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Building a Strong Facilities Management Team Culture

June 1, 2021

Workplace culture is difficult to describe. It’s not something you can touch. It’s not something you can see. But a lot like gravity when you jumped out of a tree as a kid, it is a powerful force. When a new employee walks in on their first day, the team culture is one of the first things they will pick up on. It’s the environment you create for your employees based on a set of values, beliefs, and behaviors.

In facilities management, team culture is even tougher to pin down because everyone operates so independently of each other. Yet it is still there, and it has major impacts on your work, from your team’s communication style, to their work ethic, even their attention to detail. Culture is built both intentionally by the things you say and do, and passively by the things you let slide or the personalities you have on the team.

Whether you are looking to make a change or are just starting a new job and looking to set the tone, building culture takes time and planning. Let’s take a look at how to do this within your facilities team.

Challenges of Culture Building in Facilities Management

Changing or implementing a new culture isn’t easy. It’s especially difficult for facilities teams who spend most of their days working apart from each other. While a facility management software can track the activities your teams do, you aren’t sitting there watching to make sure things are done right. There is no central location where you can keep an eye on everyone. Besides, you have your own work to get done!

Facilities teams are under tremendous restraints and pressures all the time which can make building the right team culture difficult. From occupant requests to budget restraints teams are often busy from the beginning to end of their shift. This stressful environment makes it very easy to rely on old habits and take the easier route if it means being able to finish a task and move on.

On top of all this, facilities teams and organizations are creatures of habit. Team members may have been working on your buildings for over 10 years. While this experience is helpful from a maintenance side, it can be detrimental to making a culture shift if those team members don’t want to go along with it. The if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it mentality is always strong in facilities management.

These challenges stack up to make it very hard for change to happen organically. But it is also because of these reasons that the culture you build is so important.

Leadership must lead when it comes to team culture

Just as the name implies right? Building a facility management team culture starts at the top. Workplace culture is intentional. It is purposeful. It takes dedicated effort, planning, and focus to achieve your desired state. You can’t throw words on a whiteboard and hope for the best.

This requires some of the “soft” skills that often aren’t talked about enough in facility management. You are a do-er. A light bulb burns out, you replace it. The AC unit stops working, you fix it. But when it comes to successfully building the culture you desire, you are going to have to tap into a new set of skills. Consensus building, people managing, and communication are vital to making changes within your team.

Facility Management Transformation Ebook link

Effective Team Building Strategies For Facilities Teams

Change doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and requires focused energy to be successful. If you are wondering how to get started, here are some basic steps you can use on your facilities team.

  • Make culture a part of the hiring process: While upcoming retirements can be stressful, they also provide a golden opportunity to bring in the right people that fit your vision. During the interview process, ask questions that dig into whether applicants share similar values and beliefs. A good way to do this is to ask an applicant how they would respond in a hypothetical situation that puts those values to the test.
  • Draw your “Culture Line”: Above the line are the actions, values, and beliefs you advocate for. Below is everything else. Defining what you want your team to work towards provides the goal that everyone should be marching towards. It is important to remember that this line is fluid and will change over time.
  • Communicate the vision: Once you know where your culture line is you need to communicate it to your teams. Start by discussion and training your managers on the new vision and work with them to deliver that message to everyone else.
  • Lead by example: You need to walk the walk. You can’t expect your teams to live your new values if you aren’t willing to do the same. Providing a good example for your teams to replicate is vital to a successful culture shift.
  • Stick to it, even when it is difficult: There is a saying in the military: “No plan survives first contact with the enemy.” Sticking to your culture line while dealing with your daily work orders, service requests, and breakdowns is hard. It is easy to start cutting corners and falling back into old habits when you are under pressure to finish tasks faster and more cost effectively.
  • Track progress: These metrics aren’t necessarily going to align to your maintenance KPIs. As part of measuring your team’s performance, you should be monitoring how well they are living your core values. Have regular check-ins to discuss progress and be sure to give honest, timely feedback.
  1. Reward your team: Highlight individuals or groups who are successfully living your new values and vision. Make sure good examples don’t go unnoticed. It doesn’t need to be in a big, company wide announcement. Even a small gesture or passing comment can go a long way for your technicians, engineers, and managers.
  2. Make adjustments: Building and maintaining culture is not a one-and-done deal. Your culture line is a living thing, everything you and your team does every single day helps draw it. Sometimes it may need to be corrected but other times you may be surprised at the positive changes you didn’t intend to implement.

You don’t have to go at this alone. Enlist your managers to brainstorm on what values you want your teams to stand for. Talk to other departments who may have gone through a similar process. Human Resources can be a great resource to help document, organize, and communicate your culture guidelines. IFMA and other local facilities organizations are also great places to get support and ideas from a community of facilities professionals.

A Strong FM Culture Improves Operational Efficiency

Culture does more than create a happier and less stressful workplace. It has real effects on your team’s performance and the quality of their work. A stronger facilities team culture leads to more open communication amongst the team. When team members are willing to ask for help, and their teammates are willing to give it, maintenance tasks can be completed faster. This open communication also opens the door for continuous improvement. When team members are willing to offer suggestions, throw around new ideas, and think differently about the way things are done it can really innovate the processes and procedures in your facilities. Stronger FM culture also helps reduce stress and lowers burnout rates, keeping team members happy and more productive.

The culture you build and nurture is a large piece of the puzzle to unlocking operational efficiency.  How have you gone about changing the culture on your team? What steps did we miss? What results did your team’s experience? Let us know in the comments!

Mitch Comstock

Former Product Marketing Manager and Innovator for AkitaBox.

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