Tag Archives: culture

A Facilities Manager’s Life in Angola, Southern Africa (by Simon Beck)

Simon Beck recently connected with me, and shared his “FM story”. I asked Simon if I could share what he told me, below. Some things sound remarkably similar, whereas others couldn’t be more different!

After a successful career in the British Army, and some time in the UK FM industry, Simon looked further afield and moved to Saudi Arabia….

“….Obviously quite a daunting prospect of a complete change in scenery, life style and working practices the followed but with my attitude forged from years in the army of being very flexible, acceptable to changes at sometimes very short notice and adaptable I thought ‘why not’; I [no longer] had directly attached family to think or worry about. After a year working in the Eastern province of Saudi Arabia, for SAAD specialist hospital I decided to accept an offer from MACE Macro, the FM management and Consultancy Company. I was based in Dubai, but worked on the commissioning and initial operations of the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC). I was in Abu Dhabi for just over a year when the consultancy period ended, after which I was based out of MACE Macro’s Head Office in Dubai.”

“Just under two years ago the opportunity to work in Angola came up….

“Currently I am working as a The Senior Business Development manager for SG Services, LDA, a Facilities Management and Maintenance company based in Luanda, Angola.  Developing both internal and external business, such as finding and procuring new external clients, and advising on internal policies and procedures such as ISO9001, 14 and 18001, Health and Safety, Estate and asset management, and advising on both Hard and Soft service provision.

I am also responsible for the current commercial side of the business, making contact and development of new clients and business streams; responsible for finding and responding to RFIs and putting bids together from RFPs (when I was working for Mace Macro I helped work on bids, for Sky Courts Dubai, Al Rahba Hospital Abu Dhabi, Aldar, Emirates national Schools, Etisalat, Mushrif Palace, Ominyat, TDIC, Al Ain Wildlife Park, the Lusail project in Qatar, and Alshaya International Trading in Saudi Arabia).

For SG Services, I have written and submitted bids for BP Angola, LNG Angola, BAI Bank (15 branches), BAI Teaching Academy, and just recently TOTAL. With a total value of just under $60m.

With a NEBOSH qualification, I am also the Companies Health and Safety Director responsible for the Health and Safety of all of the company’s employees, contractors and clients that come in contact or have dealings with SG Services.  Responsible for implementing and directing the company according to Angolan Health and Safety law, and advising on best practises, following European and British legislation. I am also responsible for the Companies Environmental management and Quality management systems and implementation.”

In all of the places I have lived and worked, each one is slightly different in the way it does things, even the most usual of things of like going shopping for instant, in Saudi Arabia women are not allowed to drive and even ex pats have to wear the hibiya…..  So that I was usually asked to drive some of the female members of SAAD staff on shopping trips just down to the super markets.  Angola is no different.  Yes women can drive here but there are very few what I would call European standard shopping, establishments to go too.  It is extremely expensive place to live with most things except vegetables have to be imported.  This makes Angola one of the most expensive places on the plant to live and work.”

“The country’s economic income is based on the off shore oil and LNG reserves, diamonds and other natural resources’ found in the country, but it has very limited industrial manufacturing base, again highlighting the cost of imports.  With the revenue from the Oil, and all of the major oil companies represented, such as BP; Chevron, TOTAL, etc has seen the increase in construction and infrastructure projects, mainly being carried out mainly by the Chinese (CITIC construction), in return for the oil reserves.  With the country Portuguese speaking a lot of influence comes from Portugal, also an ex colony, and Brazil.  With the country mainly speaking Portuguese there is also a number of Portuguese owned companies’ represented t here, such as Sores de Costa and Lisboa and the FM software providing company, Navaltik.”

“The UK has not been entirely left out, with ATKINS providing consultancy services to a number of projects mainly being the huge Welfare housing projects based just outside of Luanda.  All of this new construction and infrastructure work has seen a knock on affect for the FM market.  However with FM very much in its infancy here, but with influence from world and European based companies the teaching curve is very much ongoing.  I would say that it is a few years behind the Middle East but is fast catching up.”

“SG Services is the leading Property management and Maintenance Company in Angola.  With its senior management coming from Portugal, and the UK, bring to the company European business ethics, procedures and policies, but with about 97% of the remaining work force being Angolan, has made the company being able to bring to its ever increasing International and local clients, European based standards with Local knowledge, education and experience.  SG Services current portfolio includes the Presidential Palaces, buildings and villas, a 263 bed hospital, a five star Hotel, a university and an 18 floor Tower block (HQ Sonangol, Angola’s oil Company).  With this diversity of a portfolio has made SG Services the leading FM Company in Luanda and an obvious first choice for any future or potential new clients.”

