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17 January 2019
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A call to arms

Scottish conference 2013
At the BIFM Scotland Conference, speakers tackled a variety of issues – and delegates were set a powerful challenge for 2014.

25 October 2013

Presided over by outgoing BIFM Scotland Region chair Joan Melville and introduced by national BIFM deputy chair Liz Kentish, the 2013 BIFM Scotland conference, themed “All About FM”, gave delegates much to ponder this year.

Indeed, FM as a “department of enablement” was a theme throughout a busy day.

After an introductory session on the potential for social media  from PR consultancy Zoodikers’ Katie King, Campbell Murdoch of FM and building services firm EIC spoke about putting the internal customer at the heart of FM.

“As a sector, we’ve got to focus on leading-edge delivery,” said Murdoch. “Let’s do more to look at smart buildings and making them work for the customer.”

Thomas Jelley, corporate citizenship (CSR) manager at Sodexo UK & Ireland, put forward the grand vision of FM having “a key role to play in workers’ quality of life”, which he described as “the new frontier of worker performance”.

Quality of life is a largely unexplored factor in individual and collective performance.

”The challenge is in how to reconcile individual and organisational needs,” said Jelley. “In FM, we have an amazing opportunity to contribute to these objectives.”

In a discussion about the value of negotiating skills, consultant Lucy Jeynes presented a watertight plan to use when either buying or selling. Key insights included making sure to consider the consequences of both winning and losing in any negotiation (for you and the person you’re negotating with), not to assume that negotiations are always a battle (“nice guys don’t always come out last”), and to consider the value of compromise – how can each party come away feeling positive about the result?

Magenta Associates’ Cathy Hayward themed her talk around words – specifically, how easy it can be to make an impression on internal customers, good or otherwise, through the choice of words on signs.

It can be too easy to use negative language on signs (“do not do this”, “do not do that”), when in fact, outside of usage determined by law for certain signs, “there’s scope to be far more creative and engaging with the words you use”.

Examples of poorly worded signage raised much laughter (“toilet out of order, please use floor below”), as did flowery language, such as autumn described as “leaf fall season”.

In one example of a small change having a big impact, Hayward explained how an FM, with little response to signs asking drivers not to exceed 10mph, put up one with a less obvious 9-and-a-half mph limit. Immediately, drivers took notice.

Safety first
Garry Stimpson, principal inspector for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in Edinburgh, spoke eloquently of the many misconceptions surrounding health and safety, and of how the HSE prioritised its work. Debunking many of the “health and safety gone mad” stories that so routinely make the papers, Stimpson was keen to emphasise that, in fact, common sense usually prevails.

“There is no law banning Christmas decorations,” he confirmed, “nor are kettles banned in hotel rooms.”

All too easily, said Stimpson, H&S can be invoked when the real issue is something completely different. And Stimpson also questioned firms who go out of their way to say that their “top priority” is health and safety. (“Actually, isn’t making whatever you produce your priority? Because the best health and safety happens when there’s no activity at all and you shut the facility down.”)

It was consultant and FM World diarist John Bowen who set the highest bar. “We’ve had this discussion about FM having a presence in the boardroom for a long, long time. But are we there yet, or anywhere near it?”

In fact, said Bowen, in the public sector, at least, this fight was already won through job titles such as “director, streetworks/street scene” and “director regeneration/transformation”. The same was also true in quasi-public sector organisations such as housing associations and NHS trusts, where the incumbents in director-level jobs are practitioners responsible for fabric maintenance, landscape and indeed all FM tasks.

But, said Bowen, the FM sector was effectively represented “by proxy”. These director-level representatives of FM were often architects, surveyors, engineers – “not FMs as we are”.

For FM to enjoy its deserved place at board level in the private sector and beyond, it needed a strategy to meet the ultimate objective of having influence on the executive board.

“Why not take this away from today,” asked Bowen in a spirited call to action. “Let’s prepare over the next three months to start 2014 on a new footing. What elements of the business strategy can FM help deliver? And who at the top table is tasked with those actions? Let’s find them – and talk to them! Sometimes just talking is all it needs. Let’s tell them how we in FM will help them achieve their objectives.”

Citing corporate social responsibility as an obvious “open goal” to focus on, Bowen was confident that a unified campaign to promote FM in this way, timed to commence at the start of the calendar year, could have a tremendous effect.

“If enough of us do it we can light a fire under this industry. Let’s make 2014 the year our contribution counts,” he concluded – a rousing end to an entertaining day’s discussion and debate.