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20 February 2019
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We need contract models between facilities providers and customers to evolve if they are to support thriving workplaces, says Jeff Flanagan.


04 December 2018 | Jeff Flanagan 

Customers are recognising the value of the workplace for driving employee engagement and productivity – and thereby business performance. In turn, our sector has found itself at the front line of managing and delivering this agenda.

However, to be successful, we need new contract models that bring employee needs to the fore and allow dialogue between customer and service provider in the long term.

Set parameters

The starting point for contracts should be customers’ commercial objectives and how these can be mapped against the work environment. 

There will always be a financial element to be met for workplace performance, but it is crucial to consider how it can underpin broader cultural and operational objectives and to build these into a partnership. 

Ambitions might include greater flexible working or knowledge-sharing between teams, with solutions such as reformatting office space to accommodate more breakout areas or being flexible in its use to allow for evening socials. 

Workplace as a reflection of brand 

The workplace is a shop window for businesses’ brands and ideals – both for employees and visitors. Contractual frameworks should set out to what extent these messages ought to be reflected in the building fabric as well as in wider human interactions. 

At our Birmingham hub, for example, we’ve sought to reflect Interserve’s commitment to working sustainably, empowering our people and driving innovation across the building. This has included incorporating spaces for creative thinking and carefully considering the way our front-of-house teams greet people.

These brand ambitions should be taken into account from the outset, getting ‘under the skin’ of an organisation to create a bespoke contract. Honesty and openness from both sides are essential, even before a deal has been signed. 

Here’s an example: one of our customers in the travel and tourism sector decided to combine facilities services across its property portfolio. Rather than issuing a standard brief, the business wanted to find a partner it could work with to deliver process and service improvements across its estate. 

To achieve this, it held dialogue sessions and workshops with prospective partners throughout the tender process and after, allowing facilities teams to get to know its business, how it operates and shape a response around this. 

Maintain momentum 

After setting up a new partnership, the customer and provider need to revisit this framework over time. Businesses have to be dynamic to keep up with evolving markets and commercial ambitions will adapt to reflect this. Often overlooked is the need for a flexible support services contracts to enable this change – capitalising on expertise that established partners will have gleaned through working together. 

New partnership contracts should encourage regular re-evaluation of KPIs and core objectives to see whether they are desirable for the long-term goals of businesses. 

It’s also important to engage a variety of stakeholders – front of house, HR and IT – from both sides in the process to ensure wider objectives are captured and fed across the facilities brief. 

Measure success

The way contracts approach evaluation needs to change. 

Cost needs to be measured alongside added-value elements to determine the impact the workplace can have on business performance. These should relate to employee performance and measurements could include absenteeism reporting and satisfaction surveys. 

Facilities teams and partners know what good workplace management can achieve, but working relationships must evolve to realise this. They should focus on the business-critical elements of supplied services, relating KPIs and objectives to them . 

Jeff Flanagan is managing director – commercial at Interserve