Recent developments on several different fronts have the potential to take the Workplace and Facilities Management industry into a bright and value-adding future. The British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM) marked its 25th anniversary on 1 March 2018, with its “Manifesto for Change”. The Institute announced plans to change its name to the Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management and to seek chartered status alongside the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

In a second development, April sees the publication of ISO 41,001 MMS the first and unifying global management standard for Facilities Management. As if to further reinforce the nature of the change the industry is undergoing, I was about to push the publish button on this blog when the RICS published The Strategic Facility Management Framework a Guidance Note on the 19th of April.

I have read the note which is intended to set out current good practice in the strategic planning of FM. The document is a summary rather than a ‘how to’ guide for FM, bringing together ideas and experience from a range of sources that is consistent with the ISO Standards for FM, but as with the ISO Standard, I will cover in a later post.

All of these developments have the long-awaited potential to transport Facilities Management into a more strategically orientated future…. but first, we must go back to the past.

Workplace; What is in a Name?

Stephen Roots the chairman of the BIFM said “As an industry that grew from the outsourcing of non-core business functions FM’s today comprise a key profession with the combined capacity to deliver major productive benefit, but too often the function is regarded as being of more operational than strategic importance. BIFM wants that to change. We see the workplace as a clear opportunity for the industry to raise both its voice and its game;”

Facilities Management is no stranger to the workplace which it has served faithfully in the past. In Stephen’s  statement, I can clearly see the two defining reasons for why FM is going back to its roots as the means to secure the future.

Since the early 90s, which is when I started to become involved in facilities management, there has been a consistent clamour by the industry to be recognised as a strategic discipline and to be seen as worthy of being let into the executive boardroom to take a seat rather than just being allowed in to clean it.

In what was a turbulent adolescence a developing Facilities Management industry underwent a pubescent growth spurt on the back of the global trend in outsourcing. While outsourcing is both an economically and commercially sound strategy, it undoubtedly caused FM to go through an identity crisis along with political and social growing pains, many of which still exist to this day.

The industry,  much like most teenagers, has been guilty of communicating poorly and at times being petulant in its demand to be recognised. Up until recently you could not go to an FM conference or read a trade journal without coming across an FM maligning the fact that we were not being given the respect we deserved. As an example of how prevalent this complaint is, if you type the phrase “Facilities Management a seat at the table” into Google it will return approximately 4.2 million hits.

IFMA, RICS and BIFM’s Workplace Contributions

More recently the three heavyweight industry associations have all contributed influential reports which have looked at increasing the strategic influence of Facilities Management. The difference here is that this is being done in concert with the other important support services of IT and HR rather than what had previously appeared to be at their expense in a rush to the imaginary executive finish line.

‘Raising the Bar’ was jointly authored by the RICS and IFMA. ‘The Workplace Advantage’ otherwise known as the Stoddart Review, was sponsored by BIFM. Both reports have identified and crystallised some of the challenges facing facilities managers and the profession as a whole.

‘Raising the Bar: from Operational Excellence to Strategic Impact in FM’ is a free report series scrutinising the complexity of the challenges faced by Facilities Management and how its perceived focus on the built environment detracts from its strategic impact on both the workforce and workplace.

The three reports attempt to move facility professionals further up the value chain by comparing the traditional operational and tactical focus of Facilities Management to the more tactical and strategic focus of workplace managers on the basis that this should be the preferred trajectory of the industry.

In particular, Raising the Bar III identified the following key challenges

  • The need to move beyond a cost-centre mentality and build recognition for the value and ROI that excellent, well-supported FM can bring.
  • The need to take on the strategic challenge of championing workplace effectiveness, workforce productivity and well-being.
  • The need to recruit new talent to replace an ageing workforce.
  • The need to recognise the need for relationship management skills in addition to those of operational service delivery.
  • The need to adopt and apply new technologies to enhance the management of facilities and to create new kinds of workplaces.

