Edward Sullivan

Use an Inclusive Approach to Build the Facilities Management Team

New facility staffers will be different than the people they replace. Your goal should be to create a diverse, inclusive work environment.

By Edward Sullivan, Editor  

I first heard about “inclusion” when my son with Down syndrome started going to school. The inclusion program at his school meant he was included in a “regular education” class with appropriate support. Although my son couldn’t do all the same work as other students in the class, inclusion had many benefits for him — and for the students without disabilities as well. 

It turns out that the philosophy of inclusion may also have a place on the facility management agenda. 

As Baby Boomers retire, there’s a lot of talk about finding the next generation of talent. But facility managers should also focus on  retaining new hires. That’s where inclusion comes in.

In many organizations, facility staff has stayed on board for years, even decades, providing professional expertise and institutional memory that will not be easy to replace. But a facility manager shouldn’t just assume that new workers will stick with the organization until the time comes for them to retire.  

It goes without saying that new facility staffers will be different than the people whose positions they fill. They’ll be younger, for one thing. And it’s very likely that the mix of workers will be more diverse. One way to find new employees in a tight labor market is to widen the pool of candidates, so facility managers should be going after a more diverse group of job seekers, including women, people of color, and people with disabilities.

As the facility team becomes more diverse, there’s a risk that a new employee will feel like an outsider, especially if that person is the first of his or her group to join the staff. That’s why an inclusive approach is important. The idea is to make all employees, whatever their background, feel valued and welcome. 

One problem is that the barriers facing an employee may be invisible to others on the team. For example, it’s natural to feel more comfortable with people who have the same background as you do. But the result can be an unconscious bias that limits opportunities for a person with a different background.

Inclusion means taking conscious steps to open doors. Mentoring is one possibility. Another is to pay attention to which employees are invited to meetings or offered growth assignments. A third is simply to ask employees if they feel their input is valued.

Inclusion is really an employee success strategy. It isn’t lowering standards; it’s putting all employees in a position to succeed. The payoff, research shows, is better performance.

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  posted on 8/1/2019   Article Use Policy

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