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17 July 2018
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Raising the Bar

At the Bar Council’s City of London headquarters, Sam Forman is an FM with 20 years’ experience – having effectively introduced and developed the role herself. Martin Read reports.

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All images credited to John Reynolds


21 April 2016 | Martin Read


You could be forgiven for thinking that Sam Forman’s journey to her current position at the Bar Council – she’s the organisation’s head of FM and property – has familiar roots. 


Straight out of college in 1996 following a legal secretarial course, Forman started out in a junior secretarial role before gaining promotion to the chairman’s office as a private office secretary. 


Over time, she’s since risen in the ranks, having helped define FM provision across her organisation and reached a point at which she is now leading workplace change projects as its head of FM and property.


When she started, the Bar Council was located over two sites then rising to three. It had no HR manager, let alone a defined FM team, and, says Forman, “everyone did a bit of everything”.


But all that started to change when a plan initiated in 2000, the result of impending lease expiries, saw the organisation move into one building – 289/293 High Holborn – in 2004. At this stage, the number of staff serviced was 80; today that number has doubled.


When the Bar Council recruited an HR/office manager, Forman was asked if she wanted to become the new manager’s assistant, at which point her FM journey really began in earnest.


The co-location of what was then the newly conceived Bar Standards Board was one of the triggers for the 2004 consolidation into one building. This increase in end-user clients meant responding to the needs of a new range of committees and their members – “so that meant a huge amount of work for me and my manager, as well as running the FM and the HR. It was a huge role, and back then there were just the two of us doing it”.


The formation of a dedicated FM department came when the HR/office manager resigned.


“I was asked which path I wanted to go down, and for me it was definitely FM,” says Forman. “I just enjoyed it more; the negotiating side, the dealing with suppliers. I enjoy establishing relationships, because you get the best out of people when you have a good supplier-client relationship.”


The role has developed, and now Forman is in full charge of FM provision. (She’s also the Bar Council’s data protection officer.)


It’s a classic example of an FM determining their own position and developing independently of any established career path. Forman has researched and proposed her own career development schedule to her employers, and, as her responsibilities have increased, she’s realised the need to keep up to date on compliance issues, attend events and put herself on the necessary training courses. (Indeed, Forman only started her BIFM training last October, and is currently training for her Level 4 qualification.)


Towards the end of 2014, recognising the need for FM requirements to be considered strategically, Forman proposed what is now the current structure with a head of FM and property and a separate operational office services manager dealing with everyday issues. (“I felt that I was getting bogged down when I needed to concentrate on future planning.”)


Today, Forman’s team is organised as follows:


“I have one direct report, the office services manager, and he has a direct report to reception, the help desk assistant, and the print and distribution supervisor, who then has his own two direct reports. All told, I have 102 years service across my whole team.”

 

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Development programmes 

Over the years, as her appreciation of FM’s strategic role has matured, Forman has managed or helped instigate several workplace enhancement programmes (see box).


But it was the 2013 SPACE programme, through which new forms of workspace were introduced, that proved an FM milestone for the Bar Council. 


“People were used to having their own desk, and we were looking to reduce desk size,” remembers Forman. “So I created an area that acted as a showcase so that people could come down, sit and try out the different options. That worked really well, and people felt part of the process. We were able to develop trust from employees in us doing a good job on their behalf.”


Secure storage and access to files is an understandable concern, but the Bar Council now has two off-site storage providers operating a 24-hour turnaround time.

 

The Bar Council has seen document storage requirements cut in half, with more likely as the Work Smart programme takes hold.


Meanwhile, the printing, binding and finishing machines in the print room, currently used for printing case files as well as agendas and minutes of meetings, is being marketed to local chambers as a way of generating income – a one-stop shop for local chambers’ print needs.


Forman is at the forefront of all these initiatives. But it’s in the current Work Smart programme that Forman sees great potential to change levels of productivity and work/life balance.


“We conducted a staff survey asking questions such as what the barriers are to working more flexibly, is their work/life balance good enough? We wanted to focus on wellbeing, and the results were positive. 


“A lot of people said they had sufficient flexibility already, but there were also plenty of suggestions for things we could change such as touchdown areas and better technology for remote working.


“As a result of that we started a pilot for Work Smart.”


