Newly hired

Tips to succeed in facility management
Sunday, April 1, 2012
By Douglas Converse

Facility management is very complex. Here are 12 tips to help every facility manager get started in their new role.

1. Become familiar with the lease.
Whether overseeing a downtown office or suburban warehouse, a funky converted loft or campus-style building cluster, it is important to understand whether the workspace is owned or leased (or perhaps even subleased.)

If the workspace is leased, review the lease for start and end dates. Knowing the lease timeline will provide a timeframe for every other task in a facility manager’s role. Note the key points such as lease rates, cancellation dates and options for renewal. Benchmark this information against current commercial real estate market conditions.

2. Review as-built drawings of the work environment.
Confirm the drawings are complete and up-to-date. Verify dates of original construction and any changes made since that time. If questions arise, speak with the architect or design firm that prepared the drawings and oversaw all the build-out work.

3. Review the building systems.
Become familiar with the HVAC, electrical, life safety and security systems. Review the maintenance records. Determine how maintenance is performed and decide which approach best suits the facility and corporate culture: planned maintenance programs with specific scheduled dates and activities or work performed on a break-fix basis.

If the space is tenanted, discuss the frequency of maintenance activities with the building operations representative. Ask if an indoor air quality (IAQ) test has been performed recently. If so, request a summary of the results.

4. Review the budget.
Determine the scope and dollar value of the facility’s annual operating budget and note where expenses currently stand. Ask the finance department when the budget is set and how frequently it is reviewed.

5. Review the facility for cleanliness, safety and functionality.
If new to the workspace, look at the age, functionality and performance of furniture and equipment and even the decor. Note any possible violations of building or fire codes, security lapses, health and safety hazards or accessibility issues. Address serious problems right away. Note other items that should be changed later.

6. Review all service contracts.
Review contracts for start and end dates. Meet with the current roster of contracted workers to review their scope of work. Inspect the workplace to get a sense of their efficiency. Consider whether they satisfactorily provide the service for which the company pays. Assess whether the services are correctly gauged to the facility.

If managing a tenanted space where services are contracted by a landlord, ask to accompany building operations staff on walk-through inspections with contracted cleaners, security staff or life safety systems technicians. Contracted cleaners, for example, should follow a prescribed scope of work. Request a copy of the standards from the building landlord and review it to understand the frequency of tasks.

7. Assess furniture and equipment.
Whether using stand-alone case goods, modular workstations or a combination of the two, determine the age of the furniture. A quick walk around will show if there is one type of modular system throughout the office or a combination of different systems. Make a judgement whether the furniture and layout effectively promote the type of work performed and reflect the corporate culture.

If responsible for other technology or equipment such as multi-function printers and copiers, review the age and performance of that equipment. If the equipment is leased, find out when the lease is due. Sketch out a matrix for the year ahead so priority dates are evident. This will guard against getting caught in an automatic renewal of a bad contract.

8. Examine how space planning is carried out in the workplace.
Review the overall seating plan and seat vacancies. Determine the annual churn rate – the number of staff moves the team performs each year. If someone on staff uses a CAFM system, review the level of detail and accuracy of the information in the system. Ask human resources to provide a company headcount. Review how staff numbers have changed over the past five years. Calculate if the company is growing or decreasing in size. These numbers may indicate if occupancy challenges will be a problem sooner rather than later.

9. Meet coworkers.
Talk with fellow managers to understand the challenges they face with regard to the facility. Understanding how the core work is accomplished provides a framework for many facility management activities. Meet with managers who oversee support functions such as IT, human resources, finance, health and safety, security, records management and business continuity – the function of facilities management touches all these areas.

10. Understand the life safety side of the organization.
Good operation of a facility impacts the health of co-workers. Delve into the current state of business continuity and disaster readiness of the company. Get copies of key members’ afterhours contact info. Determine what the chain of communication is during a facility disaster. Ask if staff have special evacuation needs during an emergency.

11. Assess staff.
Determine if a sufficient number of people are adequately knowledgeable and trained to correctly perform the duties the department should perform. Assess whether the team has the correct tools to perform their duties.

12. Be visible.
A very important aspect of being successful is to make sure all key players know the facility manager. Enact the most important changes right away.

Douglas Converse is an independent facility management and business continuity consultant. He can be reached at

3 thoughts on “Newly hired

  1. I’m glad you suggested if facility staff use a CAFM system to review the level of detail and accuracy of the information in the system. I recently got a new job at a new facility and am getting used to all the new features of the facility. Thank you for the tips on succeeding in facility management.

  2. Thank you for this article about working in facility management. You mentioned it’s important to try to look at the performance of the furniture or the equipment to see if there are any health or safety hazards. It seems really important to also understand what good, functional furniture equipment is supposed to be like so you have an idea of what’s acceptable in the workplace.

  3. As per new records by Deloitte, 71% of companies terminating outsourced contracts cite poor service as the main reason for changing supplier.

    As we all know digitization is ever-increasing, even more, and better facility management opportunities are likely to be unlocked imminently. So facilities managers need to embrace technology and to improve operations and change how they work!

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