the future workplace management teams and add to traditional technical based skills. Re-training in, or acquisition of, the new skills of consultancy, data analysis, social network analysis, business analysis and behavioural analysis will be necessary.

Nothing embodies the role of a manager more than his/her ability to manage the performance of his/her organisation and people. Good Performance Management skills can inspire and encourage collaboration; poor skills can lead to confusion, demotivation and wasted effort. All managers should be passionate about building great performance management capabilities in their organisation. Identifying what to measure, and getting others to agree, are the bases for great performance management.

As the Nobel Prize winning economist, Joseph Stiglitz, said: “If you don’t measure the right thing, you don’t do the right thing.”

If people across the organisation don’t see the relevance of the measures then the additional benefit of inspiring people to improve will be lost. Also, there may be agreed, relevant measures in place, but if the statistical significance of changes in those measurements is not recognised, effort will be wasted in trying to address problems that don’t exist. It is therefore important that those responsible for analysing performance data have an appreciation of statistical significance.

New tools, which measure workplace utilisation and can relate results to the type of work and work-styles, need developing and implementing to better understand and quantify the type of work-settings needed to support a changing work dynamic. Many in FM believe that there is a relationship between workplace design and occupants’ productivity, health and feelings of engagement to the business.

However, it has been difficult to prove this causal relationship in a business environment. Given the many places that people now choose to work from, it would benefit businesses if they set up workplace research projects to understand and learn what works best in their business. Gaining an evidence-based understanding of how different working environments, used by their mobile workforce, could best be designed to support their work will become an important capability as our working environment changes. Delivered by mixed teams of FM, IT and HR, such projects could transform the approach to workplace management.

Returning to the model, at its base, are management practices that should be recognised by most mature FM functions, to varying degrees. In our model, these are enhanced by a wider set of management processes which deal with the effects of new working practices on the management of physical resources and the changes needed to support people in working differently.

Capacity Management – improvements in utilisation of building assets and changes in working styles may add to the physical demands upon the buildings. Fire regulation restrictions, floor loadings, air-conditioning, power provision, and data network capacities may all be affected. Knowledge of the capacity constraints of workplaces is essential to the planning and implementation of workplace strategic plans and to the management of moves and changes. Capacity management should also inform the policies covering how vacant space identified through better space utilisation is to be dealt with.

Resource Management is related to capacity management. It concerns itself with how the capacity is deployed and used. It concerns space standards and policies on vacant and decant spaces. For service providers, resource management informs them of the impact on resources required to satisfy changes in demand for services arising from workplace changes. Modelling tools that take demand scenarios and convert these demands into resources will need to become more sophisticated to handle the diversity of needs in the future.

Monitoring of the consumption of workplace capacity through measurements of actual utilisation of workspaces will require a shift from occasional manual observations, currently done by some leading FM organisations, to real-time measurements of activity at desks and in collaborative areas. At the time of writing, there are numerous solutions available to monitor space utilisation, including active badges, image sensors, desk sensors, digital signs, and scheduling systems. IT systems also have the network management tools that can assist in this and there are tools available now that use desktop IT activity to derive reports on individual desk use.

Supply Chain Management – the management of third party supplier contracts has received much attention over recent years in a continual drive to improve value through cost reduction and supplier consolidation.

  • Different supply models have been favoured by different organisations to meet their various requirements. These include:
  • In-house supply
  • Managing agent, where the management functions are provided by a third party who in turn manages the service contracts
  • Single service outsourcing
  • Bundled services, where groups of contracts are placed under one, or more, supplier
  • Total or integrated facilities management, where one third party supplier manages all the operational services either through self-delivery or through sub-contractors.

Each has advantages and shortcomings; however, true value derives from the nature of the relationship between supplier and client and often the performance of supply contracts is as shown below.

Much has been said of the importance of encouraging closer partnerships with suppliers, with benefits of security of tenure, continuous improvement and innovation. Trust is essential to the working of this type of supply and must be based upon mutuality of benefit to all parties. Transparency of outcomes and openness to the future direction is the foundation of trust and leads to co-operative response to changing requirements. Now, agile contract forms and governance are needed that allow changes to be made without adversarial consequences. The same changes will be needed in the real estate market and already there are indications that this is happening with the general trend to shorter lease terms.

Uncertainty, driven by rapid change, means that contracts need to be flexible and based upon a mutual desire for close partnership to remain. Short-term individual advantages need to be judged against the long-term goals each partner expects of the partnership.

The mobility of workers, the variety of locations, and different response times needed for services, provides a logistical challenge for suppliers and impacts upon existing Service Level Agreements (SLAs). Selection criteria for suitable suppliers will become more demanding. New suppliers are already emerging, seeking to offer services that address the needs of a more agile, mobile, workforce. IT and telecoms companies are involved in setting up localised hubs near to major road routes and the serviced office market has grown considerably over the last few years and will, no doubt, continue to grow.

Uncertainty of an evolving future will stretch traditional Total Facilities Management (TFM) suppliers who seek to self-deliver. They will have to contend with wider geographic spreads and we will see these companies offering new consultative change management services to exploit the growing demand for change.

