Taking Facilities Management from the basement to boardroom – is training always the answer?

Imagine, you go home this evening, go to bed and go to sleep. While you’re sleeping a ‘miracle’ happens. When you get to work, FM is now high on the agenda, you and your team have a real influence on the direction of the organisation.

Imagine that…

What would be the first signs that something has happened?

What would people be saying and doing?

What else?

Let me show you how to make that ‘miracle’ happen in reality.

Let’s go back to the early 1990s, the start of my journey. When I worked for London Underground, HR was called personnel and focused on employee welfare. IT was simply the chap who looked after the phones and knew something called DOS!

Somehow, over the last two decades, HR and IT have managed to raise their profile, and I believe that’s our current challenge in FM.

IT and HR didn’t just become experts in IT and HR; they also developed other specific skills. They moved from simply being support functions, to key players, to business drivers.

Our challenge is the same. In FM, as in any other business function, there are two skillsets we need.

First, transactional skills (task-based). You probably already send your FM people on courses about FM. These skills alone won’t move FM out of the basement (in a metaphorical sense). And another challenge with this type of training is that it’s a ‘sheep dip’ approach, one size fits all. Sometimes with transactional skills, this approach may work, as people can usually apply their new knowledge and skills at once, because it’s already part of their role.

I wonder how much of your L&D budget is spent on transactional skills? Clients we’ve asked recently have generally fallen into the 80/20 rule, where 80% of their investment goes on transactional skills development, with 20% or less on transformational. What do I mean by transformational?

Influencing skills, the ability to negotiate strongly, building relationships, coaching and mentoring, the effective use of social media, speaking the language of the business, and PR (public relations). Ah, PR! Maybe it’s a British thing (let me know if you’re outside the UK and you see this elsewhere too) – but we are rubbish at blowing our own trumpet. How often do you hear one of your team, who is told ‘thank you’, saying ‘it’s nothing’, or ‘no problem’?

Language is a vital part of influencing, and if we hear ‘it’s nothing’ enough times, eventually it will become ‘nothing’ and of no value.

‘Yes but Liz we already have an in-house management development programme.’ Fabulous! But beware the…sheep dip approach.

Where transformational skills are concerned, one size rarely fits all.

I believe there’s a danger in trying to ‘fix’ people and close skills gaps. For example, at appraisal time, we tend to focus on what someone’s weaknesses are, and pay scant attention to their strengths.

Let me give you a personal example.

I hate ironing – there, I’ve said it. It used to ruin my Sunday afternoons, I’d feel stressed and not terribly good at it anyway. If you’d been my manager you might have sent me on a course, ‘ironing for wives’ perhaps. I’d have done everything I could not to attend, and even if I had I probably wouldn’t have engaged or learned much! In true facilities management style, I now outsource the ironing. Let me spend my time doing what I’m good at, and what I love (funny how these are the same!)

What’s your version of the ironing? What do you have to do at work that you don’t enjoy and aren’t very good at? How could you ‘outsource’ that, maybe to someone in your team?

Now, let’s look at how we embed the transformational skills in practice, and move from basement to boardroom.

First you have to align your team to the organisation. I was recently with a new client and when I asked her what her company’s medium term strategy was, I was met with a blank look. Another group of FMs I’ve been working with didn’t even recognise their own organisation’s mission statement. How can you align your team to the organisation if you don’t know where the organisation is going? Your team needs clarity and buy-in, so they know exactly how they contribute to the business.

Next, we use a variety of tools, including 360° feedback, to highlight people’s strengths. Other people’s perception is key, and this helps us when we look at PR and raising the profile of the FM function.

Then we help people develop skills and build on their strengths. It could be formal training, and often also involves mentoring, site visits, attending specific events and so on.

We’ve created momentum and the last phase, one to one coaching, is what transfers the learning directly into the workplace, and makes it stick. This is what will give you a return on your investment (ROI).

In three to six months you’ll see a real difference in the perception of your team and they will be having a greater impact on the direction of the organisation.

Of course it needs investment from you, in both time and money. If you do nothing else, you should bring in a professional coach to spend one day with your team – facilitating a team alignment workshop – to kick things off.

So, back to my original question – basement to boardroom, is training always the answer?

No, training alone won’t do it. But focus on building transformational skills in your teams and give them support to make it stick, and you’ll see results – fast.

Contact us today to discuss what will be the right approach for you and your team.

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