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Ward of change

There are some FM appointments that make you sit up and take notice. Sara Bean talks to Debra Ward about her recent move into a specially created role at JLL which demonstrates why the human experience is taking centre stage for the property management firm

Earlier this year Debra Ward, who RICS named one of the top ten faces in facilities management in 2015, joined commercial property giant JLL in the brand-new role of Strategy & Growth Director.

Her move to a company with a strong pedigree in corporate real estate is a strong indication of how JLL is fully embracing the facilities side of its business following the acquisition of Integral UK Ltd last year and the appointment of FM stalwart Neil Murray as CEO of JLL’s Corporate Solutions business in Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) last March. Murray leads the region’s operations and services across Integrated Portfolio Services (IPS), Integrated Facilities Management (IFM), Project and Development Services (PDS), Tétris Design and Build, and Technology Solutions.

Ward is something of a trail blazer in FM. I first met her 10 years ago when she was heading up Mitie’s newly created Client Services front-of-house business. Then, the idea of FM as a form of hoteling was still regarded as a novel concept. Ward’s approach from the start in finding ways of empowering and engaging both staff and clients hasn’t wavered, and the JLL role gives her the scope to prove that making people happy impacts on organisational performance and productivity.

“The Strategy & Growth role was created for me and it was created because of a lot of change in the Corporate Solutions team – not least of which are our reports on flexible work and the human experience,” says Ward.

“As a visionary, Neil wanted the flexibility to use people where they are best suited and I have an MBA in organisational behaviour and development and change management in the context of services, FM and people. To have that plus my background in hoteling and more recent role in technology it seemed to be a matter of not pigeonholing me but ‘let’s put her where we bring out the best out of her and where her skills best serve the company’.

“The great part about that is that now I’m involved in a lot of different projects – the most exciting one being the future of work and human experience; as that fits right into my sweet spot about what makes people happy and therefore more productive.”

‘Workplace powered by Human Experience’, part of a global report series and its accompanying tool, the ‘Human Experience model’ HX, examine ways in which the workplace experience can help businesses thrive in the new world of work. The Future of Work model comprises five key pillars:

  • Human Experience: Enhance user experience through engagement, empowerment and fulfilment;
  • Digital Drive: Harness digitisation and rich data to enhance people and enterprise performance;
  • Continuous Innovation: Combine new thinking, solutions and processes to drive value creation and accelerate business transformation;
  • Operational Excellence: Optimise enterprise resources and service delivery to increase productivity, mitigate risks and ensure high performance;
  • Financial Performance: Manage spending to enable growth and enhance return on investment.

Explains Ward: “The five pillars in the Future of work are future proof because we can always look at how they work for both our own team members and our clients and how they can help their own teams.”

The ‘Human Experience model’, JLL’s diagnostic tool – is designed to spell out in a quantifiable way a direct correlation between engagement and productivity by decoding experiences through three major priorities (engagement, empowerment and fulfilment) to help managers create optimal human experiences at work.

Says Ward: “We are using it as our model to approach clients and say ‘what does that look like and what can we do to help you achieve your objectives; using your people, your tech, thought processes, operational procedures and ultimately financially? What can we do for you that makes that quicker, faster and better?’”

Ward’s experience is not just in client services. She spent 18 months at Macro during which it grew by 23 per cent and was latterly MD at global software company Condeco Software, where her understanding of the power of the digitised workplace grew. According to Ward there is an element of surprise that didn’t exist within technology 10 years ago; and JLL’s Corporate Solutions function is to help flag up these disruptors and prepare clients for its impact.

One of the major findings of the Human Experience report was that over half of respondents wanted to work from home, though not all the time, for as soon as the number of days exceeded two days a week, this desire was dramatically reduced.

Says Ward: “People still want to come into work to collaborate and meet and have a sense of collectiveness even in third party places. They need their tribe which is why there will always be a need to get together. All those important elements of engagement, empowerment and fulfilment, you won’t get over the net.

“This is why for me people always come first, if you put them at the heart of what you do the rest comes – because you’re concentrating on what makes people work.”

Aside from her enthusiasm and understanding of what makes people tick, Ward has considerable experience within FM and is already looking at ways JLL can bridge the gap between corporate real estate and facilities management.

She has written a paper on the benefits of outsourcing with JLL and what it can offer from end to end. This ranges from sourcing the location, deciding whether to build or buy, making sure it is reflective of the culture of the organisation and in a location which attracts the sort of people that an organisation will want to develop. JLL seems to be reaffirming its place within the FM space; which Ward acknowledges.

“JLL has great expertise in the FM area and we have some of the largest outsourcing contracts in the world. We’re beginning to champion our work in EMEA where there’s a massive opportunity and our experience and skill can really shine.

“The acquisition of Integral was key to the growth and transformation of our FM platform. We’ve given everybody time to acclimatise and we are now ready to demonstrate our synergies in that area, while some great results are already coming to fruition.”

Some of the key findings of the Human Experience report was that nearly 70 per cent of participants agreed that happiness at work is the best ingredient to guarantee a unique work experience. It also revealed that while the larger corporations still attract more talent (61 per cent) than the smallest ones, almost half (46 per cent) of respondents actually aspired to joining a start-up environment with an entrepreneurial culture.

This is something that Ward herself has experienced, in her previous roles when she recalls people were given the option to vote and take part in furnishing the rather sparse 1970s-style office. She believes strongly that by helping people to feel engaged and involved – whatever the size of your organisation – will give them that reassurance that their organisation is collaborating with them to fulfil their needs. Does the C-suite really buy into this philosophy? Ward argues that it does.

“The laser like focus on the war for talent and fear of not being able to compete is driving organisations to take better care of their people” she says.

“Everybody has to find a way to carve out and protect their personal time. For some it means starting earlier, for others working late, which impacts on FM, meaning they’re expected to support 24/7 buildings, while exploring options such as closing certain floors or offering food for longer periods of the day.

“What is really exciting is that it is FM’s who are leading the C-suite there. It’s not the company it’s their FM people who are saying ‘we’re going to help you to be more competitive out there by providing better facilities for your people to do a great job, as otherwise they’re going to go to your competitors’.

“It is the leaders in the FM organisations who are striving to do the best. The service providers are often accused of not innovating – but they are, because if they didn’t they would be dead. It’s Darwinian: if we’re not constantly adapting and continuously improving we’re going to get left behind and that’s not an option.”

The Human Experience study also found that the vast majority (90 per cent) of all respondents supported the idea of having a Chief Happiness Officer at work, dedicated to employee wellbeing and participants also cited trust and kindness as words to describe their needs. Choice was also important, as people wanted a sense of control and having an ability to choose where and how they worked. How well supported they are to achieve is important says Ward.

“We’ve got to help prepare managers to lead teams they don’t physically see every day,” she argues. “When flexible working first came in, a real anxiety emerged amongst leaders who were worried that they couldn’t see what their people were doing.

“We need to guide them with use of the agile working so there is more transparency, kindness and trust. Treat people like grown-ups; we’re starting to recognise that it is stifling to micro manage team members, so in a time of agility you have got to let people work in the way that they want; by moving around the building and not sitting at a desk all day. The ability to choose their workspace based on the work they are doing is key.”

It’s early days in her role but Ward feels confident she has the experience and autonomy to make a difference – as she explains it, “be the bee in the pollen”, in helping to bring ideas back to the teams that do not have daily interactions.

She says: “The company has been so welcoming, so transparent and so sharing.

“JLL feels like a natural home as it brings all my experiences, FM, technology, services, cultural change specialism and hospitality together, enabling me to help achieve ambitions.”


About Sarah OBeirne


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