“Facilitopia” – A Brighter Vision for the Facility Industry

facilitopia-fm360-facility-managementIn speaking at the IBOA/Northern Rockies Chapter of IFMA’s 2nd Annual Facility Professionals Convention in Boise, Idaho this June, I shared my vision for the facility industry – I called it “Facilitopia”.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not looking for facilities to be the new glamour career.  The only fame we might get is “infamous” (that’s “more than famous” for you Gen-Xers…); however, I would like to see our industry and the professionals that work in it gain the recognition they deserve.

I idealized three key areas for FacilitopiaValue Recognized, Increased Wages, and Executive Facility Position.

Value Recognized

Facility folks quite often are seen (and funded) as “glorified janitors” – we change light bulbs, we plunge toilets, etc.  I can understand the misperception (In my humble opinion, this is primarily self-induced, but more about that later.)  However, I get real heartburn over the lack of value that management, occupants, and customers assign to facility professionals – again somewhat self-induced.  Allow me to give an example.

When something turns up missing (or more likely misplaced), who is the first to get blamed for it?  Yep, the custodians.  These are the same people that come in early in the morning or late at night and on weekends to clean up the messes that many would not touch with a 10-foot pole.  In general, these are hard-working custodians that are willing to do jobs that most would not fathom.  Let us not forget the significance of their function in maintaining a safe, clean, aesthetically pleasing environment – that has a direct impact on employee productivity, client satisfaction & perception, and ultimately, a positive return to the bottom line (See “Facilities Department Not a Profit Center – But Can It Be?”).  They have value.

Now let’s extend that to thought to include the rest of the facility team, such as skilled HVAC mechanics, electrical journeymen, energy specialist, maintenance managers, project managers, certified facility managers, and the various contractors used to operate & maintain a facility.  Each one plays a critical role in the success of the overall organization, including returning value to the bottom line, employee productivity, and customer satisfaction.

Increased Wages

Growing up my mom taught me that “you get what you pay for”.  Now that truism does not necessarily hold when it comes to facilities because the facility engineers and managers are typically not equitably compensated for their knowledge and skill sets, at least when compared to other departments and corresponding required experience, knowledge, and expertise.  That, of course, can be attributed to the above point regarding the lack of recognized value.  However, with my Facilitopia vision, I would like to see facility professionals’ pay be more in-line with their knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs).  For this to come to fruition, I believe, the Facilities Department needs representation at the executive level to champion for such changes.

Executive Position for Facilities

Given that facilities generally accounts as an organization’s second largest asset and expense, it makes financial sense to have an executive position focused on managing these multi-million dollar assets and budgets.  However, most facility departments do not get a seat in the C-suite.  In fact, predominantly facility organizations report to Human Resources.  Human Resources is busy enough managing their own budgets and issues that they do not and should not have to try to understand and champion facilities’ causes.  As much as we can and should make this a grass roots effort, ultimately, we will need a seat at the executive table to bring this Facilitopia to fruition.

So then how do we affect change?

If you are waiting for management to open up their eyes and bring about Facilitopia, you will be waiting a while.  Granted, I think the tide is changing (See “Lead or Be Left”), but it will be a slow change if we do not step up and do what we can to affect that change.

See Our Value

I think the first hurdle we must overcome, is that we have to see how our role and that of our respective team members, from janitorial and grounds to mechanics and managers.  If we do not understand the impact we have on the triple bottom line, then how we can convey it to others?  (See “The Rule of 100/10/1 – Learning to Speak Bean”)

Preach Our Value    

Once we understand the value we provide to the overall organization’s success, it is incumbent upon us to preach this value.  Given the frequent interactions we have with occupants, customers, and management, we have just as many opportunities to passively toss out little nuggets that communicate the on-goings of the Facility Department (e.g. maintenance, productivity impacts, cost savings, and other value-added services provided).  Start with a facility vision & mission statement, then develop an “elevator speech” that allows you and your colleagues to take advantage of those 20-second conversations.  Stay tuned for more articles, training, and coaching on this topic.

Deliver Our Value

Lastly, we have to live up to our promises.  We are managing customer expectations and perceptions; thus, we need to understand and communicate well with customers and management.  How we deliver services and respond/react to requests & complaints will dictate how they perceive facilities.

Pie-In-The-Sky?

I understand that this may seem a bit pie-in-the-sky, but I believe it is achievable.  Through education, sharing of information & tools, and coaching & encouraging of each other, we can usher in “Facilitopia”.  In fact, this is the primary motivator behind FM360 Online and the resources it provides.  I encourage you to visit fm360online.com to see how the various training, articles, and resources can help you better yourself, your team, and the industry.

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