From inclusive design to emotional intelligence, speakers at this year's Facilities Show gave visitors much to ponder, as the FM World team reports.
1 July 2014
What's the role of an exhibition in this, the techni-first century?
Yes, it's a place to meet up and do business - but as ever, it's also a place to soak up some of the sector's latest thinking. This year's show, held in London for the first time, followed the tried-and-trusted format, but had the extra attraction of being co-located with other events relevant to the facilities professional.
The show kicked off with an introductory panel session during which the benefits of flexible working - and FM's involvement in managing the change involved to introduce it - were discussed.
Tim Yendall, who glories in the job title of head of RBC choice, design and moves for Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), told his audience that while the impact of his organisation's flexible working initiative had been proved profound in retrospect, initial measurement of its success had proved difficult.
"Aligning work with their lives - how do you quantify that from a business perspective?," he asked. "Yes, you can look at pure cost metrics. But through engagement with our people by survey we have been able to see a direct correlation between the levels of flexibility we give our employees and the nature of how they work. We also know from these surveys that workers allowed to work flexibly are 15 per cent less stressed than other workers in the organisation.
"I think the big role for FM now is in getting under the skin of technology," said Yendall, who suggested that for all its positives workplace technology could still be, in fellow panellist Tim Oldman's words, "a productivity toxin. It's not usually what we provide but what happens when something goes wrong - printer failure, room booking systems - these are the things we have to focus on."
Introduction of flexibility has been a "game changer," said Yendall. "I look back to 2005 when we started our flexible working programme. We were pretty conservative back then - but through the adoption of agility and flexibility the organisation has been able to push the button on reducing our property portfolio and cost base."
No hiding place
There'll be "no hiding place" for company bosses when it comes to accounting for business's global environmental footprint, said Martin Baxter, director of policy at the Institute of Environmental Management & Assessment (IEMA). The ISO standard for environmental management systems, ISO 14001, is currently under review with an updated version likely to become available by early 2015.
Baxter told visitors that the standard was currently "going through significant changes".
"Organisations today are under constant pressure to improve their impact on the environment," said Baxter. "To do this, they need a systematic approach to continuously improve their environmental management."
By meeting the needs of the revised standards, FMs will be helping to ensure that their businesses would still be around in years to come.
ISO 14001 will see leadership by senior management defined in the standard. Said Baxter: "There will be no hiding place, as there has been in the past, for management; they must be seen to be setting down policy and carrying out decision-making processes. Management has to be integrated into procurement and supply chain procedures and the development of new services. They must 'own' this."
The text for the recommended revisions is set to be finalised by the end of July, at which point it will then go out for consultation until the end of September before being ratified in February and published next June.
More than a quarter of a million organisations are currently certified to ISO 14001. The revisions, based on 24 recommendations, are aimed at future-proofing the handling of issues such as climate change, health and safety, operational footprint, supply chains and products and services into the 2020s.
Moving away from standards and their associated processes and procedures, Tom Robinson, head of talent at support services group Mitie, used his session to discuss explain how trust needs to be built between employee and employer if companies are to avoid ending up with teams of "robots".
"Facilities management is an especially risk-averse industry because it is relied on and cannot screw up," said Robinson. "If people are working to KPIs etc, it might mean a firm's staff become very compliant and policy-driven.
"The trouble is, the more policies you have, the more robotic people become."
The solution, according to Robinson, is for employers to allow their staff as much freedom as possible "but with clear boundaries and standards," encouraging workers to have an emotional connection to what they do so that they are more engaged with their work.
Staff who felt in tune with the 'purpose' for their firm's work were more likely to take responsibility and, hence, more engaged. Robinson pointed to research conducted by Harvard University and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), which details how these factors increase worker productivity.
Good property management can make the difference between a charity succeeding or failing, visitors were told on the show's middle day.
Ian Parker, senior property adviser at non-profit body the Ethical Property Foundation (EPF), told his audience that building management in the charity sector was "an afterthought and undertaken by people not qualified, often leading to greater operational and financial risks".
Buildings - many of which were old and derelict - were often fought for and won by the third sector, but property maintenance was not considered deeply enough. Parker said: "There is a lot of attachment to a building... but not a lot of thought about how to run it and make it sustainable."
Presenting results from the Charity Property Survey 2013, carried out by the EPF with the Charity Commission, Parker said out of the range of charities asked, 44 per cent had experienced problems with maintenance costs, 17 per cent feared they would not be able to deliver services because of property constraints and several bodies said they are unable to employ an FM to help with these issues. The survey also showed that 27 per cent of charities said they faced compliance costs and difficulties owing to health and safety and other issues.
Parker called on the FM industry to become more aware of the problems charities face with their buildings and to work more effectively with the sector.
FMs with greater emotional intelligence and leadership qualities will be demanded by 2020, said panellists on a session looking ahead to the date six years away, and indeed beyond.
Tony Sanders, managing director (commercial) at Interserve, said: "FMs of the future will need to work really hard on the areas of strategic leadership and man management. In terms of man management, leadership demands emotional intelligence; a real leader understands his people, and the challenge is that there's such a wide variety of services within FM run by people with very different personalities."
Martin Holt, chief executive at service provider Bellrock, agreed: "The next generation of FMs are making a conscious choice to join the industry; they're bright, tech-savvy, customer-centric and have aspirations to work outside of UK boundaries. I think the industry will look markedly different not just by 2020, but even more so by 2030 and 2040."
Mitie FM's managing director, Martyn Freeman, said that FMs would need to work on developing their ability to motivate the people in their charge who work in different areas of FM, be it M&E, catering, cleaning or other services. He also expressed concern that when FMs do get the opportunity to work at a more strategic level with their clients, they are then all too frequently dragged "back down" to sort out operational issues.
"If you accept that your FM is going to need to be operational," said Freeman, "you need to consider what support you give to them to ensure that strategic connection is not lost.
"The FM of the future will indeed be more tech-savvy, but I also think they'll need to adapt to having two or three levels of engagement with their clients; currently that level of engagement can be too narrow."
The idea of 'inclusive design' needs to be embraced in all new builds, agreed speakers in a final-day panel debate. Julie Fleck OBE, who works with the Office for Disability Issues, said everyone needed to have a "basic knowledge and understanding" of how disabled people use and experience buildings.
"It's not about funding improvements, it's about using education as a catalyst for change," said Fleck.
BIFM chief executive Gareth Tancred called on FMs to "think about how you design and lay out facilities in the first place".
"The Health & Safety at Work Act is 40 years old this year and it is now second nature to us," said Tancred.
"When we spill something, we know to clear it up because it is dangerous. Incorporating access management and inclusion into FM will soon become second nature too."
Tancred now sits on the board of the Built Environment Professional Education (BEPE). The organisation, formed as part of a 10-year legacy plan following on from the London 2012 Olympics, is a joint project between the Greater London Authority, the government's Olympic and Paralympic Legacy Unit, the Office for Disability Issues and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
As well as having the BIFM's backing, BEPE is supported by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), and the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI).
Said Tancred (in a statement supporting BEPE): "This initiative follows the fantastic success of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, which were considered to be the most accessible games ever held. The BIFM looks forward to working with partner institutes to ensure that the access needs of elderly and disabled people are met to achieve inclusive access for all.
"BIFM has been supporting members to understand the importance of inclusive access for many years. This support is crucial as facilities managers are at the forefront of making their buildings accessible to all; their role helps improve the lives of individuals with disabilities through improved access and workplace conditions."
Next year's Facilities Show will take place in the same location, London's Excel, from 16-18 June 2015