The management of office facilities has been undergoing a revolution of sorts, thanks to disruptors such as the private social network Nextdoor and co-working spaces WeWork and Workspace2go, as well as a slew of new practices.
Nowadays office space is being optimized in terms of square meters and usage per hour. According to a report on Coworking by Arthur Loyd in July, the number of coworking spaces was expected to grow eightfold worldwide to some 14,000 in 2017 from 1,780 in 2015. It added that, in Paris alone, coworking floorspace was expected to increase by 167 percent to an estimated 155,200 square meters in 2017 from 58,200 square meters in 2015.
Recent studies by Adam Grant and other researchers show we’re more productive and generally happier when we have some say in terms of our work environment. So what can hoteliers learn from these developments in the real estate sector, especially the growing market in fully-equipped and yet flexible forms of office space? Also, can hoteliers contribute to the development of facilities management (FM) generally? In our view, the answer to both questions is a resounding yes.
‘Super challenges’ in facilities management
A report by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and the International Facility Management Association (IFMA) last year entitled ‘Raising the Bar’ highlighted trends and developments in facilities management. It stated that FM is currently at a ‘tipping point’ and advocated a more strategic role for FM, shifting it away from a purely operational function. If the bar could be raised, the report said, it would lead to a ‘more widespread understanding’ of the profession.
It explored two FM roles: the ‘facility professionals’ who make the buildings work; and the ‘workplace professionals’ who focus more on ensuring that the facilities service the needs of both the business and workforce. While both functions are seen as critical to business success, the challenge – as in many other industries – is to build recognition and understanding among the firm’s top management and business leaders generally.
Based on a global survey which garnered some 1,013 completed responses, the report outlined six strategic ‘super challenges’ facing FM:
- Budgeting and cost management (16%)
- Organizational factors (12%)
- HR & talent management (11%)
- Workplace and space management (9%)
- Asset management / aging assets (8%)
- Technology (4%)
As services are increasingly bundled and outsourced, the report stated that one of the major challenges for the FM profession is to recognise that, in addition to service delivery, broader business and ‘soft’ skills in communication and collaboration are becoming critical.
In short, FM needs to become a more strategic role than a back-office function. However, the report also highlights a shortage of skilled FM talent, as identified by both survey respondents and more than two dozen executives interviewed directly for the report.
Given that, on average, IFMA members are about 51 years old and that less than 15% of RICS FM professional members are under the age of 40, the report finds that the profession ‘desperately needs an influx of new talent’ to deliver a more strategic form of FM.
How could the hospitality industry play a role in the development of FM
So where will this new talent come from?
We argue that the hospitality sector – and schools like Ecole hôteliere de Lausanne – can play a major role here.
We believe there are many parallels between the FM profession and hospitality sector which would allow talent to cross-over from one to the other and for each sector to learn from the other.
For decades, hoteliers have sought to provide the best possible services to guests to ensure they become repeat customers. EHL and other hospitality schools are supplying the industry with tens of thousands of fresh graduates each year, who have the necessary business and hospitality skills.
Hotel general managers are trained to interact with a wide range of employees from housekeeping to the guest relations. They represent their hotels within a locality to a range of stakeholders, whether they be staff, suppliers, local authorities, investors, or customers. They are also trained to understand the different needs of the various segments of the population, from the more mature through to young ‘digital natives’.
If we then make the comparison with facilities management, FM handles different types of work environments ranging from start-ups to more established public service offices or private businesses. The workforce in these office spaces too will have their specific needs.
Hoteliers can anticipate the needs of individual guests from the client history information they have on file, as well as through data analysis. Similarly, facilities managers can also anticipate the needs of office workers. Imagine, for example, an employee coming from New York to work on an assignment in Paris and finding his preferred seat is available to help alleviate his back problems.
Hoteliers are trained to manage the staff and environment to optimize guest satisfaction. The new facilities manager is also required nowadays to manage not just the office building but also the other FM staff who will be aiming to keep the firms employees happy.
In our view, the hospitality sector is a good source of recruitment for the FM profession as it looks to narrow its talent gap. The hotel industry tends to train staff but has some difficulty in retaining employees due to irregular schedules and weekend shifts.
In our next article, we will examine in greater depth how FM and the hospitality industry can learn from each other.
The RICS and IFMA report on ‘Raising the Bar: From Operational Excellence to Strategic Impact in FM’ was published in March 2017. The full report can be accessed here and you can access the executive summary here.