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Seismic shifts

13 November 2015 | Martin Read


If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? 


Similarly, if a facilities service is performed and no one is around to value it, is it really making a difference? You can imagine frustrated FMs pondering this as they continue, day in and day out, to keep their organisations going with little recognition or reward. And it’s also easy to ponder this kind of thing when yet more evidence of good FM (the recent BIFM Awards, for example) does not immediately obtain a much wider audience. Because it really should do, Sometimes the sheer scope and scale of the projects takes your breath away – witness the North East Lincolnshire FM contract that came away as the winner in the new societal impact category at the BIFM Awards.


Of course, this frustration at a lack of recognition is in the very nature of FM, which is often described as being at its best when no one realises it’s taking place. But while this may be the operational ideal, it naturally presents quite the Catch 22 for those promoting the wider value of FM; more recognition craved from a sector for which success is best measured by the quiet effectiveness of its execution.


Fortunately, I think we can safely say we’re living through some seismic shifts in business and public perception. The last two years have seen FM success case studies of such strength in depth that their impact cannot be denied. We’ve two in this edition, and more to come from the BIFM Awards.


As if the stories emanating out of the Grosvenor House Hotel aren’t proof enough, we’re also seeing some other welcome shifts. This summer, the Property Directors Forum reported on how employee productivity was now being seen by its members as almost three times as important as cost reduction. This is no small shift: Property directors’ priorities, famously focused on cost reduction, are now much more about the performance and productivity of people. 


'Soft metrics’, including employee engagement, satisfaction and retention are now the top issues for 61% of property directors when measuring the performance of workplace strategies. Metrics concerning space and furniture or business agility are, suddenly, least important. All of which can only help FM in becoming increasingly decoupled from, well, facilities.


This is quite the conversion, with property directors speaking about how effective workplace strategies can only be called such if they’re seen to be catering, for example, for the different needs of each generation of employee. And it’s not just a focus on productivity, it’s a focus on individual strands of productivity.


Worker wellbeing, surely one of 2015’s most ubiquitous buzz phrases, feeds into this idea of productivity as the overriding outcome of good FM. The concept of wellbeing may not yet sit high on the priority list for property directors, but it’s undoubtedly an issue likely to rise in prominence with pretty much everything that goes into improving individual wellbeing in the workplace within the purview of the facilities manager.


Factor all these elements in and it feels like there’s plenty of grounds for optimism just now. Here’s to FM’s productive use of productivity.


Martin Read is managing editor of FM World