The new role of FM: From Service Providers to Experience Managers

Business Managers have not always seen facility management as a value added activity; however, that time is coming to an end. Today, Facility Managers are beginning to be recognized for their contributions in shaping and strengthening workplace culture. This recognition is coming at a time when the needs of employees and employees’ demands on the office are changing.

For many, changing the light bulb on the second floor, maintaining the air conditioning systems and preparing the tender documents required for contractors, are just few of the tasks that fill a Facility Manager’s day. There are also a growing number of new tasks that have become a part of a Facility Manager’s daily routine, as Facility Managers enter into a new era.

An era where a Facility Managers are seen as individuals responsible for removing obstacles, fostering collaboration and overseeing an environment in which peer-to-peer information sharing and innovation can occur.

Julie Kortens, Chairman of the British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM), stetted in the Stoddart Review that, “As the nature of the economy is changing to one biased towards intellectual outputs over production outputs, so too we are seeing a change in the value placed on professionals who act as workforce facilitators, making marginal gains in performance in each and every employee. The facilities management profession brings together people, place and process to enable business, and in this new smarter, leaner, faster world, skills in this area will be a source of competitive advantage for business. However, as the demand rises so too does the need for the profession to ensure it is upskilled and ready to help transform business productivity.”

High-impact organisations are moving from services to experiences

Today, high-impact organisations are no longer defining a Facility Manager or a facility management provider as someone solely focused on fulfilling services. In these companies, Facility Managers, whether in-or outsourced, are deeply embedded in the business through senior business-partner leadership roles, helping them gain recognition as valued talent as well as design and employee experience consultants.

In these workplaces, Facility Managers are becoming business-oriented specialists, possessing critical new skills in areas such as:

  • Organisational networks: Analysing, building and developing network capabilities and expertise
  • Employee engagement and culture: Utilising the workplace as a tool to strengthen company culture, improve employee engagement and productivity
  • Design thinking: Approaching problems as “experience architects”
  • Analytics and statistics: Becoming evidence-based leaders who embrace behavioural economics and testing
  • Employee experience and brand: Crafting workplace experiences that communicate and reinforce the company’s value proposition.

As Facility Managers make the shift from being compliance and service providers to becoming champions of the holistic employee experience, we see companies, such as Airbnb, Ericsson and Decker Brands, creating new roles such as a Chief Workplace Officer or a Chief Employee Experience officer that reflect the FM’s new mandate.

Where companies can start

So how can you create an experienced based office that facilitates an excellent workplace culture? Clear support structures must be in place in order to make the role of a Chief Workplace Officer a reality. As an organisation, it is your responsibility to:

  • Understanding FM’s changing mandate, mission and role: Some elements of the mandate are new; others are consistent with past work. The real challenge involves understanding the differences and acting on them
  • Rethinking the FM structure: Does your company have enough specialists and business partners embedded in the business? Is there a clear overview of the skills that a facility management team will need in the future?
  • Upgrading technology: To support the new role of a Facility Manager, companies must have data-based technologies in place that enable a better understanding of the workforce and employee experience. Therefore, you must consider whether or not your organisation is equipped to support Facility Managers?
  • Rethinking FM capability development: Companies should consider tailored development programs specifically designed to help facility management professionals understand new roles and grow their capabilities to meet heightened business expectations. Rotational programs – in both directions, from facility management to the business and from the business into facility management – can be worthwhile parts of this process.

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