20 December 2016 | FM World team
Facilities managers are in an organisation's front line, forging working relationships with people at all levels internally, as well as dealing with end-user customers.
It's long been argued that FMs can act as the 'social glue' of a business, and we already know just how much an innovative mindset is a prerequisite.
So it is perhaps in the nature of the job that FMs are quick to help encourage diversity wihin their organisations. And it probably helps to explain why a couple of FM professionals, Andrew Hulbert of Pareto FM and Sajna Rahman of Sodexo, have embraced a relatively new component of the diversity agenda.
What is thought diversity?
Just as a mix of different cultures, races and genders in the workplace can bring fresh and wider perspectives to an organisation and team performance, so too can thought diversity help maximise individuals' input. Thought diversity is about recognising the different ways in which each individual approaches and solves problems, from those who analyse problems in great detail to those who can quickly implement an immediate solution, those who are creative, those who prefer a defined order to things, and many other facets.
The theory is that working to ensure a mix of these thought 'types' can help organisations to avoid slipping into predictable and fixed ways of doing things; by embracing thought diversity, FMs can boost innovation in service delivery and job satisfaction within teams.
So while other elements of diversity are physical, thought diversity is about what's in people's minds; what specific talents does an individual demonstrate? The best facilities managers are already those who show the most empathy towards others in their team and those they serve, so it's not necessarily surprising that it's a couple of FMs who have embraced thought diversity.
Tomorrow Meets Today
In November, Andrew Hulbert and Sajna Rahman ran their second annual 'Tomorrow Meets Today' event. Six established business leaders were invited to meet, mingle and make food with 30 up-and-coming FMs at a restaurant in London.
Explains Hulbert: "This is about future FM leaders having access to some of the most exciting and diverse leaders in the UK. The idea is to provide a platform of opportunity for two very different groups of people to meet.
"We know it can be difficult for more junior people in the FM sector to meet the most senior (and more importantly the other way round) and this event is designed with that in mind."
Beyond the actual networking, and given the very idea of thought diversity, participants were asked their own views on how they would define and apply it within FM. Below, we present a selection of their responses.
Andrew Hulbert, Pareto FM
"One of my greatest frustrations in FM is the distinct lack of diversity at middle management and senior levels. When you have groups of people that are all roughly the same age, from the same background and have faced the same challenges, everybody thinks the same. There is no opportunity for thinking differently or true innovation, so we go about doing things the way we have always done them just because we do.
"Thought diversity is not about age, race, gender or sexuality, it is about those willing to think inclusively and innovatively to drive our sector forwards. If we want our industry to grow, change, lead and be innovative, then we need to attract this type of mind-set, foster it and grow it."
Sajna Rahman, Sodexo
"Everybody is different. The more varied the thinkers, the more connections can be made, and that fuels innovation. It's not something that can be sprinkled onto organisations, it has to be at its core. FM is already a very diverse industry, however, I do not believe it is reflected in senior roles and above."
Bianca Miller-Cole, Founder and director, The Be Group and Bianca Miller London
"I want more people to see the value in diversity by not only playing lip service to it but by actually creating a strategy for change."
Harsha Tank, Group VP finance, Sodexo Inc.
"Thought diversity, in my experience over the course of my career, contributes to a more honest, compassionate, and collaborative workplace. It helps one draw upon a much wider collection of experiences and look through a much wider 'lens', while trying to 'capture' the right decision in today's ever changing and challenging world."
Jeff Green, CEO, GPCD and BalancedBoards
"Thought diversity is a strategic advantage at a corporate level, thought diversity will make your business more creative, more innovative and bring more profits. Because if people in your company think differently you won't end up in the same place as everyone else. It's then your job as a leader to pick them and back with all your might the best ideas and plans.