MICHEL THERIAULT, principal of Strategic Advisor, looks at seven features of a high-performing facilities management department.
The facilities management profession has come a long way, and modern management, leadership and business practices are required not only for you to service your organisation well, but to also compete internally for scarce resources, and demonstrate your value.
Here are the features of a high-performing FM department that, if you aren’t already doing, you need to implement:
LEADERSHIP AND BUSINESS SKILLS
Facilities management has become an important business element for organisations as the costs of real estate increase and the impact of the built environment on productivity of employees becomes more and more recognised.
Whether your department is considered strategic or not, you need to manage your responsibilities as if it is, and show your boss and the organisation that facilities management isn’t just about maintenance or office moves; it has an impact on the organisation’s results.
This is where leadership and business skills become more important than technical skills when you are leading your facility department. You are competing with other department heads and these skills help you get your initiatives implemented and enable you to make positive changes, not just maintain the status quo.
SKILLS AND KNOWLEDGE
At the top of your department, leadership and business skills are important, but your organisation still needs to be knowledge-based. With the complexity of FM, you need to either have staff with key facilities skills or you need to be able to access them through consultants or contractors.
Even if you are a department of one, you can’t know everything you need to know. The skills of managers and leaders are in knowing where to get the skills and knowledge they need when they need them.
When looking for resources with the necessary skills, choose people who keep up with the latest approaches and trends, and have an open mind regarding change.
In addition, to be a leader for your organisation, you need to seek out additional knowledge from other sources. That means active involvement in associations, attending and learning from conferences, including the trade show floor where new products and solutions can be found. It also means networking within the industry, so you can pick up the phone or send a note asking others if they have a solution to a problem that is new to you, but may have been dealt with by someone else already.
POLICIES AND PROCEDURES FOR ALL FUNCTIONS
Managing facilities is a process- and services-based profession. A leading organisation does what they do consistently in a way that is both efficient and effective.
The only way to achieve that is to have procedures that guide staff, suppliers and even occupants through the steps and requirements of each step during service delivery and other activities.
This also enables you to manage activities better, implement quality assurance, audit processes, have training tools for staff (both new and existing) and review performance with employees.
Some of the things you should have in place include:
- Asset management. You regularly review property condition using formal process/checklists. You integrate the results from this and your maintenance management system into your capital and maintenance plans.
- Communications. You use newsletters, emails and meetings etc in a planned and controlled way to communicate and receive communication from occupants.
- Customer service. You have policies and procedures in place to deal with customer/occupant communications and issues. You measure satisfaction results, develop corrective action plans and implement them. You have telephone- and internet-based coverage 24/7 for emergencies and requests.
- Emergency management. You have written plans for dealing with emergencies and issues, including disasters, accidents and business recovery.
- Energy management. You actively manage energy through formal plans and initiatives, including communications, projects, studies and project standards etc.
- Environmental management. You have written plans that address all environmental issues such as CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons), hazardous waste, spills and fluorescent tubes etc, to reduce impacts.
- General management. You develop annual plans to address issues, set initiatives and targets, including facility plans, asset and capital plans, staff training and communications etc.
- Lease management. You have formal processes and resources to scrutinise lease charges from landlords and property tax.
- Maintenance management. You have a computerised system that tracks assets, plans preventive maintenance, tracks corrective maintenance and demand work orders and provides reporting for management, compliance and performance.
- Occupancy management. You have systems to track, analyse and report usage to provide management and strategic information for cost containment and planning to drive behaviours and reduce total cost of ownership/occupancy.
- Performance management. You have quantifiable measurements of key deliverables and processes for suppliers and in-house staff. You have a formal process and measurement framework that drives improvements.
- Quality assurance. You have a formal quality assurance process in place that ensure processes and procedures are consistent, results are monitored and compliance audits are performed. Mechanisms are in place for continuous improvement.
- Staff development. You annually review, recommend and implement training for your team to stay current and develop your staff. You participate in associations and subscribe to related publications to stay current in the industry.
