29 (124) 2017
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HR & Professional Qualifications

FM sector redefines role as office shifts to workplace

by Marianne Korteweg , managing editor, PropertyEU
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The growing importance of workplace management to drive business performance has turned the spotlight on the role of facilities managers.

The days when facilities management (FM) in corporate buildings was viewed as ‘a cleaner with a spanner’ are well and truly over. Growing urbanisation across the globe and an increased focus on the environment are driving the need for smart cities and smart buildings that can house workers sustainably over a long period of time. Increasingly, offices are becoming workplaces – extending beyond physical spaces to service experiences that cater to the needs of ever-more discerning customers: the workforce. The growing emphasis on contented and productive staff means that workplace demands in terms of facilities – from restaurant catering to dry-cleaning, gyms, travel, childcare and a host of other services – are increasing.

This shift from office to workplace also has implications for the organisations which own and occupy the buildings. Rather than view FM as a necessary evil weighing down on their balance sheets, they can use it as a tool to add value to their business performance. “In a competitive, global business environment, it is increasingly recognised that facilities management has a strategic role to play in the experience of the end-user of buildings and facilities, and ultimately the success of the organisations operating from them,” says Paul Bagust, RICS UK commercial property director.

But to achieve that, the role of the FM manager needs to be redefined, he says. “We need to reposition facilities management as a profession, its perception needs to change.” The term ‘FM’ can be an “unhelpful label”, says Mr Bagust, as it is perceived as focusing on the physical environment alone. This detracts from its impact on the most important organisational resource: the people who use those workspaces to produce value for the business. To this end, RICS launched a strategy paper at the MIPIM property show entitled Raising the Bar with recommendations on how the status of facilities managers can be raised so that they gain a bigger voice in corporate boardrooms. Recommendations are aimed at FM leaders in occupier organisations and senior executives in service-provider firms.


Worldwide, the FM sector is currently valued at over $1.1 trillion (€1 trillion) worldwide. However, heads of FM rarely get a seat at the strategy table, even though many have developed an understanding of how FM can operate as a strategic resource: how it impacts key areas of business performance such as talent attraction and retention, employee engagement, workforce productivity and even overall organisational effectiveness. “Despite growing recognition that workplace design and management are becoming both more complex and more central to business strategy, FM does not receive the recognition of some other corporate functions,” the report says.

The Raising the Bar paper distinguishes between two types of FM managers: the operations managers who make the buildings work, and the workplace managers who ensure that those facilities serve the needs of the workforce. “We also think of them as two halves of a fully functioning ‘FM brain’. We need excellence in both the ‘left’ brain/operations management and the ‘right’ brain/workplace management roles if FM is to realise its full potential,” the report says.
The recommendations are based on over five years of research supported by over 2,500 workplace and FM professionals worldwide. Last year, the scope of the research was broadened considerably after RICS announced a partnership with industry organisation IFMA.

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