“It is not all work and no play…..There is a vibrant ex pat community, Americans, Scottish, Irish, Portuguese, Brazilian, mainly based around the embassy’s and some Ex pat run organisations such as the Luanda British Women’s Association and the TICA, with someone holding a get together one week to the next.”

“With the country only coming out of a civil war in the past 20 years some areas of the Luanda have yet to be re developed so there are areas that do seem to be very run down.  These areas you tend to avoid but generally you have to be a bit more aware of your surroundings’ and who is around you.  If you have a chance to leave the city and go out into the country side then you must take it.”

“There are some wonderful scenery in central Angola, but go with someone who knows the areas.  Tourism is not yet a major income earner as there is limited number of decent and affordable hotels.”

“……..looking to the future, where can I retire to, and what will I do when I don’t really want to work anymore? Angola is not that place… I haven’t as yet worked in the Far East such as Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, or the Americas, etc.  I’m flexible, adaptable and willing to accept changes at short notice, so I am willing to be on the move again….”

How Simon got there….

“…In May of 2003, I left the Army and did the BIFM Part two course as a resettlement course.  Immediately I picked up a job working for Interserve on their Network rail contract in Manchester.  After a year i was promoted and moved to full FM on the same contract but in York.  With my military background I was asked to join the Defense division of Interserve as they were just completing the PFI construction stage on the New Welbeck College in Leicestershire.  Then after a short stint with the CITB and Inspace Maintain based in Birmingham I looked further afield….” You know the rest!

Thanks to Simon for this interesting career story.

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Comparative study of cultures / Hofstede dimensions

A very brief blog, to make you (and me!) aware of the work of father and son team, Geert (and the younger Gert Van) Hofstede, around the comparative study of cultures. They have a downloadable file of “matrix of dimension scores” plus other papers, books and material: http://www.geerthofstede.nl/research–vsm.aspx

As ‘culture’ often comes up in the discussion of workplaces around the world, I thought this would be useful to share.

And thankyou to Maarten Kas ( http://www.linkedin.com/in/maartenkas ) for sharing this on the Linkedin Group “The European Centre for Facility Management”. It followed a question asked by Peter de Winter, Snr Programme Director for Workplace Innovation at Philips ( http://www.linkedin.com/pub/peter-de-winter/5/492/476 )

Peter asked:

Who has experience with including the cultural aspect in global office design? We apply a ‘one size fits all’ approach for our international and country HQ’s. Works quite well. Ideas for improvement?

One of the best from CoreNet Paris: “AiaDW” (All in a day’s work)

Paul Carder; Tuesday 20th Sept 2011; Paul was at the CoreNet Global Paris Summit. What follows below is his interpretation, so any errors are his alone.

A presentation at the 11.15 breakout session was given by Rob Wright of Johnson Controls GWS, (JCI) and Julie Boshoff, of Quest (a staffing solutions company, and JCI client, from Johannesburg).

I picked this session out for the blog, because it was excellent, for a number of reasons. Firstly, it introduced a genuinely new tool for understanding the workplace, albeit not a ‘public’ tool as it is owned and delivered by JCI GWS (actually designed by Rob Wright, who has a track record of designing useful web-based tools; he was also one of the drivers and creators behind QLW, or Quantum Leap for Work). Secondly, it was an international application of this new tool, as it was developed by Rob, an Englishman (only just – he’s a Geordie – very close to being Scots :-), tried out in the USA (where Rob is now based), and applied for a client in Johannesburg, RSA. Thirdly, I think it showed that large organisations like Johnson Controls do, contrary to some commentators, deliver innovations like this. Julie Boshoff, their client, was warmly singing their praises, which is perhaps proof enough. It is certainly not one of those cases where a service provider does a project for an innovative client, learns on the job, then passes this off to their next client as ‘our innovation’….this process below was developed and led by Rob Wright.

Understanding work: a business programme (not an RE/Facilities programme)

The session was really about understanding work (or at least, understanding work in the context of one organisation – we all know that every organisation has some similarities, but many differences).  And it was clearly a business programme, with an emphasis on changing people’s ways of working, and helping staff to become more efficient and effective in their work tasks.

