The (not far) Away Day (part 5)

by Paul Carder on May 25, 2017

by @paulcarder

If you have been following the story so far, several managers are congregated in their corporate training facility, “to discuss what successful Workplace Management means to the Group Companies, who should lead it forward, and how”. It is the evening before the Away Day, and they have met variously in the bar, or passing through to their rooms. We have met Frankie (HR), Sam (FM), Jules (CRE), and Charlie (IT Strategy). As is often the case in large organisations, FM reports into CRE; Sam reports to Jules. But, nobody really knows how the plot is unfolding. Mostly because the HR Director, unusually, has called this Away Day, “so we actually talk to each other, and share information and experiences”. Why HR?

Frankie is meeting the HR Director, Rosh, in a nearby restaurant.

“I bumped into some colleagues from Real Estate in the bar” says Frankie, as they take their table. “There is some…well, intrigue, I guess you could say. They kinda think Workplace Management is their bag…wondering why HR is heading this Away Day”.

Rosh comes back quickly, with a slight air of excitement, “Yes, I’m sure there is! Intrigue, indeed. What do you think?” Rosh is a great mentor – teacher, even. To Frankie, it feels less a ‘manager-subordinate’ relationship than one of a post-grad and professor.

Frankie replies, “Well, I know that collaboration is the goal. Not just out there with our business partners and suppliers, but here, across the support functions. I know that the boss wants to get rid of ‘stove-pipes’, and to get all of the functions facing one direction…and I guess that means all fully aligned with each of the business units”.

Rosh smiles, looking up from the menu, “Yeah, pretty much. The new CEO wants us to give staff every tool they need to perform at their best achievable level. Think sports analogies. Firstly, we want people fit and well, in body and mind….as far as practicable, of course! So, ‘wellness’ will be mentioned a lot. Secondly, we will ensure that everyone in the organisation goes through a review of their skills, and is offered training, or sponsorship on courses where required. We do a lot of that anyway, but it will be pushed harder. And thirdly, the ‘places’ we want people to work from will support them fully”.  

“We have made a good start on the first two”, said Frankie, “but, what is our role, as HR, in ‘places’? That’s Corporate Real Estate, and FM. Are you saying….”

“Yes, I’m saying that will be part of my new remit” smiled Rosh, “We will all be on a steep learning curve.”

Frankie looked a little surprised, “I could ask a lot of questions…why? how?” she smiled. A confused smile.

“Don’t worry. We’re not actually going to be ‘doing’ the CRE stuff”, Rosh replied, “But, this is going to be an organizational transformation. It will not be comfortable, for many of the support functions. Selling it to staff in the right way is going to be critical. Hence, our experience of large change management projects will be what is needed right now.”

Frankie was not convinced, yet at least, “I get that…but how are we going to effectively lead a function like CRE, that we have little knowledge of?” 

“Ah, you under-estimate what you know!” replied Rosh, laying the menu down, “think about it. One of our key goals is employee attraction…and retention. We’re in a competitive market. Unemployment in our sector is virtually zero. Everyone is offering similar…good…salaries and benefits. What can we do to differentiate ourselves, as an employer of choice?”

Frankie grinned, “Well you’ve kinda given that away …its ‘Places’, obviously …but I still can’t quite see how?”

“OK”, Rosh continued, “well, the CEO’s view is that the ‘places’ we ask people to work from are one of the last areas of effective ’employee benefit’…if, as we think is true…people decide to join us…or stay with us…because the experience of working in our places is better than they would get elsewhere. And we should know, as we measure this. But we need to do more, to understand why, and how we can continuously improve. And that is what we manage, and how we brief and guide the Workplace Managers.”

“I get it…I like it” said Frankie, “it is more the strategy and targets that we lead from. We don’t do the technical stuff…CRE does that…but we make sure that what they do is fully aligned with our ‘people’ strategies”.

“Exactly. And you are now part of the new People & Place function”, Rosh smiled, “HR is no more. The CEO hates the term…People!!…we employ people!! ..not Human Resources.”

“What do you think of the menu?” Rosh asked.

Frankie wasn’t sure how to answer. The dinner menu? Or the menu for tomorrow’s Away Day. Dinner was going to go down far better, she thought.   

