NOW, NEXT, LATER
FM providers are often challenged to demonstrate innovation within contracts, and the customer satisfaction survey illustrates the importance of demonstrating innovation in governance and resources, which in practice means taking resources and reengineering them to respond to changing requirements. For example, within the health sector this may mean continuing to give people the training and front-line development they need to cope with the latest infection control demands, while in the corporate office realm it might be more about how offices can be returned to safe occupation.
The survey also found priorities were changing across most sectors, with 63 per cent stating customer and workplace experience are now more important than pre-COVID-19.
“That is a very interesting stat”, says Shorthose, “and is backed up by latest Leesman data which showed that over a third of home workers (35 per cent) feel disconnected to their organisation when working from home.
“Psychological contract fulfilment describes how people feel about the organisation and their role is created around purpose, process, payoff and people. Without an understanding of how connected a person feels when working from home to their organisation it’s difficult to determine if they share a sense of purpose. In the same way a lot of processes are based on a lot of people being in an office together, and when you look at that application of process, is it set up for people working remotely?”
Within corporate real estate, he explains: “Customers are looking at how they’ll repurpose their buildings and how their operating model will look in the future. We’ve a workplace methodology and we’re repurposing that slightly using our in-house diagnostic tools and asking people how the physical environment supported them pre-COVID. I believe if we don’t know how the physical environment supported people before the pandemic hit, you can’t do it post-COVID.
“The corporate sector are exploring the hybrid models and factoring in how they will maintain wellbeing, connectivity etc, but they first need to know how the physical environment impacted people previously. They need to review how it supported those people, how they used that space and helped them do their job, and equally, how that space influenced how they felt about their employer and their role. If you don’t know the answer to those things before you introduce the hybrid model, how do you know what to replicate?”
“The most apt phrase I use for this process is; Now, Next, Later. ‘Now’ is expertise and advice in the moment, ‘Next’ is about best practice, and what people are doing to accelerate the return to work and ‘Later’ is the thought leadership piece, how do we help you identify what that is and how to achieve your goal?”
With influencers and decision makers more cognisant than ever on what’s happening on the frontline, there is a far deeper appreciation of the role FM has played in these challenging times. According to Shorthose, COVID-19 appears to have removed the ‘white noise’ between senior client and what’s being delivered. But how can the sector leverage this to ensure it continues to play a key role in organisational strategies?
“There is a window right now to elevate how FM is perceived. If you look at the accounts that we and other providers have, there are those where it’s about purely delivering a contract and service specification and those that represents more of a strategic partnership. Where we have solid strategic client relationships is when we understand the pressures the client is under, where they are trying to get to, and are ready to bring the elements that are going to deliver what they need. FM is earning the right to play in that second spot.”
Shorthose also believes that if you continually refer to the contract when dealing with clients it suggests there is something missing in that relationship. He maintains that the really successful contracts are the ones with a level of fluidity that means they could be described as ‘output-based’ contracts.
He says: “A lot of the work I do with clients and account teams shows that when things aren’t as rewarding for both parties as they might be, there tends to be a missing element, and that is purpose. ‘Why are we all here, for what outcome?’ Once you’ve shared outcomes the collaboration piece of the jigsaw works so much better.
“We have heard phrases such as ‘race to the bottom’ and commoditise being used to describe FM contracts, but what I’ve learnt is that delivering the written agreement isn’t enough, you need to earn the right to look at the value proposition around the workplace and customer experience and where you can demonstrate above and beyond the basic competence and understand the client and their pressures, it means that in nine out of 10 times you are bringing something extra.”