To put it in context, the client has 12 branches across the Republic of South Africa (RSA), with 14,000 what it terms “flex staffers”. As the company supplies staff, and teams, for temporary positions and projects, and some outsourced functions, it has been the focus of some pressure from the Unions, and accused (like all similar agencies) as a “form of slavery”. The client wished to address this, and has implemented benefits that more permanent, long-term staff, would
expect, such as medical aid and retirement plans. The client expressly wishes to
be seen as an “employer of choice”. It is also around 99% women, so we are told
it is “very productive”! But this is a challenge, as good people want the best
jobs, and they perceive this to be in permanent employment.

WOW was born….(how many programmes are there globally called “WOW”?)

Space in the current (first pilot) office was not effective, or efficient. So the WOW programme was originated by the client, using JCI’s four part plan, as follows:

  1. Workspace Review
  2. Workstyle Review
  3. Design & Planning
  4. Supporting the Change

Workspace Review

Utilisation studies were conducted in 3 locations. Nothing especially new in this – we have all seen workplace utilisation charts, I’m sure, showing utilisation of the offices at several ‘timepoints’ throughout the working day. This is usually repeated (in my experience) over a 3 week period, and can be broken down by desk, meeting room, and other facilities, depending on how the survey is made up. The end result showed an average utilisation of 48%. This is probably +/- 10% from your offices, and most other offices – unless you have already implemented some form of ‘agile working’ programme. Or unless you sit in a call centre, or a country where people predominantly sit at their office desk and work long hours (i’m thinking particularly in parts of SE Asia & Japan where people routinely sit at their desk until the boss goes home….having said that, I have experienced that in London also!)

There were a variety of spaces, from induction and training rooms, to testing (examination, psychometric tests, etc.) and lots of meeting rooms. So some utilisation levels were up in the 80/90%.

Workstyle Review

This is where “A day in the life” comes in as a process. Rob asked selected members of staff to complete a diary for a day, outlining their work experience. 187 days of diary evidence were received and analysed. Different diaries were collated from different functions and roles across the client organisation. This especially highlighted barriers to working. The results were collated in terms of number of minutes wasted per day due to a variety of factors. The overall results were as follows

  • Technology                 40 minutes per day
  • Workplace                  31 minutes per day
  • General work            26 minutes per day

Alongside this, the survey showed particular issues with workplace factors, and ‘general work’ factors. No surprises with the top ‘barriers’ – these were noise and disruption. Any workplace consultant could have guessed that before the surveys, but that is not the point – the point is engagement. Listening to the staff, and feeding back.

The FBI was engaged – the “Finance & Branch Infrastructure” department – headed by Julie Boshoff. With JCI-GWS, a list of potential solutions (which, to me, looked much like a ‘risk register’) was compiled, and given a ranking number.

AiaDW – a user friendly online survey

The interface for the online survey is easy to use, which could be why they received a record 80%+ response rate (266 staff), from a good mix of groups across the organisation. The survey is designed to feedback primarily (1) understanding of workstyles, (2) a quantitative measure of unproductive time, in minutes as above, (3) insight into attitudes towards working ‘differently’.

Rob admitted, “the high response rate was a surprise”, and puts it down to the relative simplicity of the process and the survey itself. It goes out to staff as an email link, and is easy to fill in.

The survey starts with 24 categories of work, which the respondent selects according to their usual work routines. It then asks how much time the respondent spends doing each type of work. It then has 4 groups, which the user must ‘drag and drop’ their work categories into – simple! The 4 categories are:

  1. Focus
  2. Collaborate
  3. Network
  4. Develop

So now, the team can analyse the types of work, time spent on each, and which of the 4 boxes they fit into. This is quite a lot of analysis from which the design team can start to adjust the sizes of different categories of space to suit work patterns.

Instant feedback, and constant communication – keys to success

One of the features of this survey and analysis tool, which I have not seen in similar processes before, is the ‘playback’ at the end of the survey. People can (and were asked to) print off their ‘playback’, and the ones who were to be invited to workshops would bring their own ‘playback’ with them. This just adds to the excellent communication process, before, during and after (via workshops, and announcements from the ‘FBI’ team).

