Still Doing More With Less?

by Katie Lee

You are not alone. Here’s how to make the best of what’s become the “new normal.”

By Anthony Maddox

So you and your company survived the recession and you have a job. Great, right, but… it really great? You look around your department and there are a lot of vacant desks. Before the recession the company would pay for conferences, training, cost of living increases, bonuses and — most of all — repair critical and non-critical equipment.

Now the company’s motto is, “maybe next year,” but profits are soaring and the company says profits are almost back to the time before the recession hit. Someone asks you about your job description and you proceed to tell them what you do. As you talk you think about how much you’re doing and how many people did what you do before the recession. It’s a going trend: more work with less people, more repairs with less money. How can you survive — or should I say, thrive — in this environment? It’s apparent they’re not hiring more people and you’re not getting your old budget back. So how can you keep up with today’s demands and keep your sanity?

cartoonHere are a few pointers:

Technology is Your Friend

Start using technology to your advantage; it’s not a hindrance. Items such as smartphones, tablets and computers can make your day more efficient. I know you have your trusty notebook. Every file neatly tabbed and every important email and procedure highlighted. What about your trusty calendar book? You can write all your important dates in there until you leave it at home by mistake! If you’re holding your head down in shame or thinking to yourself, “what’s wrong with the notebook?”, you’re exactly who I’m talking to. Technology is your friend! I personally forced myself not to carry my notepad and use my iPad. Now I can’t live without it. It’s synced with my phone and computer. Now when I’m in the meeting and they ask for important facts, it’s at my fingertips or maybe my boss needs to tell me something very important. I just open my iPad and take notes from there. If I mistakenly leave it at home, no worries. Everything is on my computer and phone, so I won’t miss the meeting and all my notes are right there. Tablets are also good for construction documents and even better for sending work orders or checking on the building’s automated controls.

Prioritize & Organize

Note: You can’t be in every meeting and do everything; therefore, you must prioritize. Make sure that you prioritize your schedule for at least 2 hours a day for processing what needs to be done and to catch up on emails. When I was working for one particular company, they adopted a culture stating no emails should be in your inbox by the end of the day. I know it sounds crazy, but it can be done. This method doesn’t mean that you should be able to respond and fulfill every email’s request, but you should be organized in such a way that all emails have been read to see if there is an emergency and can be organized into specified folders that mark its priority and the deadline. You will learn by prioritizing and organizing emails and your schedule that you can become very efficient and handle more items in your busy day.  

Build Your Team

So you and your team have taken some losses. Your team is slim and the ship is taking on water, but the work isn’t slowing down. So what do you do? If you’re in my position and you have a lot of in-house staff, start cross-training employees. Not only does this help the company get things done, but allows your staff to try new ideas and become innovative. Also invest in your team and get them specific training in the areas your team is lacking in. Another good idea is outsourcing. Outsourcing can really help if your company is anti-fringe benefits and you want to make sure that you can increase and decrease the load as it comes. However, this approach can be a money pit and there are a few things to watch out for:

1. In my opinion, there is something to be said about in-house labor. In-house labor can be challenging with personality conflicts and keeping the work standards high; however, I have found that an in-house staff sense of ownership and pride in work can really foster an overall level of quality that is very hard to find in a company that is concerned about profit margins. If you outsource, the company will need to have more than the lowest price, but passion and pride in what they do.

2. Scopes of work and contract structure must be defined clearly, but must allow the flexibility to add or decrease at a fair price. If your scope is not clearly defined, you could pay a pretty penny to add services that should already be included or pay because you’re not providing the volume expected.

3. Inspections and building matrixes to measure the outsourced team’s performance are critical. If you don’t have the resources or time to check the quality of repair parts, installation and customer service, your building built like a Toyota Camry will end up repaired like a Chevrolet Malibu, but for a Porsche price. 

Keep Your Edge

I know your life is busy with work, kids, spouse, hobbies and even religious activities, but you owe it to yourself to stay on top of your game! Attend conferences, trainings and join professional organizations like the International Facility Management Association IFMA to keep up with today’s practices. Even if you have to pay for it out of your pocket, the investment in your own personal development is worth it. If you have your associate’s degree, go back and get your bachelor’s degree. Go get a certification like the Certified Facility Manager CFM designation from IFMA; keep moving in your education. You will find that a new procedure, contractor, organizational management strategy or program will be introduced to you that may make your life 10 times easier. You may even find another job opportunity that is less stressful and pays more.  You’ll never know until you explore different avenues.

As the old saying says, “There are no problems — just opportunities.” With a clear head and positive attitude you will get through the difficulties of today. More with less can be a good thing, and necessity will always be the mother of invention and ingenuity! So keep your head up and always keep moving forward; it gets easier as you embark on new strategies.

— Anthony Maddox is the senior campus facilities manager at Georgia Perimeter College and a board member of the IFMA (International Facilities Management Association) Atlanta Chapter. Email the author at [email protected].

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