Old Boundaries Are Shifting
Traditional boundaries will blur as organizations morph themselves to activate advantages offered by multi-discipline information systems and increasing functional interdependencies. We are familiar with the interdependent IT/FM relationship and even that leadership of the two is sometimes combined in a shared services system. But the IT/FM merge is not unique. The interdependent relationship fast emerging between FM and Human Resources is a case in point, yet another example of the growing importance of data and analytics.
“Workforce science” refers to the use of data to predict employee performance, historically used by HR departments in the hiring and evaluation of employees. Workforce science, however, is matriculating into more operational domains as the conversation shifts from productivity to performance. Companies today seek to understand their workforce at a much more granular level than in days past. Whereas personality and intelligence tests of prospective employees dominated the field previously, today’s workforce science is more focused on performance metrics. FM is both a contributor and consumer of workforce science data. For example, using sensors to track conference room utilization informs occupancy management practices and capital project planning. Those are traditional uses. Today, however, FM is sharing such utilization data with analysts investigating links to performance and outcomes. Again, this represents a synthesis between IT, FM and HR; one example of an increasing number of such relationships.
What Does This Mean to FM and How Do We Move Forward?
When you ask the question, “What do we need to do to get this right?” you will get a wide range of answers. I put the following at the top of my list of suggested actions and strategies.
Shift the FM mindset to one of continual adaptation and full integration. Operational excellence must be maintained while constantly innovating and adapting to changing systems and requirements. Focus on traditional measures such as efficiency must be broadened to include new measures. Doing so requires acculturation of Lean and Agile skillsets along with increasing FM’s data management and analytic capabilities.
Increase partnerships between FM practitioners and academicians. Aside from positive side benefits such as strengthening the talent pipeline these relationships directly connect real research to the real world of work, benefitting both. FM’s have a role to play in supporting research that leads to evidence-based design and technology/operational improvements, and can offer opportunities for hard to come by controlled experiments. Events such as the IFMA Foundation sponsored November 2012 Workplace Summit at Cornell University and its second edition to be held in London in mid – 2014 bring together top researchers from around the world with leading practitioners and are rare opportunities for direct connection between the two. They are not to be missed and we need more like them.
Investments are required in human and machine capital. Smart buildings are transforming the built environment but their full advantage can only be realized when operators make use of the advantages they present. When you capitalize your new project do not think about opening day, think about the life cycle of that project and capitalize the people side of the equation as well. When you invest in smart systems invest in smart people to use them. Advanced degrees bring skillsets and knowledge not historically required in the FM suite, but that has changed. Big data capabilities and business acumen are the new prerequisites.
Learn to tell your story. FM must compete for every bit of capital it gets. That means you need to be effective at telling your story in a persuasive manner. Take a tip from the best and put the page full of numbers in the back of the slide deck. Instead, focus on being an effective communicator. Get to the head through the heart with simple, clear and compelling narratives that inform, illustrate and illuminate.
The biggest trend in FM today is articulated in one word: Change. Sophistication of systems and operators is increasing, the workplace is evolving, the virtual and physical are coming together. As FM’s we own and operate the single largest asset on the planet other than human kind itself, and therefore have a unique opportunity to affect not only our workplaces but also the world and society around us. I cannot think of a place or time I would rather be.