Time in different spaces/ places

This was shown to be 60% in the office, but only 35% at “the desk”. Out of the 60%, in addition to 35% of time at the desk, 12% of time was spent in the open support areas, and 13% in rooms. The other 40% of time was split between being out of the office, and around 11% spent at home. So this showed that there was already some implicit home-working, even though, like in many organisations, this had not been made explicit until now.

Two ‘Group’ companies, merge into one office? Data….

The question arose, during the project, of ‘could Quest and Emmanuels, two companies in the same Group, work in the same location’? The same data collection process and analysis above was applied at Emmanuels, which showed that the types of work and work-styles at both companies had a very similar profile. So the project team were able to say ‘yes’, and back up their views with facts.

This would clearly mean moving to different ways of working, which means in effect varying levels of workplace sharing – desk sharing ratios above 1.0, and shared meeting rooms, etc. But the survey had asked people to rank their attitude towards working in a different way. Of 4 categories, the top two were (1) enthusiastic, and (2) open-minded; i.e., not quite ‘enthusiastic’, but open to try it. Both categories are considered to be positive attitudes, and totalled 90% of respondents (37% enthusiastic; remainder ‘open minded’). This was good to know, and will now result in the same process being rolled out in the Cape Town and Durban branches.

Design & Planning stage

Following this analysis stage, the next step is to move into thinking about how space can be redesigned to support people to work more efficiently and effectively. This consisted of 3 key processes, as follows:

  1. Results of the analysis fed into the design concept
  2. Users connecting their survey responses, and the ‘playback’ that they kept copies of, with the new designs – important to close the feedback loop
  3. Making new tools work for the user

It was interesting that this programme was completed with very little new furniture or technology. Mobile staff got laptops issued before the move (what is mobile? Outside the office – OK; but people are mobile around the office also, even if they rarely or never work elsewhere).

Stage 4: supporting the change

The key word that sticks out strongly is engagement. Communications were clearly very good throughout the programme, led by the ‘FBI’ team on the client side, with support from JCI-GWS.

In addition to the ‘playback’ of results described above, a website was set up for users to keep them in touch with the process, and any milestones or decisions on design and features. The fact that people were listened to, and they saw this in effect in the new designs, was critical to the success.

Economics / results

Some headline real estate results given by JCI were impressive, as follows:

RE (space) cost per head                              down by 44%

RE (space) cost per SqM                              down by 13%

SqM per head                                                  down by 36% (from 29 to 18.8)

These results clearly show that, although some smaller (but not insignificant) savings were made in the overall space costs, it is the change in working practices that leads to the large reductions in cost per head, as people use the space more effectively. This is not news – but worth reinforcing!

Q & A session

I asked Rob whether, if the project had not involved a full scale refurbishment and move into bright new offices, the perceived productivity gains would have been the same. Rob replied that

we could have achieved some of the
productivity gains without the new fit-out, but not as much

Julie added that “connectivity”, including the new laptops for mobile users, and introduction of the office intranet, had improved people’s productivity also.

Tim Oldman, Founder of Leesman (and the Leesman Index, or LSi) made the point that “this is an employee engagement project firstly, and a property project secondly”. That seems very true, as engagement, feedback and action on the results, was the critical factor in the success. Tim also reminded delegates of the “productivity toxins” research by HBR (Harvard), and asked how many of these “toxins” had been removed from the old environment. Julie responded that the old environment was dark, and some people called it ‘the dungeons’! The new café spaces where people are encouraged to work, and other open shared space, had removed some of these “toxins”.

Melanie Woolcott from Pringle Brandon made a valid point that perhaps in future the process could capture the positive factors about the existing workspace, as well as the productivity inhibitors. Rob said that he was considering how to feed that in.

The session moderator, Rene Buck, asked a question that I have heard other senior managers ask before, ‘Rob, if you have been doing these types of surveys and collecting data for many years, surely you know what people are going to say, what the issues are? You don’t need to repeat the survey for every building, do you?’ Rob Wright’s reply was two-fold: firstly, every organisation (and I would say many parts of the same organisation) have different work types, styles and attitudes. So the answers don’t necessarily roll-out across a portfolio (Rob
has found that recently even in his own JCI portfolio in the USA). But the key
point, and one which backs up this entire case study, Rob said as follows:

“You may get the same results every time, but I would still advocate doing the survey every time – its about engaging with people”

Germain Verbeermen, Partner at Wiceley in Brussels, made a point based on his similar experience of these types of workplace surveys:

“Managers know how to cheat on these surveys! They will tell you that they spend most of their time on ‘concentration’ tasks, and at their desk – they are just angling for an office!”