The notion of “one size fits all” fails to take into account variations in rates of change. Uncertainty will create difficulties for procurement functions that seek to standardise service offerings and suppliers and may influence the outsourcing model that is chosen.

Risk Management – most CRE/FM functions understand the concepts of risk in business continuity, security, health safety & environment, and procurement. The changes involved in projects that move towards a mobile, agile future present risks to data security, and impact upon business processes. These risks are enhanced by the unfamiliarity of the territory. However, the agile organisation is also one which can be resilient to set-backs and that can reduce risk. The danger is that organisations that are highly sensitive to risk will become laggards in moving towards an agile future. Best practice would indicate that risk assessment and risk mitigation plans involves all key stakeholders.

Change Management – traditionally in FM this has meant changes to the location of individuals, teams and departments within the organisation’s built portfolio. Most have effective move management processes that are well integrated across functions of IT and FM. The notion, though, of people sharing desks and working elsewhere shifts the balance of change management completely from that of the physical move to the logical. People need to have changes that work automatically to address their needs wherever they choose to work. IT and telecoms technology now allow people to access their systems and data and communicate with each other without involving change management procedures from their service providers.

The bigger changes are those that involve people’s expectations. There are major differences between desk sharing, where people already work for significant periods of time away from the office, and those that go daily to the office and perceive that they spend a major proportion of their working time at their desk. Although overall, these desks may be vacant for substantial periods of time due to holidays, meetings and sickness, for many people there is an unwritten psychological contract that exists with their employer that has traditionally provided them a personal desk and space. This requires careful, sensitive, change management to alleviate sometimes deeply held worries which may result in disruptive concerns. The involvement of HR in this will grow with the development and deployment of training material, multimedia resources, internal social networking communications and e-learning.

HR also has to address new policies to cover employment conditions over a potentially wider range of working arrangements. Rewards based upon outcomes will replace those done on attendance and working time.

Problem Management -the importance of dealing quickly with problems reported on FM/IT services is a standard feature of automated workflows that service providers offer through their help/service desk. Today, service desk systems work on the basis that a person is located at a particular desk and can be contacted there during resolution. The mobile, flexible future will rely upon a person’s independence of desk and will cover extended service hours. A different relationship between users, services and asset performance will be required. Problem management will have to deal with new unfamiliar types of problems, such as the logistics to support a remote worker, and become more adept at applying fast learning to take on corrective actions.

Performance information on the incidence and resolution of failures is the foundation to the management of quality and to the wider interests of performance management. This capability remains highly important in the future through continuous monitoring of performance indicators.

Project Management – FM will continue to run projects involving major physical refurbishments, maintenance and large moves. These well understood traditional major projects will be supplemented by multidisciplinary, complex, possibly lengthy new agile working change projects involving many stakeholders. Such projects will require experienced, well internally connected, programme and project managers supported by business project boards. Project managers will need to understand the cultural change management processes and be actively involved in following the feedback, learning and corrective action processes.

Best practices

These then are the 10 capabilities in our model. Based upon the above reasoning we at AWA have populated the model with those best practices which we have developed over 20 years of working with clients on best practice benchmarking and consultancy assignments. We now have a tool which can be used by clients to audit the strengths and weaknesses of their own FM management capabilities and which provides a rich library of best practices for them to choose from.

Called Workplace Management Development or WMD (no pun intended), the tool asks over 280 questions about use of best practices in each of the 10 capabilities and scores actual performance to establish strengths and weaknesses. The tool supports benchmark comparisons internally or externally and helps decisions on improvement priorities.

Some people may feel daunted by the prospect of reviewing their organisational competencies and see it as a costly exercise in time and resources. But best practice models such as these are useful in initiating ideas and in picking off improvements that can be incorporated in other initiatives. Change will inevitably come with changes in the business and work environment so I would encourage all FMs to consider how best they set their organisation to be fit for the future.

So is the future of facilities management to be workplace management? Only if FMs step up to the mark and grasp the opportunity of changes to align themselves better with the executive and build strong collaborative relationships with IT and HR. The best practices in the model will certainly help.W&P
Dr.Jervis’ new Guide, “Moving on…..Facilities Management to Workplace Management” will be available soon. To pre-order your copy, email your contact details to this address
[email protected]

About the Authors

Dr. Graham Jervis

Graham Jervis is an experienced manager of IT operations in large corporations and a consultant in service management. For the last 20 years he has been a director of Advanced Workplace Associates (AWA), a management consultancy that helps transform business performance by implementing advanced, agile, work, place and management concepts better suited to today’s modern business world. Graham has led many assignments in FM process benchmarking , FM organisation, strategic outsourcing and in FM service management. He formerly worked for ICL and Esso Petroleum and holds a PhD in chemistry from Aston University, UK.
Email: [email protected]

Editor’s footnote:

Graham has written a well-structured guide to ‘top tips’ in workplace management. He goes beyond what many currently view as facilities management, toward the strategic alignment of workplaces with their occupier organisations. The ‘Dr. Jervis guide’ will be an essential toolkit for leaders to ‘raise the bar’ towards strategic FM

Work&Place Linkedin Group.


Management of the workplace is about providing environments that allow people to work at their best’

Rewards based upon outcomes will replace those done on attendance and working time.


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