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Supporting real estate management with best FM practice

There has been a long-running discussion on the benefits...

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There has been a long-running discussion on the benefits of more close alignment between the real estate and FM sectors, which is accelerating in the drive to increase attendance and raise footfall numbers in facilities in all areas.

While many industry experts state that the hybrid working model is here to stay, others report that their clients are mandating a return to office working to ensure that staff are communicating with their colleagues and working as efficiently as possible.

One of the most recent and most impressive examples of the above is provided by Marsh McLennan (MMC), which has implemented numerous adjustments to its business model over the last few years. In addition to the services and support provided to its clients, the company has also looked at its own operations and facilities, resulting in a renovation of its Tower Bridge main office.

Catherine Griffin has been recruited as head of regional operations within the company’s Real Estate Services division to lead the MMC drive to improve its FM projects delivery. Her team now includes six colleagues who are continuing to closely align their specialist skills and knowledge and add further value to the running of facilities.

With members of the team based in locations around the UK, the challenge of meeting in person is seeing colleagues travelling to central locations, the most recent of which was The Workplace Event at Birmingham’s NEC, where the meeting with FM Director took place.

“We’re the new Marsh McLennan FM projects team, founded on the new way of working and the new FM delivery model,” Ms Griffin explains. “We have a few strategic partners that help to deliver our services based on the more traditional delivery models, which is fine and works really well, but FM is now more about relationships, the workplace, the business, the environment, which are not necessarily things that strategic partners can necessarily provide,” she continues.

While strategic partners are needed to deliver some aspects of the work required, Ms Griffin and her team are more involved in implementing the change and influencing developments in offices and workplaces to help them reaffirm their reasons for existence.

“So in addition to refurbishing workplaces and putting everything into place, while continuing to do the usual things FMs are tasked with in their facilities, we’re now actually here to make everything work for every aspect you can think of, from health and safety to ESG, from a client-based meeting room and environmentally-friendly workplace, the list is endless,” she says.

Ms Wilkins further states that her team is continuing to learn how they need to change within their established FM roles. “It’s no longer about fixing things and making sure jobs are completed on time, it’s more communicating with all stakeholders and helping them to be more efficient and productive,” she says.

MMC regional FM North and Scotland Carl Wilby further explains that there is now much more requirement to liaise with all stakeholders to ensure that the solutions implemented within the workplace are as effective and efficient as possible.

“It’s no longer a case of replacing like for like,” Ms Griffin continues. “We’re there to use all the available data and challenge, while also facilitating and supporting discussion on if we’re doing things the right way.

“We’ve created a new workplace environment at MMC since the pandemic and it’s now about how do we sustain that change the conversation with businesses about making their facilities work better for them,” she says.

MMC has reduced its floorspace and redesigned its offices, reducing the number of desks and creating more open spaces for informal meetings, with the interior design focused on increasing levels of collaboration. The team finds that its efforts are now seeing more colleagues suggest additional features that can be included and regards this as a positive sign.

“One of the challenges for us as a team is to change our own ways of working,” says Ms Griffin. In addition to being knowledgeable about the technology implemented, data capture and analysis, it is now essential to consider other improvements that can be made to manage facilities more efficiently and effectively.

This will require the learning of new skills in many cases, she continues, in order to ensure that the best levels of insight are shared with management teams. Further to data capture and analysis, the ability to take a much wider view is another essential aspect of the MMC FM team.

Ms Wilkinson states that one of the strengths of the new team includes the extensive list of experience and skills that each member brings and states that she is very much enjoying her new role and how quickly everyone has bonded.

Projects and administration manager Sandie Michelle states that some of the considerations now brought into the mix include making the workspace more inclusive for all colleagues. “This could include people with neuro issues, such as autism, etc, and also then there’s ESG, energy efficiency, waste, all of which can be factored in to using the workspace in the best way,” she says. “It’s then a case of educating everyone about how to use their space and why we’re putting solutions in.”

