FM’s trust dividend
Recent research suggests that a client's confidence in its facilities services department and its FM service providers can generate an invaluable "feel-good" factor

by Martin Read — Senior personnel who feel good about their organisation’s FM performance do so in part because they believe they have better FM service relationships than other organisations in their field, according to the BIFM research report, FM And The Trust Dividend, published in July.

The report talks of a ‘feel-good’ factor deriving from the tight integration with, and analysis of, operational performance data.

The aim of this research was to identify the attitudes of client organisations towards their FM departments and service suppliers, looking at how such attitudes are influenced by the type and quality of data they work with. Results suggest that this flow of data from supplier to client, and its routine analysis, develops trust between the client and its own FM department, which leads to greater trust in the performance of any outsourced FM service supplier as well.

The wheels are oiled by the availability of real-time data, accessed and analysed regularly, to allow for early detection of impending operational pressure points that require consideration from client and supplier.

The confidence expressed by senior personnel in this report about how their facilities services are run corroborates what many within the sector have routinely espoused: that a commitment to establish and routinely measure FM’s value — what it brings to operational performance and productivity — leads to more trusting partnerships and improved service quality.

Value

For all the rhetoric surrounding its measurement, the ‘value’ of FM remains an elusive and much-debated commodity. Yet as much as this value needs to be determined in the client/supplier relationship, the way in which it is perceived by an organisation’s own employees is as much an indicator of that organisation’s awareness of the value of FM as its dialogue with outsourced service providers.

Just 15 per cent of those surveyed for this report indicated that FM in their organisation was valued ‘to a great extent’. An overwhelming majority cited the valuing of the function as either ‘fair’ or ‘slight’, and close to one in 10 said FM wasn’t valued at all. When asked about the extent of senior management support for their initiatives, a fifth of the respondents said they did not feel supported at all, and another third felt supported in such initiatives only to ‘a slight extent’.

Those organisations that claim their FM processes to be better than average also reported more support from senior management — though curiously, board-level respondents were more likely to believe they are good at supporting their FM staff than the staff believed to be the case.

And indeed, the gap between the importance of the FM service as seen by the client, and its successful operation, was widest when judged by members of the board (20 per cent of the survey sample). The priorities for FM departments analysed in this research suggests that, in general, issues related to service delivery and statutory compliance are understandably mission-critical while the reputation of the business, both internally and externally, was of far less importance (corporate social responsibility ranked particularly low down on the agenda).

But although achieving planned cost savings was more important to this report’s board-level respondents, so too was enhancement of the business’s reputation — two priorities that will be seen by some as pulling in opposite directions.

(The gap between the importance of the FM service and its perceived success was widest in three areas — quality, visibility and control, and account management.)

It is striking that senior personnel in organisations claiming to be better than average in their FM performance were also significantly more confident about meeting their compliance obligations — further evidence that client organisations can benefit from the ‘trust dividend’ developed through developing good FM policy. In this survey, board-level respondents were markedly less confident about their compliance obligations being met.

Innovation

FM And The Trust Dividend highlights the problem caused by the perception of innovation in FM service provision varying as much from client to client as it does from service provider to service provider; there’s a lack of consistency on both sides that makes measuring performance and the impact of innovation in service delivery even harder.

It says: “It is in conversations about these issues that the potential for conflict or miscommunication between client and service provider is most likely to take seed.”

So perhaps it should not be surprising that more than half of the senior personnel surveyed — when asked to what extent they felt their current FM suppliers delivered innovation and best value — ranked their service providers as six or less (out of 10).

In terms of FM cost drivers, respondents ranked more immediate cost drivers — for example, whether they felt they were paying prevailing market rates and the timely completion of tasks — far ahead of innovation. Indeed, best value was least likely to be achieved in account management and innovation.

Again, there is evidence of a demonstrable ‘trust dividend’. Organisations claiming to have FM departments that perform better than average also believed that their FM suppliers delivered better value. Board-level respondents, perhaps more distant from day-to-day service delivery, were less confident about their suppliers’ delivery of innovation and best value.

Researchers found no clear policy for encouraging innovation, or indeed defining it. Could it be established within the structure of commercial and/or contractual review meetings? One-to-one relationships with account managers? Competitive pressure? Or through challenging performance against key performance indicators? All these methods are used, but none more significantly than the others. With no standard measure emerging there is scope for miscommunication.

Conclusions

Given the costs involved and the mission-critical risks that must be managed, the survey emphasises how vital it is that organisations ensure that they have the data needed to make decisions about the FM department.

This research also shows a correlation between the amount and quality of performance data made available to clients from service providers and the trust those clients subsequently put in their FM departments and service providers’ ability to perform. It’s a theme we’ll return to in a feature in September.

The report: Researchers spoke to 151 senior people (board level or direct reports) from organisations spanning sectors as diverse as retail and FMCG, transport, telecoms and financial services.

The report, sponsored by cloudFM, can be downloaded here.
– See more at:http://www.fm-world.co.uk/features/feature-articles/fms-trust-dividend/#sthash.jCYeYIhT.dpuf

Launched in 2004, FM World aims to keep the profession – and others interested in facilities management – up to date with workplace and property issues, providing a forum for topical debate. The magazine, published every month in print and sent automatically to members of the British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM), is also available to others through an annual subscription.

FM World is home to the latest daily news about the FM sector, as well as analysis of research and legislation, mergers and acquisitions, FM contract wins, the latest financial results, event reports and opinion pieces. Visit the  British Institute of Facilities Management to find out more about BIFM.

Copyright for this article resides with Redactive Media Group, publishers of FM World, the official magazine of BIFM. Founded in 1993, BIFM provides information, education, training, and networking services for nearly 17,000 members comprising individual professionals and organizations.