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Role of Facility Management in Employee Retention

Employees view the work setting and service they receive as an extension of the level of care by management. Working in poor temperature-controlled spaces and buildings that appear in poor repair sets a bad example. Prospective employees form impressions of your organisation the minute they step into your lobby.

Service that is not in alignment with end-users’ expectations compounds the problem of perception. Employees who receive excellent service from maintenance personnel, dining staff, business support and housekeeping deliver equal levels of service to their customers. Employees perceive the level of attention given to soft benefits, such as wellness programmes, on-site dining and gyms as a direct reflection on senior leadership, and more importantly, its level of engagement.

Many companies recognise the importance of employee engagement. The December 2010 Towers Watson Strategies for Growth study of 700 global companies listed the four top workforce areas of concern as “Loss of talent in key skills area, lack of succession planning/management, inability to attract necessary talent and level of disengagement among workers.” In assessing solutions to these problems, studies indicate leadership as a key factor in retention and engagement.

A study by Wyatt Watson stated that 71% of new employees arrived on the job with high levels of engagement, but after six months on the job, this rate dropped to 57%. One of the key factors in this significant drop was leadership. Employees sensed a lack of encouragement, empowerment, and clarity from company leaders, and primarily from their immediate supervisor.

One of the primary success factors links directly to the attitudes of employees. Towers Watson surveyed 50 global firms in 2010 and found those with highly engaged employees improved operating income by 19.2% over a 12-month period- versus a drop of 32.7% for firms with low engagement levels. During this same period, growth in net income rose by 13.7% for high engagement companies and decreased by 3.8% for low engagement firms. The evidence shows employee engagement – indicated by levels of absenteeism, turnover and discretionary effort – as a key ingredient in achieving financial success for companies.

This same study presented revealing statistics about the employees: Disengaged employees indicated the desire to leave, or make themselves available for other opportunities, at a rate of 84%. For engaged employees this fell to 49%, a remarkable difference. The current economic environment drives part of this difference, as employees have been asked to do more with less, and with reduced compensation. An analysis of the aspects of engagement indicates several areas of importance for focus: a rational component linked to the employee’s support for the organizational strategy, goals, and values; an emotional component related to the employee’s sense of commitment to the organization; and a motivational aspect reflecting the willingness to extend effort beyond normal expectations.

Corporate real estate executives, designers, and facility managers can significantly influence the attitudes of employees, and therefore the company’s level of employee engagement.

This team fits into the success model in two important ways: First, several studies have demonstrated the role of the facility and services, in creating a positive work environment in the minds of employees. Employees bring to the workplace an individually developed and unwritten set of expectations, setting a benchmark of how they want to be treated and cared for by the company. Employees viewed the work setting and service they received as an extension of the level of care by management.

Second, corporate real estate executives, designers, and facility managers directly influence the environment important to four working modes considered key in effectively leading today’s knowledge workers: those that encourage employee focus, employee collaboration, employee learning and socialization. Effective use of these environments translates to significantly improved performance. Top-performing companies used learning, collaborative and socializing modes more than twice as much as average-performing companies did. All the survey respondents indicated an overall improvement in performance of 22% by incorporating the concepts important to a better-designed workspace. The improvements resulted in levels of employee engagement and job satisfaction three times higher than average companies.

The real estate team’s ability to leverage workspace design and perceived service quality influences attitudes of employees and significantly impacts the bottom line. The manner in which the service staff treats clients, as established by the facility manager, greatly affects the attitudes of those served. Unquestionably, the facility manager influences the ultimate success of the organization in a very significant way.

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