This leads to technologies and AV services manager James Storey to explain his role in the team: “Within hybrid working, it’s a case of getting the audio visual technology into the office, so we’ve developed some global standards around meeting spaces and the technology that goes in them,” he continues.

This is designed to ensure that each member of staff has a familiar experience in the level of support they receive from the company’s AV and technology, regardless of which area, office or facility they attend within its estate. This includes allowing everyone to have a good meeting experience, regardless of where they are accessing the event from.

“It also means we’ll have set technologies we can work with partners to get preferred pricing, with guaranteed levels of stock and if we’re refurbishing an office, we know what we’ll include to support live and virtual meetings, as well as other events held by the company,” he says.

Project and administration team manager Sandie Michell says she and her colleagues are continuing to work closely to refine everyone’s responsibilities and engage with colleagues around key deliverables. “We have lots of ad hoc projects that will affect every area of the UK, rather than specific workspaces, so we work on how to coordinate and bring all that together,” she continues. “The team is evolving and will continue to grow, which will see more possibilities emerge, although our existing list of projects is already quite lengthy.”

Mr Wilby further explains he has worked for MMC for four years: “We’ve run the full FM service over this period of time, but it’s now going through a complete transition into a complete new way of working under Cath’s direction. You can see the changes happening, giving us more engagement with the business and more in-depth knowledge and justify everything we’re doing, rather than just doing what’s usually expected in typical FM work.”

Facilities co-ordinator South West, Midlands and Ireland Roxanne Haines states that her work with the team has allowed her to revisit many of the facilities in her region after they were refurbished: “You can see what they thought was originally going to work for them in their refurbishment project hasn’t worked out for them and a lot of spaces are not being used as they thought they would be. So we’re now looking at all these spaces and thinking how we can make them work better.

“Every office has a different team with many different requirements, some have lots of open space but actually need more quieter areas and the opposite is true for others, so it’s constantly changing and we’re using the new method to keep up to date with everything,” she says.

Regional FM London and South East Oona Hempenstall is another recently-recruited member of the team and says she is enjoying the collaborative nature of her work and the way MMC is supporting it. “We’re starting from the base level and getting all the information and working in a very structured way, with the collective aim of creating an exemplary FM team.

“We’ve got so much experience and knowledge and under Cath’s direction we’re investing a lot of time to set ourselves up in the right way.”

Ms Hempenstall is based at the London headquarters, which is now on phase two of the project that began with its refurbishment and has progressed to the in-depth analysis of all the data. This is assisting the team to consider further adaptions of the space to ensure it meets the needs of all colleagues and allows them to work as effectively and efficiently as possible. “It’s exciting times for all of us,” she states.

Speaking to FM Director as the team completed its second month of working together, Ms Griffin explains that several members had worked with or knew others prior to this. “Some of us worked for service providers while others were directly employed by MMC and it seemed like a great opportunity to [visit The Workplace Event] and continue working closer together as a team.”

The collective efforts of the seven colleagues involved is assisting greater understanding and the establishment of team principles, with the aim of updating the initial, three-month roadmap used to define roles and initial objectives. The team plans to create its new roadmap at the end of this month for use as a reference to ensure all objectives are progressing in the correct way and delivering the desired results.

“It’s so easy to get side-tracked or lost in the day-to-day business of toilets and boilers and all the other tasks included in the FM role. What’s also important is that we all individually assess what we expect to achieve from this, as well,” says Ms Griffin.

“But it’s really exciting to work such an amazing team and it feels like we’re just on the cusp of getting to know each other, build more rapport and establish that new way of working, and then I feel we’ll be leading the direction on the office strategy in the future,” she says.

The new MMC Projects team has been carefully and thoughtfully established, bringing together talented individuals from all areas of its business and the people it has come to know, with the aim of improving its service delivery and support for both clients and colleagues alike. It is the most clearly defined example to date of how the combined efforts of real estate and FM can meet all the requirements of the new way of working and answer the many questions being posted to companies in all areas of the world in the post-pandemic era.