George Bouri 2014-09-09 22:45:03
HOW FM LEADERS CAN DRIVE TRANSFORMATION ACROSS THE ENTERPRISE When facility management professionals discuss leadership, they usually talk about how they manage their own operations. Only rarely do FM leaders consider how to drive positive change across the whole enterprise. In other words, not enough members of the FM community think and act like true business leaders — many fail to devise appropriate strategies that drive the entire company forward. This leadership deficit provides an opportunity for FM leaders to raise their profiles and expand their horizons. The C-suite, faced with many high-priority issues — from globalization and technology shifts, to talent management and changing workplace demographics, to the innovation imperative and supplier relationship management — likely seeks improvement from all company levels. Therefore, companies using large-scale transformation programs to achieve breakthrough performance gains can utilize innovative facility managers to further support and propel their aims. This managerial approach produces maximum impact. There are numerous areas through which forward-looking FM leaders can make substantial strategic contributions to their respective enterprises. In some cases, such as those involving sustainability and alternative workplace initiatives, management personnel often solicit the help of facility managers. So, how can FM leaders can apply their unique expertise and experience to help their companies navigate pressing challenges and facilitate successful transformations? Enabling global growth For companies seeking to globalize their operations, FM teams can play a critical enabling role. From procuring quality facilities to ensuring the safe transit of executives and employees in high-volatility regions, there are many facets of the globalization process to which FM leaders can add value by applying a range of best practices. For instance, many organizations need to quickly and efficiently scale up operations in new geographies. In some cases, they may also be looking to simultaneously scale down in other regions. FM leaders must possess the capabilities necessary to help complete such undertakings. So how can FM leaders shape — rather than react to — global expansion plans? Being proactive and engaging with their businesses is key. FM leaders can research market intelligence and benchmark data for everything from energy consumption to janitorial services. This will allow them to build accurate cost projections. Further, they can educate themselves and the company employees who they serve on cultural norms to ensure that new facilities and amenities accommodate both local workers and expats. Good communicators may even play quasi-ambassadorial roles by educating local suppliers about company operations and culture while simultaneously informing internal audiences about business practices in new markets. For example, at a fast-growing, high-tech company, teams invested billions of dollars in new facilities around the world as part of a globalization initiative. The FM team was actively involved in ensuring the company’s facilities portfolio could help it meet its need for advanced engineering skills around the world. In fact, the FM team made a major contribution to the development of a 10- 15 year roadmap. More significant than supporting the construction of high-end LEED-certified facilities, the FM team demonstrated its ability to truly serve as a business partner. The facility managers were out in the forefront, not on the sidelines, helping the company chart a smart course to global growth. The success of the expansion tangibly boosted the bottom line, but also strengthened the company in the human capital and cultural realms as well. Facility managers may support upper-level management, for example, by ensuring that a company’s facility portfolio can always accommodate its growing needs. In such instances, facility managers can provide valuable advice regarding the immediate construction of new facilities, and can actively contribute to their companies’ long-term roadmaps. FM professionals, therefore, do not have to remain on the sidelines — they can take a place on the forefront, helping to boost their organization’s bottom line and strengthen its human capital and cultural realms. Human capital and talent management It is impossible to overstate the importance of quality facilities for companies seeking to promote collaboration and generate more value from their people. Even as the remote working revolution continues and the very notion of the workplace changes regularly, good facilities remain critical to a company’s success. The 2013 telecommuting controversy at Yahoo! makes clear how the lines between facility management and talent management are blurring. When Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer greatly limited telecommuting, requiring all remote employees to work in the company’s office, many FM professionals feared a setback in the progress toward an alternative “work anywhere” virtual office environment. However, it is likely that Mayer sought to make a positive change in the Yahoo! company culture. She was aiming to reignite a teamwork-based culture and spark innovation by promoting interaction among the company’s smart people and teams. Of course, the quality of facilities at Yahoo! will be critical to the success of this collaboration-focused initiative. Despite Mayer’s vision, however, offsite work is becoming more permissible. Clearly, the pendulum of conventional wisdom in facility management has swung in favor of remote work, even though many in the facility management world were initially opposed to, and even threatened by, the advent of telecommuting just a few years ago. Still, both sides are right — companies need the infrastructure to support remote workers in addition to great facilities that drive collaboration. The major metrics are productivity and the quality of the work accomplished. Organizations need high-quality output from their employees now more than ever. The world’s top-performing companies are highly reliant on the skills and ideas of their people. If changing workforce demographics and technology advances are considered, it is easy to see how human capital and talent management can truly make a difference across many industries. Companies, to a large extent, win or lose based on their ability to attract and retain the right workers. So, if HR is responsible for filtering and identifying appropriate job candidates, then FM leaders can contribute to talent acquisition and retention by creating and maintaining user-friendly environments that foster productivity. Thus, facility managers must shift their focus from simple bricks-and-mortar thinking to designing and managing environments, systems and capabilities that allow employees to produce high-value work in a range of settings. There are significant implications for the FM discipline as the millennial generation enters the workforce in large numbers. Current FM professionals must clearly define the amenities and components of the workplace experience that truly matter to the next generation of workers. For instance, the incoming millennial workforce expect to work more collaboratively in nonhierarchical settings with advanced (or at least not outdated) technology. Facility managers must track the latest architectural, technological and cultural trends in alternative workplaces. Now is a time of great invention and creativity. For example, The Barbarian Group, a New York ad agency, recently furnished their office with a “Superdesk” — an enormous, curving, multi-layered desk where all of the firm’s employees sit and work every day. Engaging FM counterparts in HR, IT, procurement and real estate is a great first step towards instituting leading practices in buildings and campuses. That is how FM leaders can shape and influence the workplace revolution, as opposed to simply