The Four Keys for Successful Facilities Operations

After managing facility operations for several companies over the 15 years or so, I’ve been asked how I know whether a facilities operation is performing well. Some may believe that if you look at the condition of the facility that will tell you how well it is performing. Others may ask the facility staff, believing that a happy or contented staff is an indication of a well performing organization. Lastly, others look solely at financial metrics as a basis of a well-run organization. While a well-maintained facility with happy staff saving the organization money may sound like a well performing group, we need to dig deeper to really see if this is true.

I look at four core items to determine not only how well a facilities operations group is performing, but also to determine what needs to change to improve performance. The core items are:

  1. Functional Alignment with the Organization
  2. Customer Satisfaction
  3. Key Performance Indicators and Service Level Agreements (KPIs & SLAs)
  4. Sustainability Programs

Let’s examine why I choose each of these four items.

Functional Alignment with the Organization

When assessing organizational effectiveness I always want to start at the top, then dig deeper. The best place at the top to start is with the organizational goals and objectives.

Most organizations have a goal around profitability, usually to increase it. This can be done two ways: increase revenue or limit expenses. In the facilities management world, we do not have a direct impact on increasing revenue, but as the second largest expense within the organization we certainly have an impact on the expense side. Therefore, the Real Estate and Facilities Management (REFM) organization must have an expense metric goal and several objectives to achieve the goal.

A second likely goal would involve customer service. While the organization is focused on how it wants to support its external customers, the REFM group needs to understand what these specific objectives are. For example, the company may be considering a new training center or service environment for customers, which will certainly result in a goal for the REFM group as well as several objectives.

More directly, you should be measuring and seeking ways to determine how you support and deliver services to your internal customers. As a support organization, you need to understand and pay as close attention to your internal customers as your service group does to its external ones. We’ll come back to this subject when we discuss Customer Service.

Employee retention is an important organizational metric that the REFM group can have an impact. There’s currently a lot of debate and discussion going on right now about remote working vs. the workplace as a preferred place for work. You can view my take on this on my blog, titled, “The ‘Workplace’ – Who Needs It” ( The point is this: the workplace is important, maybe not the top two or three items with workers, but still important enough that if the REFM group needs to be a part of this conversation with HR and the business unit leaders to make sure that the workplace supports and not deters from employee retention

Efficiency is another common high-level metric that generally helps the organization. Anything that you can do to improve your operational effectiveness should be evaluated. Often times, this requires a significant amount of money and a return on investment (ROI) should be performed to determine whether such an improvement will pass the financial requirements. Some efficiency improvements could be implemented with little or no cost and should be pursued vigorously and recognized well.

Customer Satisfaction

This is pretty fundamental – what do the people who use your facilities and associated services think of you and your organization? Surveys are the best way to find out. I’m a firm believer of keeping surveys simple, as a tool to open the discussion topic and then spend lots of time with your customers to find out more. Let’s face it, we may like to tell others what we think, but my experience is that you are lucky if 25% of your target survey audience responds, so you need to make your surveys as simple and fast as possible; be sure to let participants know that you will share the results. I recently did this for a client to produce a baseline of current performance that we used to set future performance goals and determine where improvement was needed.

Another way to survey your customers is to provide a link to a simple survey after completing every Facility Work Order (FWO). As you gather data regarding your service levels, you will begin to understand your team’s performance better as well as identify problem areas that you can begin to address by discussing performance concerns with your customers. Again, keep the survey simple: I use a scale from 1 to 5 and anytime that I receive a score less than 3, I want to have a conversation with the person who gave us a low score to find out where the problems are, determine how to improve services and ensure that future work is completed in a satisfactory manner. This leads us to the next item.

Key Performance Indicators and Service Level Agreements

What you are measuring is at least as important as how well you are evaluated. Like goals and objectives, the facilities operation Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) must be aligned to the overall organizational needs and measure the key or top organizational facility priorities. Usually these include:

  • Critical life-safety systems
  • Critical equipment that support the most important operations, including measuring uptime and timely completion of certain preventative maintenance activities
  • Emergencies, including response time, mitigation and communication
  • Urgent Requests, including acknowledgement time and time to completion or mitigation
  • Routine Request completion time

Each KPI is coupled with an approved Service Level Agreement (SLA). If the facilities operations group is staffed with direct employees (“In-House”), then the agreement process can be fairly straightforward and easier to change. If, on the other hand, the facilities operations group is staffed by another company (“Out-Source”) then the agreement process and the ability to change SLAs can be more challenging as often times these are included in a Master Service Agreement (MSA) that must be signed at the appropriate authority level.

It’s been my experience that introducing KPIs that the customer understands and SLAs that they will agree to takes quite a bit of time and a great deal of communication to both the customers as well as the staff. You may need to introduce a new work order process or system to adequately track performance, but, if implemented well, will result in higher customer satisfaction levels.

Sustainability Programs

Since earning my Sustainable Facilities Professional (SFP) credential from IFMA in 2012, I have gained a greater understanding and appreciation for the need for sustainability programs within facility operations. The reason is simple – it’s a win, win, win, win for everyone. The winners are usually two, three or even all four of the following:

  • The financial bean-counters (economic)
  • The environmentally conscience
  • The employees and staff who work in or near your facilities (social)
  • Your boss who is always asking you to do more with less

Shortly after I passed the final exam for the SFP, I developed a tool that I use to assess opportunities for individual facilities. This comprehensive tool covers eleven facility aspects, which not only identifies sustainable elements within the facility, but also the sustainable programs and practices that have been implemented by the operations group. The result of this analysis is a report that documents sustainability gaps or areas for improvement. Each opportunity is prioritized and rated as either: No-Cost, Low-Cost; Moderate Cost (requires additional unbudgeted resources); or High Cost, beyond an operating expense and usually requiring capital funding approval.

So by thinking sustainably, you not only find opportunities to improve our environment and your customer’s workplace, but you should be able to implement improvements that will eliminate waste, resulting to in cost savings. Who can argue with that?

In conclusion, by digging deeper to these four core items you will be maintaining your facilities at a level that is aligned and acceptable to the key stakeholders of your facilities that simply reducing costs cannot do. Of course, once you have mapped out the road ahead, you still need to successfully implement the changes required. This is where your two key skills – communication and leadership – will be needed.



2 thoughts on “The Four Keys for Successful Facilities Operations

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