Forman is collating feedback from the pilot’s participants, categorising it as operational, technical, practical, people and culture.


“The project has also identified that younger people like coming into work because they enjoy the social interaction, whether that’s because they are living in a house share and don’t have the facilities, or find it lonely or difficult to concentrate.”


Clearly, these are important insights, all of which will go in to creating a better workplace ‘template’. 


Says Forman: “We are always asking ourselves, what else can we do?”


Working so closely with HR has been a boon – and today, Forman reports into the council’s director of HR.


“You have to work closely with HR to get the right balance, and having HR as my line manager does help in that respect. I have a bit of insight.

 

Looking ahead

Having educated herself in FM, and with experience of significant change management projects ahead of her, what’s the future for Sam Forman?


 “I’ve been at the Bar Council for 20 years,” she says, “but because I have moved around so much it really doesn’t feel that long. Now I’m keen to get my BIFM Levels 4 and 5 qualifications, and I also see the next five years’ experience as extremely valuable for me, particularly if we go multi-site.”


After that, and despite her thus far life-long commitment to the Bar Council, Forman may look further afield.


 “I do feel, having gone through the SPACE programme and now Work Smart, that I’ve now got something to offer.”


After two decades of constant change, adeptly managed, it’s difficult to disagree.


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About the Bar Council

Founded in 1894, the Bar Council represents the interests of barristers, promoting and improving the services and functions of the Bar and representing the interests of the Bar on all matters relating to the profession.


The ‘Approved Regulator’ of the Bar is the Bar Council, but it is obliged by law to delegate its regulatory duties to an independent Bar Standards Board (BSB). The BSB operates independently of the Bar Council, with its own board and staff. The BSB has a Chairman and the board comprises lay and barrister members. It regulates barristers called to the Bar in England and Wales.


Location

The Bar Council and BSB have been located at 289/293 High Holborn since 2004. The organisations occupy the basement to the fourth floors, with the common areas managed through a managing agent.


FM is delivered in-house through an FM in-house support services team headed by the Bar Council’s head of FM and property, Sam Forman. Forman is supported by an office services manager, an FM helpdesk assistant, and reprographics and reception teams. Cleaning, catering, security, furniture, stationery and waste disposal are outsourced on single-service contracts, although bundled services have been considered and are used in some contracts.



Facts and figures:

  • Bar Council, 289/293 High Holborn
  • Site size:  circa 15,000 sq ft (reduced from 24,000 sq ft in 2014)
  • Staff serviced on site: 160
  • FM team size: 8.
  • Managing agents: Farebrother Chartered Surveyors
  • Services provided in-house: Reprographics, mail services, reception, meeting and room booking, exhibition and conference facilities, conferencing, helpdesk services, security and business continuity
  • Services provided by contractors: Furniture and equipment, cleaning and waste, reprographics equipment (Hard FM services are outsourced through managing agents)

 


Major projects: SPACE (2013)

SPACE (Space Planning and Creating Efficiencies) was a programme of work comprising a number of different projects tied to two key objectives: providing sufficient office space to meet accommodation needs until the contractual term of the building lease ends (in March 2019) or beyond; and taking the opportunity of the lease break to become more cost-effective and achieve financial savings on property related costs.


Project activities:

  • Creation of new working spaces for collaboration; and
  • Development of a culture of efficient and online document management (enforced through policies, processes and systems) towards a reduction in physical storage needs.

 

Project results:

  • Return on outlay office transformation costs within a three-year period;
  • Circa £1.4 million cost savings on lease, service charges and rates over the remaining five-year period on the lease;
  • Positive effect on adoption of corporate values and collaborative working practices;
  • Improved application of document management and retention policies supporting a reduction in physical storage by an average of 50 per cent across directorates; and
  • Boost in staff satisfaction in relation to physical working conditions and facilities.

 

Work Smart (Ongoing)

This project has been set up to underpin all aspects of how to ‘Work Smart’ in a systematic way. The aim is to improve effectiveness of Bar Council activities; create an environment that supports modern, flexible working practices and collaboration; meet the aspirations of staff for more flexible working and better work/life balance; reduce running costs through more efficient use of space; and reduce environmental footprint.


The project will draw on views and analysis from across the Bar Council to create a vision driving its development as an organisation. It will focus on what future working practices will be and how future accommodation, facilities and IT can support these.