reacting to others’ views of it. Building collaborative and innovation-driven cultures FM executives must always lead with the bigger picture in mind. Therefore, the job involves more than overseeing construction projects and making sure that trash cans are emptied every night. Facility managers ensure that the company’s most valuable asset — its people — are productive, motivated and safe (especially in companies with operations in high-risk locations). Inspiring people and unleashing their creativity by providing forward-thinking workspaces and quality facilities adds much more value to the bottom line than does saving a few dollars on a food services budget. The importance of facility management cannot be exaggerated. Some of the world’s best brands and most successful companies view their facilities as a physical expression of corporate values and strategies. Consider the Googleplex in Mountain View, California and Bloomberg’s headquarters in Manhattan, New York. Innovative workplaces have become standard at firms that emphasize information sharing, collaboration and free-flowing ideation. FM teams should not just share floor plan options and take orders, but should instead help find the right answers to critical questions such as: ∙ How can a company create a competitive recruiting and retention advantage through its facilities and its overall workplace experience? ∙ What is the business case for establishing alternative workplace facilities, such as those to accommodate hoteling staff? ∙ What technology is necessary to ensure that remote workers are productive? ∙ How can a company better measure worker productivity? ∙ What cultural changes are necessary to drive new ways of working and to promote collaboration in both face-to-face and virtual situations? Facility managers should seek involvement in both large- and small-scale operations. For example, companies that want to improve employee health may add gyms and walking paths to their campuses and encourage staff to use them. FM leaders should contribute to the design of such amenities and services, keeping in mind the benefits of offering a great workplace experience. Sustainability is one area in which the FM industry has begun to demonstrate its strategic leadership potential. Fortuitously in some cases and by design in others, real estate and FM teams have recently become involved in sustainability initiatives, especially as sustainability has become embedded into the DNA of many companies and is no longer viewed as a separate agenda item. Success has been achieved in domains including environmental health and safety, energy management and utilities. In the future, the FM industry will move beyond LEED certification, platinum building status ranking and other such achievements to focus on bigger-picture initiatives. Future facility managers may, for example, collaborate with manufacturing plants to design more energy-efficient facilities and intelligent systems. They may also focus on implementing small yet impactful programs, such as one focused on finding the optimal mix of recyclable materials. Establishing stronger and more valuable supplier relationships Intense cost pressures and a rigorous focus on core competencies have driven many companies to rely on their supplier base to an unprecedented extent. Despite profuse talk about “partnership,” adversarial relationships too often arise when suppliers are treated like vendors. The tendency is for companies to squeeze savings out of every contract. However, there are bigger-picture value metrics to consider. For obvious reasons, facility managers have traditionally worked to save costs on catering and janitorial services. However, these services should not always be treated as commodities. Instead of tirelessly bartering with a food services vendor, a facility manager should instead establish a partnership to improve the quality and healthiness of food provided. This initiative could improve worker productivity by eliminating the need to leave for lunch. It could also boost employee satisfaction. Engaging suppliers on dimensions other than cost often enables FM professionals to make stronger value propositions. Truly strategic FM sourcing can allow companies to align goals, select the right incentives and build win-win relationships with important suppliers. However, great sourcing relationships start with open and engaging request for proposal (RFP) processes and thoughtful, rather than contentious, negotiations. Optimally, the RFP process can be used to refine overall portfolio and service strategies, with suppliers making helpful recommendations to facilitate the achievement of core objectives that are clearly articulated in advance. External suppliers can provide valuable input throughout the RFP process if they are encouraged to do so. As such, facility managers should engage in more dialogue and proactive conversations with their suppliers, especially since the current seller’s market gives service providers an advantage, allowing them to choose selectively from many available concurrent RFPs. In such a market, it is critical for FM leaders to distinguish their organizations while engaging with suppliers throughout. When negotiating contracts, facility managers should strive not only to maximize savings, but rather to establish a foundation for success, with flexibility for course corrections and appropriate modifications as business conditions change or unexpected events arise. Such an approach precludes the development of tense or antagonistic relationships. Company-supplier relationships should focus on transparent information sharing, clear communication and frequent collaboration. Regular reviews of relevant metrics and incentives can help keep service levels and costs on track, while simultaneously ensuring alignment to big-picture goals. Reviews also allow for smooth adjustment of key performance indicators should the need arise, as it often does. Because these sourcing and relationship management best practices can impact a company at all levels, they represent leadership opportunities for facility managers. The bottom line Adopting leadership roles requires FM executives to think and behave differently. Typically, facility managers must ensure that their daily agendas emphasize proactive engagement with the business and make time for long-term thinking about innovation. Of course, they need to be aware of the latest cost trends and best practices for managing suppliers. However, deep knowledge and eternal curiosity about their businesses are more important FM characteristics in the long run. The top talent in facility management — just as in finance, sales, marketing, IT and other so-called functional areas — truly understand the business. That is how they come to be viewed by the C-suite as strategic thought partners rather than narrow specialists or functional “order takers.” Given the nature of many of the top C-suite agenda items — from globalization and sustainability to cultural matters and human capital management — there is an urgent need for FM expertise that can deliver real value in both the near and long terms. In other words, the time is now. George Bouri is managing principal for the Americas region of Trascent Management Consulting, LLC. He has more than 20 years of combined senior-level management consulting and corporate experience. Prior to joining Trascent, Bouri served as senior vice president of global shared services real estate and facilities for Time Warner Inc. and has held senior management positions at Deloitte Consulting, Andersen Business Consulting, Sun Microsystems, Hewlett-Packard and Richard Ellis (now CBRE). Bouri has been frequently featured on broadcast media and quoted in national media publications, such as The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Fortune Magazine and San Francisco Chronicle, in addition to many leading industry journals.
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