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Facilities Management: On the Brink of ‘Something Great’


Photo illustration showing business leaders talking over reports with building in background
Image: alphaspirit -
Among the workplace strategists we write for here on WorkSpace Connect, facilities/real estate managers perhaps have been the hardest hit during this year plus of pandemic — with offices shuttered, public venues off limits, and even outdoor spaces abandoned, many found themselves nary a place to manage. To a large extent, the facilities management (FM) profession, as represented by the International Facility Management Association, went into a “survival mode” during the pandemic, as IFMA Chair Peter Ankerstjerne noted during his kickoff “Reimagining FM” address for the organization’s recent Facility Fusion virtual conference.
But as restrictions begin easing around the globe, FM is back — and IFMA is ready to “redefine the profession and change the path forward,” said Ankerstjerne, who is also chief strategy officer for The Planon Group, a global provider of facilities and real estate systems.
During his Facility Fusion address, Ankerstjerne described the conference’s theme as being “work, workforce, and workplace: building the collaborative ecosystem in the workplace.” From IFMA’s perspective, FM must take on the mantle of facilitator, sitting at the intersection of all the myriad disciplines that are critical for workplace success. “We need to collaborate very closely with HR, corporate real estate, IT, and of course FM, to take a holistic view of this whole area that we are involved in and responsible for,” he said.
As the world begins emerging from the pandemic cocoon, facilities managers should embrace the unique opportunity of today to drive the strategic transformation of their organizations, Ankerstjerne said. They must be involved in crafting hybrid work plans and new ways of working, “involving the design, experience, digital health and wellbeing, and, of course, also sustainability aspects of how we interact with the people who work in our facilities and the guests who visit,” he added.
This, of course, is all music to my ears, given that we built WorkSpace Connect based on the very concept of bringing together facilities/real estate, HR, and IT for thought leadership on how to build a connected, collaborative workplace. It’s great to see IFMA taking up the cross-functional collaboration charge for a post-pandemic re-occupancy and beyond.
The pandemic, for all its devastation, did have the side effect of highlighting just how important FM is to any organization, as another speaker, Michael Gould, VP of construction and facilities management for TD Bank, N.A., pointed out during a Reimagining FM panel. In describing his view of the changing nature of FM over the past few years, Gould pointed out how the role “has migrated away from simply providing traditional FM services and becoming a crucial role, very critical at providing stewardship … across many functions,” as Ankerstjerne likewise had noted.
Fulfilling this sort of leadership requires FM to shift its traditional “real estate-out” perspective to “customer-in,” with building occupants driving FM decisions, Gould said. “You think first about who’s in the space, who’s in the building environment … that we’re looking after. … When you think about what the customer needs in their space, that changes your mindset. You step up and you do what FM has always done to get the job done,” even if that’s unlike anything ever before necessary, he added.
While clarity on FM’s role is important, goal clarity is an even greater imperative, with that goal being to help the occupants in the spaces as a leader, Gould said. “Historically, to sum it up,” he said, “if you didn’t notice FM, that … was how we used to define success.” But now, the position is greatly elevated, and FM is at the center of execution, strategy, and planning, he added.
With FM leaders such as Gould taking a seat at the table in strategic workplace decision making along with peers in functions such as HR and IT, it’s little wonder that Ankerstjerne closed out his opening address by saying that he has “a feeling this is the start of something great.”