Have you ever thought on how is the company culture being impacted by the facilities you sit in? And when you go about to build a new office what are the things you consider when designing the space? Would you do it yourself, hire external designer, ask the team, or you just don’t care and let the landlord build something that is good as long as it has a company logo all over the place? I have built offices in couple of countries and had teams working in temporary spaces that were very different from the ultimate space where they moved in.
After going through this several times there is one thing very obvious to me: the physical layout of the space has an incredibly huge impact on the culture and atmosphere within the organization. This also means that your “Facility Manager” (being it a real person with full-time job or just a virtual role) has enormous impact on what company and organizational culture you build.
Understanding of business and the desired culture
It may not be obvious but a great facility manager needs to have a good understanding of the business, who the customers are, and how the business model works. What are the critical interaction within the company? Which departments needs to work closely together and how they need to communicate to achieve their goals? How the interaction with customers looks like and what is the desired customer experience? Understanding how the products are build, financed, marketed, sold, and supported is important to understand how the layout of the office should look like, who should sit where, and what infrastructure and technologies needs to be built in to support it.
Knowledge of design and ergonomics
Once it comes to design of individual offices, meeting rooms and work stations another skills set comes to play. Good understanding of design, ergonomics and human behavior will help the facility manager to design a space that is conductive to effective work while having no negative impact on health of the employees. Even if you decide to outsource the design you still need to have your say. And keep in mind it is not that much about corporate design guidelines, for that you can just sent to your designer color codes and vector graphics of company logo. It is much more about designing space that will foster the necessary level of communication and collaboration, and that will send the right message to employees, as well as visitors and promotes the company values.
Partner, vendor, and project management
Good facility manager also knows how to represent the company towards partners, vendors, suppliers and can have a big impact on public relations and how is the company seen by external stakeholders. This means being a good sales person who can enthusiastically talk about the company and its values, who can find the right vendors and suppliers who will fit well with the company culture and are willing to adjust their services to comply with company’s needs.
Good facility manager also needs to have excellent project management skills, understand how to get things done in a collaborative manner, needs to be able to negotiate good deals, and be able to anticipate risks and mitigate them.
Creative thinking and collaboration
Good facility manager doesn’t do all by herself. It of course depends on actual culture you are trying to build but having the ability to involve other employees, make them enthusiastic about helping to build or maintain the facility can greatly improve the impact she can have on the organization. This often means some creative thinking and willingness to try new things and adopt ideas coming from other people. And it is especially important when the facility manager has a global role and needs to build offices across locations and cultures. What works in one country may not have the same impact in another one.
So next time you are hiring your facility manager take it seriously. It is not some obscure, invisible, bureaucratic role, but it is a role that can have an enormous impact on the culture in your organization and business success of your company.
How does your company decide on what the office space should look like? Do you have the same space across all locations or is every team doing something different? What is the impact this have on communication, collaboration, and culture of the company?
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