C-suite

Trading screwdrivers for strategic partnerships

How facilities managers can make their voices heard in the C-suite
Thursday, March 22, 2018
By Marcia O'Connor

The C-suite — a term used to refer to the corporate management team — is where the decision-making gets done. These leaders are not expected to be immersed in the day-to-day issues or see the full value of ‘facilities’ as a strategic partner.

But the role of the facilities manager is taking on increasing importance as companies invest in core buildings and international expansion, creating more corporate assets and properties to manage. The largest expenses of any company are its properties and people, and facility management’s priority is the comfort and safety of its customers and building occupants.

It is the facilities manager’s job to get the C-suite to understand that the facilities department is a valuable contributor to the sustainability and growth of the company. Corporate support is imperative to ensure that facilities are kept safe and in good condition as companies confront current and anticipated demands.

It’s important for facilities managers to proactively align with their company’s corporate direction. Here are several key strategies that may help facilities managers break through the glass ceiling and be treated as part of the corporate team:

Know the strategic plan

Get a hold of the company’s strategic plans and find out what leaders are talking about in the boardroom. With this information in hand, it’s possible for facility managers to help advance the vision, mission, and priorities of the company.

A common priority in strategic plans is enhancing the customer experience. To that end, facilities managers might, for example, suggest pursuing the WELL Building Standard to promote the health and wellness of building occupants.

Think like business leaders

The leaders who occupy the C-suite are business-minded professionals, so it’s important for facilities managers to put away the ‘screwdriver’ and take a management-oriented approach to their roles and responsibilities. Develop business strategies that will show the value of facilities management in the decision-making process in making the company more effective and efficient.

Facility managers know their facilities and recognize when there are issues requiring repair or replacement. Asking for funding for a roof replacement because it’s needed, for example, is no longer enough for the C-suite to approve resources. These requests need to be supported by evidence and rationales demonstrating the importance and priority of the repair or replacement.

Demonstrate FM’s value

The role and responsibility of a facilities manager is changing constantly. Know the business of facilities management and be prepared for opportunities to demonstrate FM’s value to the company.

Talking about the future of the business shows the ability to think and act strategically and helps the C-suite see the key role played by facilities managers. For example, companies want to be identified as 5-star employers in today’s marketplace, so facilities managers need to be current on demographic trends and workplace design.

Use data to back up operations

Have the tools and technology in place needed to support facilities management operations. It’s imperative to have the quality data and evidence to support the business of facilities management.

For example, with requests reaching the facilities department in a variety of ways — email, phone, in-person — it can be challenging to quantify and prioritize the work load. Channeling requests through one system makes it possible to assess requests by type, frequency and priority, so the facilities team may want to use a work request tool to keep up with this demand.

Show the bottom-line impact

There is a growing demand to provide an ever-more satisfying workplace environment for employees and clients. Show the C-suite how that better workplace environment can improve the bottom line, offering higher employee productivity, lower staff turnover and increased client-satisfaction.

Promote the FM department

Unless the FM department is promoted, no one will know that it does more than maintenance. Educate the C-suite about facilities management and how it can contribute to strategic decision making.

Start by developing a facility management plan that aligns with the company’s strategic plan and demonstrates how FM can advance the corporate priorities. Keep the plan succinct and focused on the strategy versus day-to-day operational details.

Facilities management needs to have a voice in the C-suite. As business evolves, company leaders will require strategic facilities managers who are able to look to the future and contribute to profitability and productivity. Once facilities management can deliver operational integrity, strong business models, strategic value, proof of the willingness to boost the bottom-line, the team will become an integral part of the company’s planning and gain the respect of the C-suite.

Marcia O’Connor is president of AM FM Consulting Group. She is also lead consultant and instructor for the University of Toronto’s FM certificate program.

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