Rene chipped in, “yes, and its not only managers that do this!” Rob had an answer though, saying “that’s why the list of work types, and amounts of time spent on each, come before the section that asks them to move these work types into the 4 boxes of ‘Focus, Collaborate, Network, Develop’…so they cannot do that”. Mmm, maybe?

Rene also asked “What didn’t you do, that you would have liked to have done”. Rob replied,

“working with the designers from day 1…when people get the data and analysis, and they were not the ones that collected the data, they don’t always like it”.

That is what happened here, as Rob explained. The designers were brought in by the client, not JCI-GWS, and didn’t at first accept the analysis. This may be in part due to the fact that ‘workplace’ and ‘new ways of working’ generally are at an embryonic stage in RSA. Perhaps, though, the way to achieve a greater project success is for the client to appoint one firm to see the project through from analysis into concept design at least. Perhaps another designer can pick up the detailed designs, or a lower cost/lower level part of the design organisation. The strategic upfront work is always going to be more expensive, whereas the more ‘routine’ design work uses lower level (lower cost) staff.

Tim Oldman again picked up on this issue, asking “where do you draw the line between data “harvesting”, data analysis, and feed into the design solution. Rob replied that he “would like, in JCI-GWS, to have more people in the design team that can do the analysis, to create an effective handover into the detailed design”.

Julie added, “yes, that would be better – there were some problems with getting the designers to follow what we had set out”.

Final word

Rob Wright had the final word, saying

“one funny thing that happened on this project was that I had 20 interviews set up [with key end users]…and I met about 120 people! I had expected to meet one person, and 5 or 6 may turn up to the interviews, because they all wanted to have a say, and were genuinely interested in the project”.

I know from experience that many corporates would restrict this, and claim it is a waste of staff time and resource for them to ‘all go’. But all credit to this client, not experienced in workplace projects, but experienced in engagement of people in change processes, that they went along with it. They may have had 180 hours (or so) of time taken up by people attending interviews, instead of 20-30 hours. But, how much has this saved the organisation in the longer term. Julie and her team clearly understood how to effect change in their organisation, and with Rob Wright’s workplace strategy skills, have been able to deliver a successful pilot which looks likely to be expanded across RSA….many people in sub-Saharan Africa will probably be looking carefully at how they can learn from this case study by Quest and JCI.

paul.carder@occupiersjournal.com
twitter: @occupiers

20th Sept 2011 (in the vicinity of, but not that close to) Paris at the CoreNet ‘Paris’ Summit.

CoreNet members can download the slides here.

Transactive memory – changing the way we recall information: good for CRE/FM outsourcing?

Sometimes I read an article and don’t get to the end (low boredom threshold…), and sometimes I have to read it again and think ‘wow, this is really news to me…’. This BBC News science article “Internet’s memory effects quantified in computer study” was one of those that got me thinking….I just had to ‘blog’ it.

If you want to read the full academic paper by Betsy Sparrow and colleagues at Columbia, its titled “Google Effects on Memory: Cognitive Consequences of Having Information at Our Fingertips“, or if you’re a bit lazier like me (!), watch the interview on YouTube.

So, interesting, but what has this to do with us? Quite a lot, it seems, as we are starting to change the way that we use our minds and recall information. We are using our minds a little like a computer with a ‘flash drive’ with plug in external memory. The BBC article states,

“Psychology experiments showed that people presented with difficult questions began to think of computers. When participants knew that facts would be available on a computer later, they had poor recall of answers but enhanced recall of WHERE they were stored.

The researchers say the internet acts as a “transactive memory” that we depend upon to remember for us. In the interview on YouTube, Betsy Sparrow explains that we have always used other people as part of this “transactive memory” – ie., you don’t need to ‘store’ all the answers, but have a network of people whom you know will have the answers – like ‘phone a friend on Who Wants to be a Millionaire. Or, more typically, in a workplace, our colleagues and network.

The BBC article continues:

“….the propensity of participants to remember the location of the information, rather than the information itself, is a sign that people are not becoming less able to remember things, but simply organising vast amounts of available information in a more accessible way”.

Dr Sparrow said:

“I don’t think Google is making us stupid – we’re just changing the way that we’re remembering things… If you can find stuff online even while you’re walking down the street these days, then the skill to have, the thing to remember, is where to go to find the information. It’s just like it would be with people – the skill to have is to remember who to go see about [particular topics].”

