HRD's pocket guide to... facilities management

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This pocket guide lays out the crossover between HR and facilities management

Why do I need to know about it?

HR and facilities management (FM) have shared a central goal in the 21st century: to be taken seriously as strategic functions. And the success or failure of both depends very much on the strength of the symbiotic relationships that exist between the two.

Much has been made of the need for man and machine to exist in harmony. And this is where the crossover between HR and FM is most valuable. People and property are the two biggest expenses in any business structure, so it seems obvious that for it to succeed the functions in charge of them must work well together.

“There needs to be an appreciation on both sides that they’re attempting to get the same result, which is the best return for the organisation on its assets,” CIPD head of London David D’Souza explains. “So whether it’s real estate or people, the end goal is the same. For that reason it makes sense to work collaboratively rather than in competition with one another.”

The common goals are also obvious when we look at the everyday roles of both functions, according to D’Souza.

“The role of HR is to enhance performance across every department,” he continues. “And part of that is very much linked to the working environment. So if an HRD is going to take a truly holistic approach FM absolutely needs to be part of that.”

What do I need to know?

When people say FM teams are responsible for maintaining the workplace environment they don’t always appreciate the breadth of that responsibility, according to FM Guru consultancy founder Martin Pickard.

“It’s everything from the quality of the food to clean air and a huge number of health and safety issues,” he says. “And this all comes back to the wellbeing piece so key for HR.”

But not every employer is completely sold on FM’s role as a champion of employee wellbeing, Pickard warns.

“There are some organisations where that balance between people and equipment is a little different and the focus is more on the technology than the staff,” he says. “In that case the FM teams end up working closer with the IT operations side. But it’s always worked much better when that people focus has been there.”

So for any HRD, promoting FM is important both to support a sister function and improve wellbeing.

And FM’s role does not begin and end at the front door of the office. It is also responsible for providing the means for employees to work flexibly, which is a boon for both staff attraction and retention.

Where can HR add value?

The flexible working piece is one area HR can work with FM particularly effectively, says Guy Pink, HRD and interim CEO at charity Addaction.

“Recently we had a request for two of our staff to be based in Barcelona,” he says. “And because the systems are in place and we trust them, we were able to do it.”

Chris Balmforth, MD at outsourced FM provider SSiFM, sees HR’s position as a key ally to FM as critical for both to succeed.

“FM doesn’t celebrate itself, so even though some projects cost a lot of cash, getting those budgets approved can be difficult. Often our people are asked to do work under budget and with very little time. HR communicating to the leadership why these projects are important, for the buildings and the people, can really help relieve the pressure.”

Anything else?

As well as being good for the function, having at least a passing knowledge of FM matters can be good for an HRD’s own ambitions. Guy Pink has been a HRD for around 30 years. And when the role of interim CEO became available at his charity he believes his work with FM worked very much in his favour.

“At my last charity I sort of fell into taking over responsibility for insurance, which then morphed into health and safety and property,” he says. “I ended up leading a big refurbishment project. And when it came to applying for my current role I think that really helped. They wanted someone who had experience in all of those areas, and FM covers a lot of that.”

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