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04 December 2017 | FM World team


FM and HR aspire to a similar goal. Both are required to meet the aims of the organisations they serve, supporting activities from both operational and legislative perspectives.

Opportunities for crossover and common cause between these two departments “great departments of state’ seem countless. HR already has a key role to play in the delivery of FM. Whether contracted out or delivered in-house, both FM and HR are about people delivering services to the business and the teams on the ground. 

In recent years, the idea of the FM as most powerful and important figure in the future workplace has gained currency. But a report from architectural practice Unispace suggests that HR will have greater ownership of the physical workplace as human resources becomes more focused on the employee experience. 

The idea of a chief workplace officer was suggested in The Stoddart Review’s Workplace Advantage report. How does this connect HR and FM? How should the relationship between these two ‘departments of empowerment’ develop? Where should the boundaries lie, and how should the relationship be structured? So, we asked, who is best placed to be a workplace curator?

Angela Love

The tail must not wag the dog 

Curator derives from the Latin word cura, meaning care. Both FMs and HRs are highly invested in ‘caring’ for their workplace and their people. So I feel it is a hybridisation of the role where technical knowledge of the workplace and an understanding of the needs of the workforce sit side by side. Whether that is one person or one role is debatable. Perhaps it is a journey that eventually aims to lead to just that, and in the meantime collaboration seems to be a very sensible first step.

Sharing knowledge, best practice and understanding across vital disciplines could deliver insightful and valuable returns. For collaboration to work well you must be aligned with the overall strategic objectives of the business, and in choosing the right people to lead, you must seek resourceful communicators. The workplace will evolve at a rapid rate, bringing many challenges for HRs and FMs so it makes sense to collaborate. Be mindful that ‘power sharing’ doesn’t suit everyone, so head off conflict by bringing likeminded people together.

Don’t overlook your talent pool; we all recognise that it’s employees that drive businesses forward, so we should consider giving them a voice in how their workplace evolves. That doesn’t have to mean decisions made by committees. 

If opinion and ideas are implemented with care it really means something: the personal insights of the employee can be quite revealing. Workplace ‘champions’ become your foot soldiers: they carry your messages and strategies forward and act as your eyes and ears on the ground, bringing back valuable feedback that helps to shape future strategies, decisions and buy-in. The key thing is to be inclusive, seek out enthusiastic volunteers, recognise their efforts through personal development plans, and always, always align the role with your strategy. The tail must not wag the dog.

Angela Love, director at Active

Paul Carder

Forward together

There is a view in FM that it is an entirely separate ‘profession’; in reality it is part of the network of management. FM is a function, alongside corporate real estate, IT, HR, procurement, group security and marketing. Some combination of all these functions supports the ‘lines of business’ (or customer-facing, or revenue-generating business units). The physical workplace is starting to be taken more seriously in this overarching subject of ‘management’ and ‘organisation studies’, which provides the background for business schools. The idea of some kind of director of works to plug the gaps that exist between functional disciplines has been around for more than a decade. Jon Ingham describes in his book The Social Organization an organisation design, developing organisational connections and relationships, which is enhanced by the physical workplace design and management. This involves close working between HR and property/FM, but the latter does not happen much in practice. Rather than trying to promote FM to a place where it leads the other functions, it would be better to develop programmes to bring HR and property/FM closer together, working on joint initiatives. Many in FM say “FM deserves a place on the board”; that is not going to happen. The CWO idea just repeats this, so I disagree with The Stoddart Review. If one were to raise the profile of property and FM with those at CxO level (chief HR officer, or HR director), I think there would be greater success. 

Paul Carder, co-founder, Occupiers Journal

Stephen P Gathergood

Work is an activity – not a place

There is more to the relationship between HR and FM than the physical workplace. Remembering the adage that work is an activity and not a place, the HR/FM relationship needs to strengthen in other areas as well.

As increasingly organisations seek the holy grail of differentiators in an effort to win work in this cut-throat industry, the pursuit of organisational effectiveness and compliance generally is now more important than ever.

Consider also the concept of personal and corporate competence; this is an area where HR functions and FM operational teams are not as closely aligned as they might be. If managed properly through a formalised competence management system, the organisation can position itself above that of its competitors by way of a USP, improving organisational resilience as well as other motivational benefits, not least staff recruitment and retention.

Add this to a great place to work, i.e. the future workplace, and you have the ingredients for a recipe for success.

CIBSE has considered the latter in a forthcoming publication entitled Competency and Competency Management Systems in Facilities Management as part of the CIBSE Knowledge Series (KS21).


Stephen P Gathergood, head of infrastructure services, G4S Facilities Management

Alex Hewitt

FM and HR should work in tandem

Given the fledgling nature of the ‘workplace officer’ idea (the Stoddart Review was published less than a year ago) I’d say that initially FM and HR should work in tandem to shape the parameters for the role within an organisation. However, ultimately the responsivity and opportunity should reside within FM. Aside from giving me extra positions with different nuances to fill, the skill set in FM is already there and where shortfalls do appear the industry is full of innovative people to step in.

Since the end of the recession FM has put in the hard work to show the wider business community that the sector can add real value to a business, provide a solid foundation on which to build and adapt to the myriad of challenges that have come its way. Evolving workplace needs are something most FMs deal with during the course of their roles anyway, only now they’re being given greater prominence and encouraged to be viewed as part of a planned strategy.

Workspace management is a rapidly growing faction, more commonly seen in contract or consultancy roles at present, that I could see developing within larger organisations in a permanent capacity to fill the chief workspace officer-shaped void.

Perhaps the biggest advantage of finding a CWO from FM is accessibility. As a rule each building within an organisation will have an FM, engineer or coordinator on site who anyone can approach with their suggestion to improve the environment, as opposed to HR, which is often centralised. Not only does this allow greater reporting and actioning of workplace upgrades, but the effect of these changes is more easily monitored by the department responsible. This allows for decreased response times and increased flexibility, giving employees a real say in creating their most productive workplace.


Survey Results

Alex Hewitt, senior recruitment consultant, Bluefire Consulting