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But what exactly is informing the debate, and which issues were most important to delegates in 2015?


Convergence At Workplace Futures, the first headline conference in the calendar year, the spotlight was on convergence; a coming together of different business disciplines, such as FM, CRE, HR and IT, as they look to stay relevant in an evolving business environment, and as organisations attempt to increase the effectiveness of the sum of their parts. The theme was part-inspired by the BIFM’s announcement of plans to collaborate with the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) at ThinkFM a year earlier. Among speakers and delegates in the auditorium, there was emphatic agreement that facilities management must exploit the influence it has in three key areas: people, property and the workplace. This would signal a new progressive form of FM that would stretch beyond simply the built environment and deliver on its promise to become more people-centric. Look out, FM service providers – Tim Oldman, founder of workplace productivity survey tool Leesman Index, prophesied the emergence of a new breed of workplace advisors who view the workplace as a tool in competitive advantage. “These consultants are flying at an advisory altitude that few if any can comprehend amongst those presently advising on design, FM or even real estate management,” he said.


Competitive advantage


As the discipline responsible for managing workspace, FM could become a key tool in the quest for competitive advantage. But in which form does this kind of competitive advantage come? Picking up the baton a few months later, ThinkFM


tasked speakers with answering this question. Bill Hancox, Director of FM at Edge Hill University, showcased just how pivotal his department had been to the education establishment’s success as it proceeded to win a plethora of accolades including University of the Year in the Times Higher Education Awards 2014. The higher education sector is a fine example of where facilities management can be at its most effective.


The overall quality of a campus affects the number of students that enroll into a university, which impacts the amount of money it receives. Universities such as Edge Hill, therefore, must treat students like customers. Research shows, said Hancox, that first impressions on open days are the single biggest deciding factor for prospective students and their parents, which is why his team put so much effort into their roles. And it’s quite clearly working. In a survey of Edge Hill FM staff, 96% said they understood the connection between FM and the university’s marketing strategy.


Wellbeing Many of the year’s conferences examined how people could specifically create competitive advantage and the role FM plays in making this happen. At Leesman’s own conference, Ian Ellison, a Senior Lecturer in Facilities Management at Sheffield Hallam University, revealed how his PhD research had led him to discover the cultural value of items like “coffee and cake” – which, he said, could no longer be viewed as simple amenities but should instead be celebrated for their ability to create a sense of community in the workplace. Ellison also identified the positive impact that things like access to natural light and nature had on staff wellbeing. The idea behind this way of thinking is fairly straightforward – a happier and healthier workforce is a more productive workforce. At FM Innovate (now called FM Inspired), DIY SOS’s


Oliver Heath explored the concept of ‘biophilic design’ – a method of design heavily influenced by nature. “We need a varied physical landscape that fits our emotional needs,” he said while introducing delegates to things such as Savannah Theory, humans’ desire for plentiful harvests, and circadian rhythm, the body clock’s dependency on a 24-hour cycle of natural light. The European Facility Management Conference (EFMC) reminded us that FM’s trends are much the same all over the world. Presenting to delegates who had travelled from as far away as New Zealand, ISS’s Peter Ankerstjerne and Simon Jacobs proposed a new way of thinking about FM service delivery, which they labelled ‘Service Management 3.0’. This would, they said, emphasise the focus on how to motivate employees and give purpose to their jobs.


FACILITIES 151


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