Taking Care of Business
Whether it’s a big-box retail outlet, a middle school, an office high rise or a new emergency room, the reason for constructing a new facility is the same: people. Build it, management hopes, and they will come: employees, customers, tenants, students.
That initial impulse can be little more than a dim memory once the building is occupied. Cost control may seem all that matters to management.
Regaining the aura of a new building may be impossible. But it isn’t impossible to maintain management’s interest in an existing building. The key is remembering why the building exists: for people who use it.
The starting point is listening to occupants. Whether it’s surveys, complaints or just off-hand comments, feedback from building occupants is essential information for facility executives.
In some organizations, focusing on occupants is easier said than done. Without enough staff, money or time, the facility executive can begin to see occupants and facility staff as hostile camps, ready, willing and able to blame the other for problems.
Nevertheless, it’s important to make time to listen and, when possible, respond to occupants. That may mean taking care of a longstanding employee complaint, explaining why a construction project is taking so long or working with a business unit to make more effective use of its space.
Listening won’t solve a facility executive’s woes with having too little money and too little time. In the short term, listening may even make those problems worse. But over the long haul, taking care of occupants is the best way to keep management mindful of why the building exists.