Facilities Managers need more representation at board level

How many facilities managers does it take to change a light bulb?

One to buy the bulb, another to fit it and another to ask the board if it’s in the budget.  It may be a joke but the sentiment behind it isn’t even mildly amusing when you consider how facilities managers are viewed by the many organisations they work for.

Facilities Management is more than just lighting, security, lift maintenance and central heating systems. In 2015 a Facilities Manager is responsible for making a building a social structure, a community.

Facilities management encompasses a wide range of tasks including the administration and management of commercial premises, sports venues, office buildings, schools and hospitals.  It is the job of a facilities manager to ensure that the environment in these buildings is safe for those people working in the buildings and for those who use or visit them.  In addition the facilities manager will be responsible for the efficient running of the building and further duties may include maintenance of the building, contract management and administration.

 

So why are Facilities Managers seldom found in board level positions?

It is at board level that conditions are set within which facilities are operated and developed. As many whom operate in the industry know, presently physical resources and support services are treated as non-core activities and so do not have a presence at board level or even come into boardroom consideration.  Viewed as middle management, it is quite rare for a facilities manager to even report directly to a CEO

Another reason is the way business premises are viewed. Buildings are treated as liabilities rather than assets, a drain on resources, a business expense that can be minimised. Similarly support services are seen as little more than an overhead cost.  This view does not help organisations use the full potential of their buildings, communications and support services in improving business performance. Many companies view the provision, operation and maintenance of facilities from a technical and project base rather than from a business perspective. In short, few organisations recognise the contribution facilities can make to a business, and few can identify the opportunities they provide.

Let’s take a look at what a Facilities Manager actually brings to the table.

A businesses property projects the identity of the organisation and those who deliver support services are often the first line of contact with customers. If lasting impressions are formed within the first 5 minutes of contact then it is essential that the physical state of the building and the attitude of the support staff welcoming people onto the premises are professional and of a high standard if you want to keep your customer.

On a basic level the Facilities Manager’s role is to ensure the environment that people work in (or visit) is safe and comfortable so it would be fair to surmise that facilities management as an impact on the calibre, commitment and longevity of the staff working within those premises and on repeat business.

Facilities Managers are in a fantastic position to introduce new processes which deliver tangible and measurable benefits in terms of operational reduction costs, increased efficiency and optimising building usage and performance. They are in essence the eyes and ears of the property and are therefore best placed to advise on improvements and to encourage other businesses to rent premises within a building.

True innovation can only be achieved if Facilities Managers are represented at board level. Facilities management is one of the fastest growing professions in the UK and is worth 5% of the UK’s GDP. Any forward thinking company will see the value FM’s have on their core business.

Facilities Managers need to promote what they do

However, it’s probably fair to say that some Facilities Managers do nothing to dispel the myth that their role falls into a support service category, rather than an integral, highly important function in the development and growth of the business.  With a diverse range of tasks to perform on a daily basis, for which they are most recognised by the Board, they do nothing to promote the more important aspects of their role.

Over the last 10 years facilities management has evolved radically encompassing levels of responsibility far beyond those of the traditional operation and maintenance skills, including sustainability and energy management.

More companies and organisations need to recognise the Facilities Manager’s contribution to corporate strategy and business success, especially since decisions taken at board level often lead to Facilities Managers having to act as strategic consultants.

Living through the worst economic recession most of us have ever known, driving costs down and taking austerity measures across the whole business is an evaluation that all companies, large or small, must make in order to survive and sustain growth.

Facilities managers know that the second largest budgetary expense within an organisation is building and assets, the first being the cost of staff. Therefore, methods to achieve maximum cost efficiencies must be evaluated; something Facilities managers do every day in the normal course of their duties.  Hence it makes sense that they should promote their many skills and talents via their CVs if applying for a position or an inter-office memo to obtain representation at board level if already employed.

Changing attitudes toward Facilities Management at Board level

In recent years, many organisations have had to operate in an environment of extreme pressure, high competition with escalating costs in a volatile economic climate rather than within a comfortable, stable economy

With the cost of commercial space, evolving technologies, global competition and the impact of errors, the effective management of their resources has become essential and for this reason more importance is being placed on facilities management and the realisation that the greatest challenge in the Facilities Manager’s role is to manage resources in environments that are constantly changing.

The contribution that Facilities Managers make in creatively managing the huge investment that organisations possess in facilities is beginning to broaden the vision of board members to consider board level representation of this crucial and effective service.

Peter Forshaw is Managing Director Maxwell Stephens, Email: peter@maxwellstephens.com Tel: 0207 118 4848

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