The Workplace Advantage’’ was published to commemorate the life and work of prominent FM Chris Stoddart, MCIOB, FBIFM. It exists to raise awareness among business leaders of the importance of the workplace and real estate as a key performance lever. As one of the key takeaways, it asks 10 Workplace Questions All CEO’s Should Have on Their Board Agenda.

The key issues outlined in Stoddart Review are covered in my post; Stoddart Review-Why the Workplace Environment is Key to Productivity. In another post; Chief Workplace Officer – A Promotion for Facilities Managers I examined the Review’s recommendation that the natural evolution of the Facilities Manager was the Chief Workplace Officer (CWO)

In a recent post on Workplacefundi, BIFM Sees Workplace as a New Direction for Facilities Management I outlined the scramble by IFMA, BIFM and RICS to upgrade their status and attract recruits. IFMA and RICS subsequently formed the joint venture DefineFM.  Having not cracked an invite to the transatlantic party BIFM were left out in the cold so the move to concentrate on Workplace could be seen as their move to remain relevant.

Having not cracked an invite to the @RICSnews & @IFMA 
transatlantic party @BIFM_UK have been left out in the cold 
so the move to concentrate on Workplace could be seen as 
their move to remain relevant Click To Tweet

History of FM & Workplace

Since the first Industrial Revolution, the maintenance of assets associated with a means of production has been a critical element of operational costs associated with most business enterprises.

Since this time companies have also grappled with exploiting their competitive advantage. The focus for large organisations was therefore to control its destiny, and it’s own assets. However by the 1950s and 60s, the corporate cost base had become so overly inflated, diversification was required to unravel the multiple layers of operational management.

The shedding of this operational baggage meant that the consequent management focus of the 70s and 80s was on core business which meant identifying processes that could be outsourced to outside corporations better suited to provide these ‘non-core’ services.

Outsourcing was not formally identified as a business strategy until 1989, and the outsourcing of support services began in earnest in the early 1990’s. Consequently, organisations began to focus on cost-saving measures by outsourcing non-critical functions that supported core business.

The growth of FM in particular in the UK is inextricably linked with the growth of outsourcing. If it were not for outsourcing, it is unlikely that the expression Facilities Management would ever have been coined. In fact, the term of Facilities Management is still often not recognised as being the descriptor of choice for in-house operations.

However, it is important to emphasise that Facilities Management is NOT outsourcing and while this moniker has undoubtedly supported the strategy of outsourcing. The two are not the same.

FM is seen as and even promoted by the industry as being a ‘non-core’ activity but a lack of understanding of the economy’s involved, labour efficiencies and effectiveness has meant that outsourcing comes with its own perception problems and we have not always done ourselves proud in explaining the merits of outsourcing.

Nonetheless, associating ourselves with non-core activities has allowed us to advance the industry to the point that it is one of the top growth industries in the UK…. but at what cost? Non-core activities are perceived to be less valuable than core activities, and so FM has been the constant target of economic-focused strategies that come with cost-cutting and short-term contracting consequences.

The highly commoditised approach to FM contracting has been something of our own making. Delivering cost savings, and the ubiquitous fallacy of doing more with less has been the rallying call that has made FM relevant over the last 30 years. But in reality, we have made a rod for our own back that has allowed our clients to ‘keep FM in its place’ in the literal and proverbial basement as the ‘loos and light bulbs brigade’.

The ubiquitous fallacy of doing more with less has allowed 
our clients to 'keep FM in its place' in the literal and proverbial 
basement as the 'loos and light bulbs brigade'. Click To Tweet

The Workplace as a Means of Production

The fundamental elements of an organisation are People who come together in a Place for a Purpose. That purpose may or may not be commercial but where those people come together is a workplace.

This is not confined to just offices. The workplace is, as Martin Read the editor of FM_World says, “as common to hospitals, warehouses and railway stations as they are offices”. 

It is this understanding of a more inclusive idea of what a workplace is that underlines the question that lays at the heart of the Leesman Index and its universal applicability to all paces where work is undertaken, in whatever form.

