Open-access content Monday 23rd February 2009
26 February 2008
by David Arminas
Normality was easy money on loan, Simpson added, big capital spend projects and government-led regeneration topped off with glamorous mergers and acquisitions.
The result was that everyone knew about property values, but not the value of property. FMs are well placed to understand the difference and communicate it to their board. Simpson predicted more leasing arrangements and more outsourcing, but with increased restrictions on what the outsource provider will be doing. Adapting to the change was a common theme running through the day's speaker presentations.
Back to reality
We are entering an era of high-risk management, said Ian Cramp of Sigma FM. Boards may want to cut corners to save money but in fact they would be gambling with their assets, he explained. FM will have to bring them back to reality. It is one thing to revisit assumptions of value for money, but skimping on planned preventative maintenance is betting the family's best china on the hope that things won't go wrong. When reactive maintenance is needed, it doesn't come cheap, he said.
Cramp said FMs should review space planning and even consider moving to cheaper buildings if leases can't be renegotiated. Do employees really need the amount of square footage they get? Should a department start to charge another department for using its space as an overflow area? Monitor energy consumption more closely. Read meters weekly rather than monthly, plot temperature and consumption graphs, and even watch weather forecasts to adapt the BMS accordingly. Importantly, consider free-cooling during summer. Cramp saved a client £200,000 by installing external fans to draw in cool night air so the building's air conditioning needn't kick in at 6am to condition the building for employees arriving at 8am.
Boards may question the need for a carbon footprint and consider it a frivolous expense, a feel-good spend. But the business case for it is now solid, said Debbie Hobbs, principal of the energy and carbon management team at consultants Environ.
The drivers are as much legislative as they are related to corporate social responsibility issues. Starting in April, an organisation should be putting together a carbon footprint for when the Carbon Reduction Commitment kicks in the following April. Firms will be taxed on the carbon they emit above certain levels.
Hobbs suggested three steps for producing a carbon footprint. Do an inventory of all equipment that produces CO2. In other words, anything burns fuel in some fashion. Establish a base year and start collecting data. Lastly, start measuring regularly.
You need to measure what you burn directly and also what fuels you use such as electricity for which the prime source - the generator - emits carbon when producing it. Also, consider all other consumption, such as employee travel by car and public transport. You may also wish to include data from your supply chain, but it can be a sensitive decision regarding who must claim the emitted carbon.
This even ignores the fact that footprint data can be used to help lower energy costs. Surveys also show that in Europe and America an increasing number of organisations will or buy or lease an energy-efficient building.
In these tough times things can go badly wrong, no matter what aspect of FM a person is involved. If not guarded against, a blame culture can develop resulting in a downward spiral of motivation, explained coaching consultant Liz Kentish. Strong personalities often collide and loyal well-qualified people may quit. It's at this time that the oft-repeated phrase 'people are our greatest asset' comes back to haunt departmental heads. But it can also be a reminder to get back to basic communication and strategic thinking, she said.
Kentish recommended a regrouping of the main protagonists to consider not who's fault the problem may be but to establish what the problem is that needs to be solved. It is at this moment that you consider who has what skills and which other resources are available to solve the problem. Your goal is to move forward in a positive manner and act as a group or team. The result is people returning to what they like best to do and that is what motivates most people, she said.
Disagreements may also be the result of people struggling with too much stress in the workplace, said consultant Anne Lennox Martin. This hidden crisis, she explained, is a result of employees failing to cope with rising pressure, whose previous level was enough to stimulate them.
Seeing the warning signs, usually deviations from their normal behaviour, is important. These include a person becoming indecisive, irritable and argumentative with others, forgetful and a general loss of self-confidence. Watch out for a person starting to put in long hours and beware of 'job creep' where an FM becomes a victim of their own success. They have been good at their job, so their line managers give them more and more work. If you are a line manager, watch your new staff carefully. Not everyone reacts well to being thrown in at the deep end, she said.
Importantly, FMs should also not forget about themselves. It might be that an FM has to learn - or relearn - how to relax in order to reduce his or her own stress levels.