At this year’s IIDEX / Neocon Conference in Toronto, I had a chance to speak to a room full of facility and property management professionals about promoting their FM role within their organizations. In most of my discussions with facility managers, their profession doesn’t get as much recognition in their organizations as other departments or groups. It's time that changed.Part of the reason is because of the supporting role they play – rather than being part of the core business of the organization. In fact, facilities can represent up to 32% of the organization’s cost base and 85% or more of the total cost of ownership of a typical facility over it’s life. And, whether it’s easily measurable or not, facilities represent an important part of the organization’s productivity, whether it’s staff who sit in the buildings or production facilities.
Facility Managers are usually not very good at promoting what they do. The profession is still growing in status, as the increasing number of industry designations and college and university programs with a focus on FM indicates, but the perception of the role is still based on the old-school building operator in the boiler room, not on the increasingly strategic and critical nature of the modern Facility Manager’s role.
Almost everyone in the session agreed that they are on a treadmill and don’t have time for planning and communication. In fact, they seldom even have time to prepare properly for meetings – a key place to show value and promote the professionalism of what they do and educate their senior management and colleagues within their organization.
Without time to plan, communicate and promote, they will stay in the background. I outlined a number of things that need to be done to improve their profile, both as individual FM’s and as a department.
A key thing is that too often they are not heard or seen unless there is a problem, meaning they are invisible most of the time and essentially taken for granted. That’s the first thing - get out of the boiler room.
Several other things to do include:
- Use communication tools and communicate success (Mission, Vision and Values statements, newsletter, meetings, occupant appreciation/meet and greet, presentations, elevator pitch, etc.
- Hide in the cafeteria/coffee shop/home for some think time and develop strategic plans. Your colleagues in your organization do it so you should too. A strategic plan shouldn’t be a large, daunting project – focus on an issue, make it simple and succeed, then move on to the next issue.
- Stop fighting fires, start preventing them. Lead the solution instead of chasing the solutions. This means delegating and prioritizing. Many FM’s who have come up the ranks like to be active and get things done. They often feel that taking time out to sit and think isn’t doing what they are paid for. In fact in the long term, that’s your best contribution to the organization.
- With many organizations, because of the span of control and size, getting to the boardroom may not be unattainable, but you can influence those at the table – figure out who the decision makers and key players are and foster a relationship. Bring solutions, develop consensus and support their operations proactively. Talk their language - time and dollars - and provide facts, figures, data and evidence that what you do makes a difference. Then call on them when you need support for your initiative.
- Develop a Mission, Vision and Values Statement with your team if you don’t already have one. By doing it with your team, they will understand what it’s for and embrace it rather than looking at it as more corporate fluff. It is also a valuable exercise that can be the jumping off point for your overall strategic plan and is a great communication tool within your organization.
- Change your department's name and your titles. If your department is ‘Plant Services’ , for instance, make the switch many organizations are making and call it Facility Management Services or something similar – it is a more accurate reflection of what your real function is and the much broader scope and responsibilities your department have. Then, change the titles to reflect industry titles, with "Facility" proudly displayed.
- Become members in associations like the International Facility Management Association (IFMA) or your own local or national association. (for a list of the larger ones, click here - feel free to let me know about any that I haven't listed). Achieve the designations offered by FM related associations. Network, learn and apply what you learn to lead your company on upcoming issues and get results that get attention.
You may also want to read a companion article I posted on my company website and use some of the reasons listed in the article for your internal communication efforts. Read about "The top nine reasons your company needs a facility management professional"
“Managing Facilities & Real Estate : 50 Strategies, approaches and Leading Practices”
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