As Facilities Managers, we need to move our focus from ‘work as somewhere you go’  to ‘work is something that you do’. The former definition has led FM to a focus on physical assets as the currency of FM. The latter looks at how we can enable work to happen. This shifts the emphasis of our role to being a Facilitating Manager as opposed to a Facilities Manager, which I would advocate is one step closer to the role of Chief Workplace Officer.

Physical space shapes organisational culture and vice versa. One can tell a lot about an organisational culture by spending time in the workplace. If you are attuned, the clues are there, the presence of cellular offices, physical and electronic security barriers, biometric clocking devices, green areas, training facilities, the movement of people, the provision of different types, styles and orientations of workspaces. All of these tell us something about the organisation that occupies that space, irrespective of what the company and its brand says it stands for.

Progressive organisations recognise this and invest in their people, technology, and workspace. Workspace as an enabler means that we can consider workplace as the means of production and integral to all activities both primary and secondary.

For organisations that recognise this, the workplace is core to what they are about and hence FM can step up to being a strategic value-adding partner as opposed to a commoditised cost optimising contractor.

Facilities Management as a Business Enabler

What does this renewed focus on workplace mean for facilities management?

The rise of the US West coast tech giants such as Google, Facebook, Yahoo and Apple as well as smaller entrepreneurial start-ups in the Bay Area of San Francisco have all used the workplace as a tool to improve business performance.

The seemingly unstoppable rise of co-working spaces has seen a generation pushed out of poor working spaces and pulled into co-working spaces whose central customer attraction strategy is the availability of engaging and productive working environments.

As a consequence of the exodus of staff members to trendy wi-fi enabled coffee shops and co-working spaces. We have seen the CEO of Yahoo, Marissa Mayer expressing her controversial desire to bring staff back into the workplace. Yahoo is not on its own, and progressive organisations recognise that the workplace is central to their investment in people technology and culture.

In the Stoddart Review, FM is seen to have the breadth of knowledge and experience to fulfill a unifying role in the workplace. The move from FM as the means of supply of operational services to focusing on the enablement of strategic business performance is a huge opportunity for FM to embrace workplace as an evolutionary move to a more business relevant version of FM.

This is an opportunity for FM to embrace workplace as an 
evolutionary move to a more business relevant version of FM. Click To Tweet

Conclusion

As a prelude to a fully formed positioning document, the BIFM in partnership with workplace management consultancy 3edges has produced a report entitled Embracing Workplace to Move FM Forward. The authors Dr. James Pinder and Ian Ellison who are both directors of 3 Edges Workplace Ltd have done an excellent job in setting out the reasoning behind the BIFM’s intended move to focus on the workplace. For my part, the move is long overdue.

When I started blogging back in early 2016 the original intention was to blog under the name of fmfundi. Indeed I still own the domain www.fmfundi.com. In an attempt to capture the move towards workplace and to change the direction of the debate , I decided to change the name to Workplacefundi.

That is not to decry Facilities Management or its technicians and technocrats whom I wholeheartedly support and salute because without them we would all surely fail. However, my belief has always been that the real value of FM is in its strategic impact on businesses. So to me, the move to a workplace focus for FM is the right one.

The cornerstone of my beliefs are summed up in The 3 Building Blocks of the Facilities Management ‘Sweet Spot’ Which outlines the simplicity and value of strategic FM.

FM has always been about enabling business purpose or objectives, and if one accepts this premise, then the workplace is a business enabler and so by extension then FM is a business related enabling function.

Seeing FM as more about enabling work than managing assets is a quantum leap forward. However, we have arrived late to what was our party, and as FM’s we have unwittingly outsourced our workplace roots to savvy architects and interior designers that have evolved into the now fashionable workplace management consultancies.

So the risk is that if we do not assume workplace leadership now, we will have forever lost our claim to that elusive seat at the boardroom table. Only for it to be filled by HR, IT or an amalgamate of both.