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Perception of Facilities Management is changing from “glorified custodian” to strategic business partner
In a cosmopolitan business hub like Hong Kong, the way we work is changing, and at an ever faster rate. With this evolution has come growing demand for employee-centric workplaces and well-managed facilities that promote employee wellness, reduce turnover, and boost productivity as well as a brand's bottom line.
Facilities Management (FM) professionals are casting away outdated perceptions that they are "glorified custodians" merely responsible for cleaning and security, and are changing the conversation in the C-Suite to advance their strategic value to companies.
A recent white paper, 'Redefining the Executive View of Facility Management' released by JLL in conjunction with the International Facility Management Association (IFMA), shows that "an emerging emphasis on facilities as brand extensions has similarly tied the FM function to the larger scope of core business activities."
"We have been able to demonstrate that as a dedicated facilities management provider we are able to bring best practices and value to the table that companies may not be able to generate internally," says Annie Wang, Regional Director with JLL's Integrated Facilities Management team.
Rapid advances in technology, data and analytics give Facility Managers tools to prove their strategic value in an increasingly data-driven business environment. Furthermore, with companies putting ever greater emphasis on increasing productivity, as well as attracting and retaining top talent, it is crucial for facilities managers to be able to measure and demonstrate their facilities' role in employee experience.
"Maintaining or replacing a facility's air conditioning or ventilation system might seem like an additional cost to executives," explains Wang. "But if that system reduces sick days or makes the facility a more pleasant place for people to work, then we should encourage them to consider the net savings and the increase in workers' productiveness. There are lots of examples like that where FM can make a difference."
In addition to their technical and business skills, Facility Managers also need to develop their soft skills, such as effective relationship management, communication, collaboration and problem-solving. Armed with these qualities they can align a company's commercial real estate (CRE) function with its core business model.
"Clients should focus their efforts on their core business, but we can keep their facilities in operational mode to support that key business, whether the facilities are banks, trading floors or factories," adds Wang.
JLL's clients include multi-nationals such as HSBC, Hang Seng Bank and Cathay Pacific, as well as data and logistics centres, and educational establishments like Hong Kong University and Harrow International School's Hong Kong campus.
"We have clients where we service their entire regional real estate portfolio; where the client has just one member of staff managing the contract and the thousands of employees working on site are provided by JLL," explains Wang. "We also signed up CLP Power in April, so in a way we are responsible for power supply to more than 80 per cent of Hong Kong."
On the mainland, client demands differ – with around 50 per cent of facilities management deals originating in the manufacturing sector.
"In China everything is licenses and qualifications, so JLL as a firm now has the highest qualification in terms of Property and Facility Management provision. It's a Grade A certification, and with this license we're able to service our clients anywhere in China," details Wang, explaining that JLL has tailored its working practices to align with the mainland market.
In addition to traditional facilities management service offerings, Wang has witnessed increasing demand for JLL consultancy to improve the management of existing facilities. The company has been hired by large organisations such as the Hong Kong Science Park and the Hong Kong Jockey Club in this capacity.
However, there is still much work to be done to promote the status of Facility Managers.
"That requires us, as FM professionals, to keep pushing ourselves to be recognised as a high-value service. But it really comes down to awareness of the importance of FM," concludes Wang, admitting the industry needs new blood from technologically minded millennials to meet the needs of an evolving business environment.Cost reduction, risk management, and ensuring that operations and maintenance are run efficiently remain at the heart of facilities management. Yet Facility Managers who fail to embrace their new strategic role, as well as to build their team's skill set, risk being left behind.
Learn more about our Integrated Facilities Management services here, or contact Annie Wang.
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