How Facility Managers Impact Employee Engagement

by James McDonald on June 26, 2018

Employee engagement is often thought to be the exclusive domain of the HR department. In a sense, this is a reasonable assumption since they play a big role in the recruiting and retention processes.

However, there is another team leader who has as much of an impact (if not more) on employee engagement: the facilities manager. Sometimes business leaders get stuck on the “facilities” part of the title and fail to recognize how many more aspects of the workplace facilities managers can influence.

Here are three reasons facilities managers are an essential part of the employee engagement equation.

They Own Workplace Design

Imagine being served the most extravagant, delicious meal you’ve ever tasted. Now imagine that meal was served to you in a garage. You’re not going to enjoy it nearly as much as you would if it was served in a luxurious setting.

It’s the same with the work environment. It’s difficult for an employee to love his or her job if the workplace is stifling and uninspiring. A recent Capital One survey about workplace design found that 82% of office professionals believe innovation starts with the workplace, yet 52% described their workplace as “uninspiring.”

Facilities managers have the power to create the 5-star equivalent of a workplace. And with this great power comes great responsibility. Today’s employees expect a flexible work environment that can support their unique workstyles. According to the study, they also care about:

  • Natural light – 62%
  • Artwork and creative imagery – 44%
  • Easily reconfigurable furniture – 43%
  • Collaborative spaces – 37%
  • Bold colors – 26%
  • Spaces for rest and relaxation – 25%

Facilities managers must build a workplace that is not only attractive, but one that is designed to allow employees to concentrate and collaborate.

One way to achieve this balance is by implementing activity-based working, where employees choose from a variety of different workspaces, each dedicated to a specific task. Facilities managers can also create office hoteling or hot-desking environments, which give both on-site and remote employees more freedom in choosing their workstation.

However the facilities manager decides to design the workplace, he or she must do so with the goal of increasing employee engagement.

They Are the Brokers of Workplace Technology

No company expects its workforce to function properly without technology. But outdated and/or poor-performing technology can be even more detrimental to employee morale than no technology at all.

Waiting for an old software to load or being forced to use one platform for all workspace needs doesn’t just affect productivity; it frustrates employees. And consistently frustrated employees are rarely engaged employees.

Facilities managers are usually the Facilities managers are usually the advocate and sponsor for technology that allows the worker to more effectively engage the workspace. As a result, FMs are actively involved with IT in choosing and implementing workplace technology.

If the facilities manager doesn’t maintain a strong relationship with the IT department, he or she may encounter resistance to fulfilling requests based on employee feedback. This resistance leads to delays in resolving issues, and these delays mean employees must continue using technology that doesn’t meet their needs.

A Liaison Between Leaders and Staff

Similar to their role as the connector of the IT team, the workplace and the workforce, the facilities manager is also the emissary between the executive team and employees and their workplace needs.

The facilities manager is “in the trenches,” so to speak. This means they have the best insight into how to design an innovative workplace that encourages the workforce. Just as the facilities manager must establish and foster a rapport with the IT department, so, too, must they have the ability to effectively communicate with the C-Suite.

The facilities managers could have the perfect strategy for a guaranteed more productive work environment and more engaged employees. But he or she must know how not only to capture (and hold) the attention of the executive team but also convince the decision-makers they need to invest in his or her strategy. This means having cold, hard facts and figures to back up his or her claims and speaking the C-Suite language.

Ultimately, the decisions that will have the biggest impact on employee engagement will be made by the C-Suite. So if the facilities manager can’t get the executive team on board, then his or her plan is dead in the water.

While facilities managers certainly have a big hand in increasing employee engagement, they need to keep one thing in mind: they can’t do it alone. Facilities managers must foster bothinterdepartmental collaboration as well as communication between their own team members. Building a workforce of happy, satisfied and engaged employees must be a group effort.


James McDonald

James McDonald is a sports enthusiast, brother in Christ and once swam in a tank with the infamous TV sharks.

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