For office managers who work tirelessly every day to maintain facilitiesfacility , it's assumed that the primary objective is to manage real, tangible, physical "things." To be sure, physical elements are one piece of the puzzle. When running an office building, it's important to have thorough knowledge of how many desks, chairs, computers, filing cabinets and other objects you have at your disposal. By keeping a good handle on all of this information, facilities managers can stay on top of their jobs on a daily basis.
But the challenges don't end there. Michel Theriault, the principal of facilities management consulting firm Strategic Advisor, explains that there's more to it than that. On his site, Managing the Built Environment, he explains that the job isn't just about managing "stuff." It's also about working with people, doing more to cultivate an environment that develops talented employees.
"This shift from the physical to the people element has been happening gradually over time in the facilities management profession, but as the cost of people, both recruitment, retention and performance, increases, our impact on the company is also increasing," Theriault wrote. "While not always measurable or clearly a direct relationship, the focus on the workplace environment has meant facility managers need more than just technical skills, and it's more than just an efficient layout - it's about employees being motivated and productive."
What can facilities managers do besides handle physical objects? There are several things. Here are a few.
1. Keep employees happy and productive
They may not realize it, but facilities managers actually have a great deal of influence over the happiness and productivity of the employees in their office buildings. If, say, they put a worker in a closed-off cubicle when the individual prefers a more collaborative workspace, it can be harmful to office morale. FMs should be careful to cater to the needs of individual employees, as it can have a significant effect on the mood of the workplace.
2. Work closely with department heads
A facilities manager's goal should be to ensure the happiness of every department within a company, from human resources to accounting and everywhere in between. To that end, it's prudent to build solid working relationships with the head of each department, checking in on them and gauging their specific needs. By communicating regularly with managers, FMs can determine how best to help them.
3. Consider opinions of others
A facility manager's job is to cater to people, so it's good to stay abreast of their opinions. Savvy FMs should consider reaching out to employees by handing out surveys or conducting informal polls via word of mouth. Facilities management is not a job to be done in a vacuum - it requires a holistic view of the entire company, and that means seeing the complete picture of everyone's needs.
4. Constantly present new ideas
It's important in facilities management not to get stuck in a rut. The best FMs are the ones who aren't afraid to make alterations to the status quo, proposing changes based on studies, facts and hardcore information about how to improve business. Managers shouldn't be afraid to suggest new ideas. Even if they're ultimately shot down, initiating conversation is important.
5. Work to develop talent
A major goal of any company is to develop talented employees, and facilities management can play a role in that effort. According to Human Resource Executive Online, a recent study by Women Corporate Directors and Heidrick and Struggles found that only 16 percent of companies in North America are satisfied with the way they develop talent. FMs should do their part to improve that number, partly by asking their employees for feedback on how their offices can help them improve.
An office is much more than a collection of desks and chairs. It's a haven for people, and facilities managers should look to make the most of those people. A facility management software can help with that.
Editor's Note: This blog post was originally published in November 2013 and has been updated for accuracy and relevance