Peter Forshaw recently spoke with ThisWeekinFM.com to discuss the unique and challenging times we find ourselves in and particularly how FMs can adapt and upskill themselves to manage the increased amount of remote working.
Making buildings safe, efficient and effective to meet the needs of the people working within them is the essence of an FM’s remit – but how useful is this skillset when faced with the home working revolution?
Most people working in any form of people management will have experienced a slight blurring of HR with their current role recently. The uncertainty and fast-moving changes to working habits have meant strong leadership and communication have taken on a renewed significance.
Naturally, this has revealed a need to reexamine the necessary skillset to succeed as managers. So, what are these additional skills?
“Liaison with IT departments or external IT consultants may be a necessity for many FMs in the short term, however with the potential ongoing prevalence of remote working there is a clear opportunity to upskill and improve technical knowledge”
FMs as Digital Champions
One trend that’s been identified is the additional reliance on technology when managing remote workforces effectively. A facilities manager will be well-versed in managing the needs of the users of a building, but do these skills translate to managing someone working from a home office?
Some commentators have noted that facilities management as an industry has been slow to join in with the digital transformation. Research from Mitie in late 2019 found that almost half of the facilities managers surveyed were missing out on the benefits of digital transformation, with just seven per cent using new technology to stay ahead of the curve.
The study showed that, for many FMs, the adoption issue is closely linked to a lack of knowledge. Around a third of respondents reported a lack of internal expertise to select suitable solutions or a lack of understanding of digital transformation technologies as the top barriers to investing in digital.
Julie Jarvis, Managing Director at property and built environment recruitment company PRS, noted that this adoption of technology will become a non-negotiable when managing remote teams throughout the pandemic:
“There will be a need for the implementation of technology to manage workforces effectively. As such, leveraging cloud and mobile technology will assist in keeping workers safe, increase revenue and lower costs across multiple processes, as it enables employers to communicate with and manage their workforces without the need for physical contact.”
Peter Forshaw, Managing Director of specialist recruiter Maxwell Stephens, agrees that the FM’s role will now mean active involvement in championing digital communications technology:
“Effectively managing remote workers in FM requires a range of both hard and soft skills covering a wide spectrum of management principles.
“Initially, FMs need to focus on ensuring people actually have the capacity to work remotely. This involves workers having access to digital communication technologies such as video conferencing software, instant messaging, shared message boards etc (as well as the appropriate training to use these effectively).”
Data Security Knowledge
Not only will FMs now require additional knowledge of cloud and mobile-based technology to make communication and project management easier, but facilities managers will also require some understanding of data security protocols.
Forshaw continued: “In addition, workers may also need access to cloud-based file sharing and project management software to ensure effective collaboration and teamwork. As well as extensive knowledge of these software and hardware requirements, FMs would also need to have a good understanding of data security protocols.
“Liaison with IT departments or external IT consultants may be a necessity for many FMs in the short term, however with the potential ongoing prevalence of remote working there is a clear opportunity to upskill and improve technical knowledge, whether this is through accredited training (e.g. ISO27001 virtual training), or simply taking the time to learn new technologies inside-out.”
Organisational Skills and Employee Expectations
Managing remote workers brings an added HR element to any role, and Forshaw believes that successful facilities managers will need to prioritise communication and manage clear expectations with their staff whilst they’re working at home:
“This could involve extensive scheduling to carry out in-depth one-to-ones on a regular basis, more frequent virtual team meetings, or even informal catch-up meetings. A feeling of isolation is often cited as one of the downsides to remote working, which in turn negatively affects employee morale and motivation, therefore the adequate organisation of virtual meetings is vital.
“Comprehensive organisation of employee workloads is another key consideration for managing remote workers. This may involve: setting and reviewing short term individual goals and reviewing these on a regular basis; performing skills audits of team members to effectively allocate tasks; defining clear expectations from the get-go.”