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Peter Prischl May 26, 2017 at 10:56 am

These characters are fantastic! The have made it through five episodes and heroically managed to avoid the terms MARKET/S (geographical m., product m.), CUSTOMERS, COMPETITORS, TECHNOLOGIES involved (real ones, used in development and manufacturing), PRODUCT/S, CORPORATE STRATEGIES, REFM (Real Estate & Facility Management) STRATEGIES DERIVED FROM THE CORPORATE STRATEGIES, REFM DATA available from their systems to base decision on, CREFM SWAT Analysis, …. everything used to initiate, lead and derive change as PROFESSIONAL MANAGERS would do.

They are just a bunch of corporate bureaucrats, every one of them, obviously all splashing about in the corporate backwater and deserving to remain there.

UNLESS, of course, one or several of them would look up from their drinks and say something like this:

“Colleagues, we must move on and use the current top level attention in a truly strategic management manner. Let us ditch tomorrow’s morning agenda (if there is one, which again noone has mentioned) and let us devote 25 minutes each for clarifying our –
– Markets – geographical, products, demographically (and any potential/real direct/indirect business influence of our facilities)
– Competitors – what corporate and REFM strategies do they follow, and are there opportunities to strategically overtake or counter them
– Customers – what influences do our places have on their purchase decisions
– Technologies used by us – how do we support them with our facilities
– Produts – same question
– Cost strucure and the REFM part of it
– People – what to they need in the way of workplaces to perform optimally under all the aspects already listed
– Supply chain – how is it structured today and where is it developing.

When we are through each of these vital elements of our future as a company, then our CREFM (Corporate Real Estate & Facility Management) Strategy should be easy to derive.

And then each of us, and each of our departments, should have more than enough to do, without energy wasted on infighting. Who is with me? Then we have a final round, and start thinking about tomorrow.”

IF that would happen, episode 6 could become the most fascinating one ….

Reply

Paul Carder May 26, 2017 at 1:37 pm

As always Peter, thank you for taking the time to feedback. You have set me a challenge! And I will try to achieve some of what you have talked about here.

There are a few points though, which may make more sense after reading my Linkedin post today: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/talking-listening-breaks-down-barriers-hr-cre-others-talk-paul-carder

This is “workplace fiction”, as I call it. It is a story, with characters. It is not a text book on “how to lead CRE & FM” (there are some good ones already – I used to use Haynes & Nunnington https://www.amazon.co.uk/Corporate-Real-Estate-Asset-Management/dp/0728205734).

I am also trying not to use male or female, and being non-specific about the type of corporation. It could be a business, or a large government org. Maybe even an international charity…we don’t know. It is just a large, complex organisation. BUT, we will get to discuss customers (both ‘internal’ – the business units, and ‘external’ – the customers of the organisation). Hence, I cannot say too much specifically about markets, competitors, etc.

On technology, Sam and Charlie have been discussing how their (internal) customers need to use technology. That will start to become a fascinating discussion, as they start to create the new HQ facilities.

On corporate strategies, I’d be interested in your view on Part 5 – did you not see how the ‘people strategy’ is fundamental here, and will guide all aspects of CRE, FM and IT…and later, other functional inputs? You mention “STRATEGIES DERIVED FROM THE CORPORATE STRATEGIES” – exactly what Rosh (HR Dir) and Frankie were discussing in Part 5?

You mention, “demographically (and any potential/real direct/indirect business influence of our facilities)” – is it not clear from the story that the competition for talent is critical to this story? And that translates into every part of the Workplace solution, which will be developed in further parts.

You mention “Customers – what influences do our places have on their purchase decisions” – yes, good point. We will come to that. The story has not introduced the characters from Marketing & Sales yet, and their Branding team. They will have a lot to say about the organisation’s “places”.

Lastly, this story is not about “REFM” (as you call it). We are interested in the inter-relationship between all the corporate support functions, and how they work better together – also, how they work to align themselves, as ONE support function, serving each of the operational business units.
Have a look at Figs 5 & 6 (pp.20-21) of Raising The Bar (2017) http://www.rics.org/raisingthebar and you will see where some of the ideas about these relationships come from.

Thanks again, and keep the comments coming! I hope you like part 6… kind regards, Paul

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