This makes me think of the corporate real estate or facilities management function, or clearly any corporate function that we may work within.

Organizational memory in CRE & FM

With the usual wikipedia health-warnings, it does contain some definition and links regarding organisational memory. In our organisations, collective memory exists in the organisation’s archives, filing systems, intranet etc…and in the heads of its employees (and I would say, its outsourced service providers).

But if people are becoming intelligent processors, rather than ‘storing’ much of the information they need to do their jobs, is this a change in the nature of work and the employee? And does this in fact make many technical and service delivery jobs potentially more transitory – anyone with the basic knowledge, using ‘transactive memory’, can perform many (most?) tasks?

In CRE & FM, what do we put online, available to the ‘transactive memory’?

Increasingly, in our market sector – management of real estate assets, facilities services and workplace design/change – we are putting more information into the ‘transactive memory’. No longer does the maintenance engineer need to know every building and every system in her portfolio – she has a handheld ‘widget’ that can recall all the asset data and history required to do the job. In fact, I have seen at first hand, such a knowledgeable person being replaced (via outsourcing) with a far more frequent turnover of technicians, reliant on their online/system-based asset schedules and task orders.

OK, thats easier – its technical. But how about the services that cannot be ‘recalled’ via computer-based systems?

When can’t we replace our internally-stored memory with ‘transactive’ memory? When is ‘looking it up’ just no good.

I don’t know the answer! I’m interested in your views on this.

Firstly, I would suggest that the in-house occupier, or ‘intelligent client’ needs to have in-built learned knowledge about the key individuals, departments and functions in the organisation. And a lot about the organisation’s culture and way of doing things. If you are sat in front of the Head of Operations for your company, there are only certain things that it would be acceptable to ‘look up’ from your transactive memory. Too much of this, and the Execs in your organisation would lose confidence in you.

There are certain instant, customer-focused jobs that rely on embedded knowledge also – not transactive memory. Like receptionists? They need to know faces, know what people do, who is important, who to call, etc. What about the Facilities Service Desk? Does it work as well for customers if the operators have little embedded knowledge of the organisation, its people, its buildings and systems? How much can they ‘look up’ on systems, and how much should they retain in their own memory? What about the ‘space planner/strategist’? Again, does this role need the in-built learned knowledge of the intelligent client as above? Probably. Does that mean the role should be in-house? Maybe….what do you think?

Structured, online, transactive corporate memory will be a BIG competitive advantage for outsourced service providers

Thats clear, is it not, from the discussion above? The more that an outsourced service provider can demonstrate that it has a well-structured ‘transactive memory’ to support all its staff on-site, the more the occupier (client) may be convinced that further services could be outsourced.

For example, staff turnover is a problem with FM companies. I spoke to a client recently who had experienced three Account managers inside 12 months – very disruptive, and bad for the outsourced provider’s reputation. But can this be fixed, or at least supplemented, with transactive memory?

How are companies investing in the systems they need to deliver this transactive memory? I would love to know.

regards, Paul Carder, Managing Director, Occupiers Journal Limited

paul.carder@occupiersjournal.com

http://www.linkedin.com/in/paulcarder

Twitter: @occupiers

Social media facilities management for internal corporate collaboration – if IT lets you!

Workplace / Facilities Managers have a key role to play in bringing collaborative environments to life with collaborative social media tools

Is it just me, or do many people in large corporate and government organisations have more tools to communicate and collaborate OUTSIDE of their organisation that they do WITHIN it? Seems to me that some IT departments may be holding back ‘information’ rather than providing the tools to increase its ease of use…?

There are so many ways to communicate now, its a real problem when people have them all on their i-POD, but only email or phone at their desk! As an example, I only get a few messages a week via Facebook, rather than several hundred via my 3 email accounts – so my IFA used Facebook this weekend, as the one route he knew was most likely to reach me on a Saturday morning. Good thinking. I also get many useful web-links every week from people that I follow on Twitter. But LinkedIn is by far the most useful collaboration tool for me. Can 80m+ people be wrong? Its easy to find people, in organisations that you want to talk to, about subjects of mutual business interest.

So, why don’t organisations let their people use LinkedIn? and Twitter? and other useful social media tools? Security risk?

