The Director of First Impressions

December 2012

JAMES MURPHY, managing director of Pitney Bowes Australia, explains why he believes a better title for facilities managers is ‘the director of first impressions’.

It’s almost guaranteed that you experienced some part of the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics. What interests me most about the Olympic Games is that much of the first discussion and impression was taken from the opening ceremony. It was billed as being fun, young and technology driven with major recognition being given to the artistic director, Danny Boyle, also famed for his role as Slumdog Millionaire’s director. It was more than just the hyping up of the games; it was also the promotion of Great Britain.

The Olympics has always been a conduit to promote future investment and tourism, and London 2012 was no exception. The opening ceremony was a chance to make a great first impression on viewers around the world. Many Australians who missed the event live watched the replay due to word of mouth about the opening spectacular.

This type of hype and how it happens is not just limited to the Olympics. Whether it’s the promotion of an international sporting event or a facilities manager tasked with the everyday running of a business, the concept remains. How do we ensure that the brief encounters our customers and staff have with our business, our office or brand result in positive word of mouth and lasting impressions?

According to the European Committee for Standardisation, a facilities manager is responsible for “the integration of processes within an organisation to maintain and develop the agreed services which support and improve effectiveness of its primary activities”.

This may sound pretty straightforward, but the actual role of a facilities manager is much more complex and is evolving every day. Employee productivity, infrastructure and resources, branding and aesthetics, the security of staff and communication tools are just a few examples of the day-to-day tasks handed to facilities managers. If these things are done well, they can result in efficiencies in the workplace and greatly benefit the bottom line. If they are done badly, they can leave lasting impressions with customers and peers that can take years to repair. For me, a better title for facilities managers is ‘the director of first impressions’.

Ensuring a positive impression

The evolution of technology is playing a pivotal role in the way organisations operate, but also in the impressions that they give to people who interact with those businesses. The emergence of smartphones, tablets and cloud-based technologies has meant that, in theory, employees can work from any place and at any time. For many graduates looking to enter the workforce, these technologies are second nature and as a result they are more likely to want to work with employers that support them over those that don’t. While you could argue that this is a decision for the IT department, facilities managers have a key role in ensuring that infrastructure supports any such roll-out.

Connectivity is becoming the Holy Grail for most organisations and is the key to productivity. Whatever you do at your desk, you should be able to do in any corner of the office. In fact, you should be able to do it in any corner of the world.

Johnson Controls recently released an interesting paper titled Global Workplace Innovation and from the responses created the concept of My Ideal Workplace, which it defines as “a fully functional piece of equipment that accesses all my communication interface needs with no difference in its capacity wherever it is geographically located. A place that defines where team members can go to communicate on any level that requires physical interface”.

By integrating technology in this way, facilities managers can certainly leave a positive impression among those using it, but they also have to ensure that it demonstrates return on investment (ROI) for the business, is aesthetically pleasing for customers and resonates the brand values developed by the marketing team.

Google is a great example of a business that does just that. It recently refurbished its New York headquarters to include a subway-themed video conferencing room that is connected to other Google offices around the world, steel slides connecting its two-storey lounge, a green-themed kitchen to emphasise its commitment to sustainability, and a New York apartment-themed meeting room for those looking to work from home while at work, as well as all the modern technology features you would expect from one of the world’s largest technology brands.

While most of us don’t have the bank balance or budgets of Google, the principle remains. Facilities managers play a crucial role in ensuring that first impressions lead to greater productivity, staff retention and ROI. Whether it’s through streamlining deliveries in and out of the office, enabling remote and flexible working or ensuring the security and comfort of staff, facilities managers need to be at the centre of the decision-making process. To do this, facilities management professionals need to ensure that they bring together the key stakeholders of organisations regardless of discipline. Human resources, management, marketing and IT can all improve the performance of a business, but by bringing them together to create solutions, facilities managers can ensure that the first impression is a good one.

Facility Management Magazine www.fmmagazine.com.au