March 5, 2014
According to recent reports on workplace, facilities management and corporate real estate, the support services sector needs to change. Some even say it needs to innovate or die. That might be a little harsh, but the current model that the majority of FM service providers work to and that their clients take for granted is tired and has not kept pace with the evolving business environment. Zurich Insurance’s report of late 2012 into CRE & FM said the sector was at a cross roads; in 2013 Jones Lang LaSalle said something similar and picked out five global trends to which CRE and FM had to respond. IFMA & CBRE have taken a similar line, but are more specific – namely FM had to embrace its softer side, focus on people skills and develop them to ensure success.
This comes as a relief, because whilst the arguments by JLL that the support services need to make a step change to ensure it meets customer expectations and is properly valued makes sense, that change won’t happen unless the people involved are on side. Because, taking support services forward are not just about the learning and development of people from an HR perspective. It is all about how those individuals operate within a business environment – it is just as equally about culture and behaviours as it is about equipping people with the right professional skills.
During the tender process for the majority of FM service contracts customers take it as a given that a supplier has the prerequisite technical and professional skills. What they need to be reassured about is the quality of the service – how it is provided, what the people are like on the ground. Will the supplier’s team relate to the customer? Will they go the extra mile – or is that just talk? Do they possess the world class customer service commitment needed to hit the ground running on a difficult contract?
It doesn’t happen overnight – but with a positive, engaging and self motivational business culture a supplier can quickly establish a rapport with a customer that grows into a mutually beneficial business relationship. The interface we have with the employees of our customers is very important because it directly impacts on the culture and the environment in which they operate.
But we cannot do that effectively unless our own teams enjoy a dynamic, positive and open relationship that encourages a flow of ideas and fosters initiatives that allows our people to go beyond the contractual terms of service without a second thought. That’s a principle we apply at VINCI Facilities and we’ve seen it help transform some difficult projects into examples of best practice – hence why we showcased our work with University Hospital Coventry and Warwick at WP14.
This is the future of CRE & FM and it’s happening right now – not just in the pages of an IFMA report. What’s more this approach galvanises everyone up and down the supply chain. As a service provider we want to work with intelligent clients and they need suppliers like us to – as the Zurich report says – undertake disruptive innovation to meet the disruptive challenges faced by CRE & FM. That’s what we are trying to do, but in partnership with our customers. It is what will allow FMs to make the necessary step change away from being short term and obsessed with costs to focussing on long term value driven solutions.
Most importantly it will allow us to do what Zurich, JLL and IFMA are looking for – to lead on workplace transformation, take control of support services and demonstrate clear strategic value to estates and property directors.
Demitri Maldonado is client development director for VINCI Facilities, who he has worked for since 2010. He has an economics degree from University of California and has been involved in the workplace, FM and corporate real estate sector for over twenty years. He worked for organisations such as Alfred McAlpine, Rentokil Initial and Connaught before joining VINCI Facilities.