Now, here’s an idea – why not initiate your own INTERNAL version of LinkedIn or Facebook? It would help to encourage more communication across the organisation, between people who otherwise may pass like ‘ships in the night’ through the corridors and past the watercoolers of corporate environments….without knowing that they have something useful to talk about.

Just look at all the ‘Groups’ on LinkedIn – something for every area of interest in the business world, and much more besides I’m sure. How powerful would it be to have this facility INSIDE the organisation..? Groups for every idea and project under the corporate umbrella; with the ability for people to contribute who may have great ideas but would otherwise not be heard.

Who should deliver it? well, why not corporate workplace/facilities? We work hard to create spaces and facilities to support and encourage communication and collaboration. We create spaces for people to mingle, and hopefully talk – restaurants, queues, break-out areas, etc. But what is missing is always the human connection – you might create opportunities for people to ‘bump into’ each other, but mostly they will not know each other, so they will not necessarily speak.

A corporate version of LinkedIn adds the human connection of course – a photo, so that you recognise someone, and a bit of information about their career history, achievements, current role…even faily and outside interests.

Now, how many more “watercooler moments” would be created – and who knows how many useful business opportunities initiated as a result – if companies had their own corporate ‘in-house’ version of LinkedIn? And what better way for corporate workplace/facilities management and ICT departments to work together to respectively create collaborative environments, both in the physical and the information worlds….?

Who will be first? If you already do this, please let me know…love to hear about it (occupiers@ntlworld.com); regards, Paul Carder http://uk.linkedin.com/in/paulcarder

How do we build corporate culture, and mentoring, in a mobile world?

I finished a report on Workplace Mobility a couple of weeks ago – specifically ‘how to maintain the commitment to mobility after the project team has moved on…’  It followed our research, and a workshop, with the Workplace ‘PIN’ (performance innovation network) group of real estate occupiers in the UK  Workplace \’PIN\’

I should say, I am a passionate believer in ‘mobility’ – enabling work to be conducted in many settings around the office, or away from the office with customers, or at home, or anywhere…and our research has shown clear benefits in a number of ways, for organizations and individuals alike.

But one area that needs some work – and a collection of brains, from different disciplines – is how the corporate organization creates and maintains its culture in a mobile world. And also, perhaps a subset of this, how does mentoring happen when people are less often together in the same space & time?

Lets take one of the best examples of a productive, flexible and mobile working environment, at Microsoft Workplace Advantage, Schiphol (NL). It really is a great environment, with multiple settings for working in different ways and with different people. People love it, and its won awards – deservedly so.

The key question I have – and I dont have any predetermined answer, as I’d like to know your views – is how do you pass on knowledge when people are less often together? Or rarely together, in one place, at one time?

I guess the first, and most important, group are the ’20-somethings’. Either fresh from University (in most cases these days), or perhaps transferring into a second job, and learning about the organization, what it does, how it does it. And also learning how to do their job – packed full of knowledge from University, but this is now the real office environment, and they have to learn how to get things done, how to persuade and influence…or just how to work!

In a traditional professional training, there has been a heavy reliance on mentoring throughout the structure. Graduates are mentored by qualified professionals, the recently qualified are mentored by the experienced, and the latter by the business directors or specialist partners. People learn from many experiences, some even ‘subliminal’. Sometimes simple, like over-hearing telephone discussions, consciously or perhaps unconsciously listening to what was said, how a customer was dealt with, how questions were answered, and so on. Most, if not all, people who have gone through a professional training will have experienced the pain (and repeat it on someone else, usually) of sitting with a senior person who red-lines and re-drafts your lovingly prepared report. Or cuts 30 of your presentation slides leaving the 10 she really needs….all good learning!!

Everyone remembers a good school teacher – in the same way, we remember experiences that taught us crucial lessons in our professional or business careers. So, how does this happen in a mobile world?

Cities like London, UK, have expensive real estate, so pressure to increase the DSR (desk-share ratio) will continue. This is accepted in mobile teams, like accountants (auditors) and management consultants. But can it ever work for bankers, business operations, software developers and the like?

Maybe the answer is mobile teams, rather than mobility for individuals? If the team is mobile, and can ‘camp’ in various places in groups of 2, 3, 4 or more, the corporate culture and learning experience is maintained. But where individuals are encouraged to be mobile, how do they maintain that link to the organization, and pick up the crucial learning and development that we all need?

How does this work in your organization? I’d love to hear your views….

Paul Carder