Heather Davis, PHR, SHRM – CP and John MacKay, CFM

Facilities Management | Human Resources | Leadership | Recruitment | Workplace Integration

To have another conversation about the benefits of open plan versus private office is missing the point. There are countless established advantages and disadvantages of both types of workspaces. For 2019, we need to change and elevate the conversation about our workplaces. Facility and HR professionals need to focus discussions on how to make strategic decisions together to strengthen the workplace experience for employees.

The following ideas are changes FM and HR leaders can put into immediate practice to develop collaborative behaviors and mindsets. We seek to inspire a new way for leaders to intentionally build intra-departmental relationships and influence how their teams can work together so their workforces can reach a higher potential in the workplace every day.

Idea 1: Build a Joint Agenda by Starting with Transparency

Recommendations: Most Facilities leaders understand the basic daily role of HR. Attraction, retention, benefits, compliance, and suddenly, eyes get hazy and glazed over. Most HR leaders understand Facilities is about space plans, layouts, furniture, fabrics and finishes, HVAC, IEQ and then snoring commences. To start aligning agendas, Facilities leaders should ask HR leaders to share their strategic plan for 2019. Then, ask for HR’s perspective on areas where they see future opportunities to collaborate in capacities to benefit employees. Make sure you are prepared to reciprocate and share your facilities and real estate plan too. Over coffee or lunch build your relationship by offering feedback to each other on the plans and determine where they converge through efforts that will uplift and benefit your workforce. Also determine how you can build a fully integrated HR and Facilities plan for the next fiscal year based on strategic organizational goals.

Idea 2: Develop an Integrated Facilities and HR Journey Map

Recommendations: Consider the employee, recruiting, and visitor lifecycles and map out all touchpoints where real estate and facilities have the potential to impact employees, prospective employees, and guests. As an example, consider the following types of spaces to begin your mapping:

  • Lobby/Reception areas – What message does the reception area send to visitors, recruits and employees? What should each constituency feel, think, and do when they enter and after? Is your brand well integrated? A recent study by Proxyclick indicates that we’re not delivering in our lobbies and reception areas.
  • Interview Rooms and Office Tour Paths – What message are you sending to employees? Does the quality of these spaces strengthen or hurt your employer value proposition? How integrated is your brand in your workplace? How does your culture show up in the attitudes, behaviors, and beliefs demonstrated in shared spaces and when observed?
  • Amenity Spaces – Whether your office has a rooftop with BBQs or a five-star gym that has capacity for yoga and meditation classes, what messages do these spaces send to employees on how your organization prioritizes wellness, work-life balance, staff engagement, and fun? Do your amenities complement the culture you’re grooming or work against it?
  • Conference Rooms – Determine what each unique audience (employees, clients, board members, prospective employees, etc.) should experience in your conference spaces. What should these spaces look and feel like? What call to action are you asking of them after they leave the meeting or event?

After you map the employee lifecycle and corresponding spaces, determine which spaces require immediate attention and make these your priority through budget allocation and resource designation. Note: these should align with your integrated Facilities and HR strategic plans.

Idea 3: Become a Force Multiplier by Amplifying Your Joint Agenda, Efforts, & Results

Recommendations: Demonstrate collaborative practices you want to see inside your Facilities and HR teams and then elevate the practice by talking about this approach across your organization. Get the message out to other leaders that you are leading and executing in this new unified way. Whether you present a joint agenda at Monday leadership meetings or update staff quarterly via town hall meetings, deconstruct the parts and pieces of your integrated Facilities and HR agenda. Not only will this create a cadence of new practices, it also has the potential to inspire other operational leaders in accounting, IT, marketing, etc. to adopt this kind of approach.

This soft internal PR has the potential to change the perception of Facilities (ticket takers) and HR (rules and tools) to organizational resources that create distinct business advantages. This won’t happen though unless you get the word out! Find your partner in FM/HR and do it together! And, if you need help with the marketing messages and vehicles, here is another great opportunity to partner with another department.

Idea 4: Expand Your Portfolio + Understanding of the Issues

Recommendations: As a Facilities expert, when was the last time that you attended an event on a topic that was completely unrelated to the built environment? As an HR professional, when was the last time you considered how your physical workspace impacts employees? Your portfolios of responsibility are interconnected, and you can no longer think and execute in silos. Here’s how to broaden your understanding of the issues:

  • Events – Facilities leaders, consider attending events hosted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). As an example, check out an event hosted by DC SHRM to become more familiar with HR issues. Likewise, HR professionals should consider attending an International Facility Manager Association (IFMA) event to do the same.
  • Publications – Expand your inspirational sources by checking these types publications where workplace and employee experience converge.

Idea 5: Initiate a Deeper, More Meaningful Conversation with Industry + Organizational Peers

RecommendationsTo achieve more long-term impact and results, this dialogue must be sustained; this isn’t a one and done effort. To advance this agenda and offset teleworking, we must change the caliber and quality of the conversations we are having with each other and with our colleagues who lead other departments.

Consider asking these types of questions to other Facilities leaders to learn from each other:

  • How do you currently collaborate with HR inside of your organization?
  • In what efforts would you like to start partnering with HR?
  • What are the biggest benefits you could bring to your organization if your Facilities and HR teams joined forces?
  • How could Facilities leaders potentially impact practices, policies, procedures inside of HR?

Consider asking these types of questions to your internal HR leaders to strengthen outcomes:

  • Do you understand the benefits for the workforce if HR and Facilities teamed up?
  • What currently prevents our agendas from aligning?
  • What benefits will our workforce experience from a joint Facilities and HR agenda?
  • How could our aligned agenda strengthen attraction, retention, brand and culture as well as the overall impact of Facilities/CRE on the organization’s goals & objectives?
  • How could we begin to build a stronger working relationship?
  • How could our integrated approach become an inclusive practice across our organization?

Collectively, these practices are intended to yield benefits that elevate your workforce, strengthen the impact of your workplace and build a more integrated approach to your employee experience. Prospective outcomes of this Facilities and HR collaboration have the potential to result in:

  • Stronger brand and culture demonstrated in the physical space
  • Consistent and clear employee experiences
  • Employee referrals for new hires
  • PR from clients and prospective clients after tours
  • Enhanced employee morale and pride in the physical office
  • Reduction of interest in teleworking
  • Space perceived as an employee benefit

One last thought:

If you are as interested in this topic and as passionate about it as we are, we would love to hear from you. In Q2, the Capital Chapter of IFMA will host an event on communications that integrate HR and Facilities. If your organization already demonstrates a strong collaboration and agenda between the two entities, please comment below to share more about your experience!