The Road Map to Successful Facility Management: Part 1

January 15, 2014

Part 1: Human Resource Management

Jimmy Francis
Director, Student Recreation Center
CSU, Northridge

Editors note: This article is the first of a 3-part series. Part 1: Human Resource Management, Part 2: Building and Equipment Management, Part 3: Budget Management.

As a facility manager you can at times feel like a lost tourist in a congested metropolitan area trying to navigate an unfamiliar city. Identifying what to focus on and where to allocate your limited resources (both time and money) can be overwhelming. Fear not, this article contains your road map to successfully managing your facility.

Along the path to successfully managing your facility, a manager must keep in mind three important areas: the people or the human resources you have, the building and the equipment inside of it, and your budget. Successfully focusing on these areas will allow you to position yourself to accomplish your main goal, which should be to create a clean, safe and welcoming environment for your participants.

As a facility manager, not only is it important for you to put your “hard skills” to work operating your facility, but it is also necessary to understand that there are certain core values, or “soft skills,” that will help you to be successful as well. Throughout the course of this article, you will not only learn about the different tools you can use to manage your facility, but you will also gain knowledge about some of the core values that are typically found in successful facility managers.Part 1: Human Resources Management
A manager who is going to successfully lead his/her staff must be personable, caring, diplomatic, and loyal. Developing these soft skills will be essential to forming and leading an efficient team of professionals and student employees. By being a personable and caring leader, your team will develop a comfort level with approaching you that allows for the constant exchange of information that is essential to managing a facility. They will come to you with their suggestions, feedback, and challenges and, as a result, you will maximize their potentials and your resources. By staying loyal to your staff, you will undoubtedly see their amount of ownership and “buy in” reach a level where they are fully invested in the success of your facility.

Developing a sound facility staffing strategy is essential to the successful management of a recreation facility. Ultimately, the people who work in your facility will be what determines your success as a manager. In this section five key points to developing a successful staff will be outlined.

1. Establish Structure — For a facility to function well there needs to be a clear organizational hierarchy in place so that employees (and users) understand who is responsible for what. Establishing this structure will also clearly identify who is in charge at various times of operation. Guidelines differ from one campus to another, but many facilities across the country operate in absence of a professional staff member. For this very reason, it is important that the students who work in your facilities understand their roles. Additionally, it is vital that there is a structure in place where students matriculate from entry level positions to supervisory roles. As these students work in various positions they acquire both the hard and soft skills that allow them to manage the operational and employee challenges that come up in the absence of professionals. Never forget, students are the backbone of campus recreation facilities.

2. Define Expectations — It is very difficult for employees to be successful as facility mangers if we don’t define what success actually is. Whether you are dealing with student or professional staff members, expectations need to be consistent. As professionals we must hold ourselves accountable to the same standards and expectations as our students because we work so closely together with them. Here are a few expectations to consider as you lead your staff.
– Attentive — Engaged and aware of what is happening around them
– Informed — Equipped with the knowledge and the resources they need
– Responsive — Quick thinkers with good problem solving skills
– Uniform — Outfitted with apparel and nametags so they are easily identified
– Welcoming — Courteous and approachable people with smiles on their faces

3. Create Accountability — Your employees will respond best to your leadership when you have established clear expectations and you respond in a timely manner when performance issues occur. For this to occur, you must establish an evaluation program where employees are provided with quick feedback on their performance, both good and bad. A main component of that program should be a performance tracker that allows you to maintain a chronological record of employee challenges and successes. An additional component of this program that is essential for success is an opportunity for the employees to evaluate themselves and, if time allows, include peer evaluations as well.

4. Train and Prepare — Establishing a comprehensive training program is a key step to establishing a staffing strategy. As a manager you should create a list of all the duties employees will be responsible for. After this list is created you can then begin the process of formulating a plan on how you will accomplish the training. A few key areas to consider vital for employee training include the following:

– Organizational philosophies and employment guidelines
– Emergency procedures and preparedness
– Customer service
– Facility operations orientation
– Special event execution
– Maintenance and custodial issue reporting

It is also very important to utilize learning outcomes when you are preparing your training program. In fact, learning outcomes should be used in all aspects of your work with your employees. If you break down learning outcomes to their most basic element, it essentially means that you should have a purpose and an outcome for everything you do. Keep an eye out for these outcomes that have become popular targets for campus recreation colleagues:

– Time management skills
– Problem solving ability
– Customer service skills
– Communication skills
– Accountability

5. Recognize and Reward — A great capstone to an employee training program is an energetic recognition and reward program. A successful leader and manager not only points out the areas of improvement for employees, but also praises their successes. Establishing a reward program can be a tricky undertaking. If you are working in a university setting there are often many hurdles in place that will need to be overcome to appropriately use either campus funds or student dollars to recognize your staff. In fact, in some cases you might even need to dig into your own pocket.

One of the most important keys to a successful recognition program is to get the employees involved. If you have not already done so, you should create a recognition team or, at the minimum, designate an employee to take the lead in establishing the program. By getting the employees involved, you immediately increase your potential for success because you can now obtain valuable information in regards to what really inspires your employees, i.e. what will they actual view as rewards.

It should be noted that recognition programs do not always have to be expensive. There are many no cost or low cost ideas that will surface through your discussion with your staff. Examples could include:
– Seasonal events: pumpkin carving, hayride, costume contests, ornament decorating, flower planting around facility, barbeques
– Movie night
– Sponsored IM teams
– T — Shirts, sweatshirts and other uniform supplements
– Simple hand written thank you cards

By all accounts, managing and leading the staff that you supervise is going to be one of the most challenging road bumps (and sometimes detours) on your map to being successful. However, without a well-structured, accountable, trained, and appropriately rewarded staff your facility is destined to underachieve. By utilizing the core values of being personable, caring, and loyal to your staff combined with a well thought-out staffing strategy, you should be well on your way to avoiding major delays in your trip to realizing your goals.

Part 2 in this series will focus on Building and Equipment Management

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