How to develop and grow your facilities management career

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Total Facilities 2012 speaker, Strategic Advisor’s MICHEL THERIAULT shares the secrets to developing and growing your facilities management career.

Success for you and your company is driven by results. You get results by improving performance and you can improve performance by implementing strategic management practices in all aspects of your responsibilities.
Leverage the fundamentals you already know and implement practical tools and techniques that maximise value and improve results. Use these techniques to drive performance from yourself and the staff, systems, suppliers and contractors you rely on to deliver services and manage your facilities or buildings.

STRATEGY IN FACILITY AND PROPERTY MANAGEMENT
All too often property and facilities managers spend most of their time managing day-to-day issues and focusing on tactical services that their customers rely on. Getting better results means carving out some time to think ahead, develop ideas and sell both the ideas and the implementation to senior management.
Start by looking at your organisation’s own strategy and goals. What do you need to do to support them? What are you missing that will help you achieve results? Do you have the right staffing, skill sets, systems, internal support and information to get results?
While an organisation’s mission, vision and values are often seen as head office issues, they can serve a very important purpose if developed properly from the ground up for your team, instead of in a corporate boardroom. Developing a mission and vision with your staff can foster useful discussion, focus attention on what matters and guide decisions.
It can also be a launching board for developing a strategic plan, which is an important way to set your direction and identify what you need to implement or change to improve your operations.

GETTING AND USING INFORMATION FOR DECISIONS
Developing strategy and making decisions takes information, not just data. Data is simply a series of facts, while information gives meaning to the data and provides the knowledge necessary to make decisions that improve results. A good example is measuring performance. A performance dashboard that shows results at a point in time is just data. A 12-month trend graph of the same data provides information.
Also, don’t focus as much attention on what is going well – focus on the results that are outside of the norm. This takes less time and gives you the best value. If you have call centre information, filter out the so-called normal results and dig into the issues and problems to find root causes and either correct problems or adopt solutions. For instance, an unusually low number of janitorial calls in one building or area may mean someone is bypassing the system, not that there are few problems. Comparing those results to satisfaction survey results, for instance, can reveal the truth.
You can leverage existing systems and processes to get the information you need or plan changes or new systems to give you what you need. Often corporate systems are not designed to give you the information you need, so you must seek other ways to get the information or implement your own facility/property systems.
Improving results requires information and information takes data. Getting the data is an important process and if you have systems and processes that provide it you need to leverage them. If you don’t have data, the best way to improve results is to implement ways to get it. The most common ways to get data are computerised maintenance management systems, call tracking and customer satisfaction surveys.

1. Computerised maintenance management system
This not only enables you to schedule regular preventive maintenance routines, it should also track failures and corrective maintenance, whether identified by your staff, suppliers or customer calls. By tracking work against equipment and, where possible, identifying the resources, time and cost of the work, you can use the information as part of your capital replacement programs and future business cases, both for projects and resources.
It helps you make decisions on what equipment should be replaced and contributes to the justification you need for funding. It also helps support environmental and energy projects, a key area for getting results.
An example is an organisation that had its subcontracted maintenance contractor on a work order system, but its in-house staff activities were not. After adding the in-house staff to the same system, it discovered patterns that allowed it to redirect in-house staff to higher value work and reduce overall costs. That’s an example of using a maintenance management system to provide information that gets you results.

2. Call tracking
Understanding what is happening in your buildings or portfolios is important. Tracking calls from occupants and categorising them can provide you with information you need to assess subcontractors, identify trends that need to be corrected, and support capital planning and business cases.
While a formal call centre is ideal, for smaller portfolios or buildings a simplified system, which could be an Excel spreadsheet, can provide you with the data you need as you track all calls and requests. This includes all sources, including your suppliers, technicians, security staff and calls you field yourself. In one example, tracking the number and type of complaints related to elevators – which were often made to the security guard in the lobby – helped support an elevator modernisation project. A building with similar elevator problems that was managed by a different property manager wasn’t tracking the problems and couldn’t justify its own elevator project, since it didn’t have any information to back up its business case.
Be sure to track the data in a way that you can analyse and turn it into information you can make decisions with. Categorise the calls and record the date in a format that can be sorted and analysed.

3. Customer satisfaction surveys
Feedback is an important part of any efforts to improve results and service. The best way is to ask your customers. Use several techniques. While you may already visit your occupants and ask them how satisfied they are with services, this is often only with the tenant or occupant representative and misses information from everyone else. Also, it isn’t in a format you can use to compare trends or analyse results.
Develop customer/occupant satisfaction processes and programs that enable you to effectively measure results and act upon the information to make improvements, instead of simply benchmarking satisfaction results. Don’t just use an annual survey. Implement a transaction survey to follow up on their satisfaction with specific issues they have called about and work performed on a monthly basis.
Ask a modest number of questions and make sure you can act on the questions. Try to track the location of the response, for instance, by building, floor, tenant or occupant. Keep the same questions each time you do the survey to enable comparisons over time. If you ask for comments, don’t leave it open. Be specific and you are more likely to get responses.
Enter the information into a spreadsheet or other system, so you can do comparisons and get information that you can use. Different results for cleaning on different floors may be related to the janitorial staff themselves, for instance, and are easily corrected. Temperature problems with one tenant may indicate problems with the system. Concerns about response time to issues may prompt you to re-examine your process and improve it.

PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT
Performance management is often seen simply as measures in the form of key performance indicators (KPIs). There is much more to it, however, and by using the techniques as part of a larger process instead of simply a way of measuring and penalising poor performance, you can get better results from your staff and suppliers.
First, the very nature of measurements looks backwards at past results, not forward. Expand it out by using historical and trending techniques with the data and create information you can use to manage performance going forward by preventing problems before they result in failed service.
While measuring key results are important, you should also look at the underlying processes that create those results and measure them as well. Use the data to develop information that you use constructively with your staff or suppliers to analyse and solve problems rather than waiting for failure.
Include costing information in your performance measurements. In corporate facilities, this would include cost per square foot, real estate cost per full-time equivalent (FTE) and cost per move/add/change, for instance. For commercial property management this also includes cost per square metre as well as cost of delivering work order services and maintenance, among other factors.
Have a formal process with your staff or suppliers, giving them a chance to see the results on an ongoing basis and identify solutions and changes that will have a positive impact. Sometimes they are beyond their control, but if they identify them, you can take action and improve results.
By looking strategically at what you do and trying to improve results using performance-based approaches, you will not only make it easier to make decisions and manage your operations, you will get results that get attention, support your corporation’s goals and increase your value to the organisation.

Michel Theriault is an author, international speaker and principal of Strategic Advisor, a consulting firm specialising in facility, asset and property management consulting and training.

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