- Standards. You have standards to minimise costs and ensure consistency for space layouts, furniture, fit-up and capital or base-building projects.
INFORMATION FOR ANALYSIS AND DECISION-MAKING
You can’t manage what you don’t know, and you can’t make effective decisions without information. A high-performing organisation at a minimum has facilities management software to manage the help desk, preventive and demand maintenance, and work orders and space management, including moves. This includes CMMS, CAFM, IWMS etc.
Just having a system isn’t enough, however. You need to effectively collect and use the data from your systems and turn it into information you can use for decisions. This isn’t about canned reports. This means analysing the data and information, which usually requires more sophisticated analysis reports from your system.
Even better, export the data, or parts of the data, into Excel where you can analyse it. The pivot table, or crosstab report, allows you to easily compare different elements such as number of complaints by floor, department, staff, month of the year, service provider etc.
This is the kind of comparison that is more valuable than simply looking at a single number. Looking at trends in doing internal benchmarking is the best way to use information to decide what works, what doesn’t and what needs to be changed. It also gives you intelligence you can use with your suppliers and even your boss when you are trying to propose something that takes money or resources to implement.
CUSTOMER SERVICE APPROACH
Chances are, your organisation serves an external customer. The internal customer is just as important to you as the external customer is to the organisation. That’s because when you provide internal service, you are enabling your organisation’s core business and improving its chance for success.
High-performing FM departments think about customer service not as something that just needs to be done, but as something that is important to your organisation’s success. It’s not just about the smiles or quick service; it’s about delivering what all levels of internal customers – from staff sitting at their desks to department managers and the CEO – need to be successful.
This includes implementing processes that ensure the necessary service is delivered consistently by your team, including staff and service providers. But more than that, it needs mechanisms to enable your team to adjust delivery when unique situations require it, to identify problems that need to be rectified and enable quick escalation in rectification of service issues.
You also need to be measuring your internal customers’ satisfaction with your service. And I don’t just mean an overall percentage satisfaction. You need more detailed information about every aspect of your service delivery that will help you make adjustments to meet expectations or deliver the service your organisation needs. Surveys include occupant surveys, decision-maker surveys and transaction surveys.
The foundation of any good organisation is its ability to measure quality and adjust its processes to maintain the quality required. For facilities management, this is no different. You need to implement a quality assurance program that includes processes, audits, quality control, continual reviews, analysis and action plans. You need to have someone in charge and your staff and service providers need to be trained.
If you already do inspections, then you’re only doing part of the job, which is quality control. Quality assurance is a proactive approach to ensure that when you do your inspection you’re more likely to achieve the KPIs (key performance indicators) or benchmarks you set.
As part of the proactive nature of quality assurance, it should also include a review of the processes to ensure they are achieving the results you expect and the level and quality of service you’re delivering is, in fact, what is required by the organisation and departments you serve. There’s no sense over-delivering when it’s not needed. You’re simply wasting resources.
FORWARD LEANING SOLUTIONS
While in the past, facility management could easily be a reactive, behind-the-scenes function, the profession has evolved and expectations have evolved.
Instead of simply being the maintenance department or the office admin group, what you do has an increasingly important impact on the organisation’s costs and productivity.
Facilities costs for an organisation are typically the second or third largest expense line. The largest expense line is usually human resources, which is impacted by the work environment you manage.
This requires a forward leaning or proactive approach to issues and problems. This even includes those that you would think belong to other departments.
So as part of your role, you need to become much more educated and aware of the impact of the physical work environment on employee productivity, morale and retention.
While these are usually the domain of human resources (HR), your department has a direct impact and you can support or even guide the HR department in these areas where they are driven from facilities issues.
You should be proactive in identifying and even developing options, alternatives and flexibility to meet your organisation’s plans before they are even implemented.
Try some ‘what if?’ scenarios along with opportunities and risks, and bring them forward to your manager or other senior managers, so they see that you’re proactive and are helping to enable the organisation’s goals and objectives rather than simply responding to calls for help.