Magenta recently sat down with seasoned FM industry figure Mike Green to talk about his involvement in a new maintenance association for London, what makes a great facilities manager and why the recent discourse around the term “workplace” might be missing something important.
Magenta: You’ve worked for a number of different FM organisations over the years and you’ve been heavily involved in many of the sector’s networking groups. Could you tell us what you’re up to at the moment?
MG: Currently I am working independently with four clients: a major M&E hard service provider, a niche FM provider, a fit-out contractor and a well-known online publication. Besides that, I was elected chair of the Central London Maintenance Association (CLMA) and my networking business is about to embark on a new chapter in its 15-year life with a new business partner for which there will be an announcement in the New Year.
Magenta: What plans do you have for the Central London Maintenance Association?
MG: I was elected chair by the previous chair and committee and agreed that I could completely revamp the CLMA. We have a new committee (Mike Packham – vice chair, Demitri Maldonado – secretary, Sheldon Mann – treasurer, Jo Harris – membership secretary, Fiona Bowman and Trevor Chaplin). We have decided on a new direction; our business plan has just been approved with a new name and design of the new brand and website is underway. We fully expect to announce a relaunch by the end of January 2019.
Magenta: What does great facilities management mean to you?
MG: There is a lot of commentary in publications and at awards ceremonies about what great FM is. It is easy to get sucked into believing what great FM is or looks like, but we must remember that a lot of what we hear about is carried out on behalf of clients with bottomless pockets, which is rarely the case for most facilities managers.
Great FM is a difficult activity to be succinct about. I am always impressed when I see what FM’s can do under pressure, whether it is financial constraints or operational constraints. A certain breed of FM always comes through, which is why great FM is not always glossy. This is why leadership plays such a huge role in a successful FM team or company. I hope that’s one skill gap we can close.
Magenta: There is a concerted effort in the industry at the moment to embrace ‘workplace’ and frame what the industry is doing around the employee experience. Is anything important missing from the conversation?
MG: Yes, absolutely. I alluded to this in your previous question. We seem to have become entranced by this “issue” of the workplace and the employee experience. FM’s don’t just manage offices. At the recent BESA Conference it was pointed out that FM’s look after buildings and often it’s the buildings that are critical – a point in case is Grenfell Tower!
I come back to my previous comment about leadership and add in ownership. Facilities managers are guardians of people’s welfare and wellbeing. Whether you are at work, at home, in the shops, or in a leisure centre, the FM should make that environment fit for purpose. It might be the desire to get boardroom recognition from which this expression has evolved to raise the profile of FM. For me it’s a misnomer.
Facilities managers are guardians of people’s welfare and wellbeing. Whether you are at work, at home, in the shops, or in a leisure centre, the FM should make that environment fit for purpose.
Magenta: How then do we get service providers and clients to switch the view of FM from a commodity to strategic value-add business function?
MG: It has been my wish for years that a provider gets the chance to provide a set of their own SLAs when engaging with a new client. These would be to demonstrate the benefits whether tangible (cost savings) or non-tangible (employee welfare, etc.). These sometimes appear on ledgers and profit centres outside the FM budget or remit, so they would not normally be attributed to the FM function itself.
The purpose would be to demonstrate invisible benefits not originally specified by the client, rather than reporting straightforward compliance with client prescribed SLAs.
Where these additional benefits start to remove cost or add profit to the client’s business bottom line – such as improved work output, reduction in sick days, reduced staff attrition, etc. – the FM function immediately becomes a strategic value-add business function.
It will take something like this to change the procurement habits of most clients. Hopefully, if a few do and it gets good press then others might follow. We can but try.