Learning to Love the Process   How To Jump Start Facility Familiarity

Learning to Love the Process
How To Jump Start Facility Familiarity

Being a newcomer to facilities is often about taking small strides, every day, with consistency, rather than trying to make giant leaps in the first three months. Learning how to manage stress will bring ease and calmness to the day, even when you’re swamped. Remember to take walks during lunch, do some stretching or yoga.

People Need People

When you spend 40+ hours a week on-site, that place is YOUR place. Beyond basic good manners, studying how to listen sets the stage for long-term fulfillment. Acknowledge and accept that others know much more. It’s ok to ask for help, but also don’t fear taking initiative. Accept and realize what can be realistically accomplished in a day, a week, a month, a quarter, and a year. Try to have fun with people. Ask about their families, their pets, and what they like to do for fun.

Understanding Facility Operations

It’s imperative to understand facility operations, including layout, equipment, systems, and processes, and to review documentation to gain a comprehensive understanding of how things function.

When there’s some down time, Grace Grindstaff, the Senior Associate Director, Facility & Business Operations at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, suggested getting to know your facility’s history, including major facility changes, projects, and historical facility issues.

Be Proactive in Emergency Responsiveness

In 2022, according to Forbes Advisor, the US experienced 18 climate disasters that caused over $1 billion in damage and more than 400 fatalities. Natural disaster statistics by year show these events are occurring more frequently. Grindstaff emphasized reading facility emergency action plans early on, including how to shelter in place during storms, how to prepare for inclement weather, how to evacuate, and where safe places in the facility are located.

There are always ways to improve planning, communicating, and rehearsing key processes and protocols. Every building has a different vibe, layout and design, and peak periods of activity. Power outages, floods, and other calamities can take place any day, at any time without warning, so preparation is one of the keys to accelerating response times.

Facility teams should develop and communicate clear and concise emergency protocols to team members, outlining specific roles and responsibilities, communication challenges, evacuation procedures and special actions. Regular training and drills should be a part of every emergency response plan.

“If you’re a safety officer, facility manager, or key decision-maker, the number one thing to do is to conduct an annual drill. Pick a scenario like a blackout and create a 96-hour plan,” said Clarisa Lemke, formerly the Director of Facilities Operations for Crothall Healthcare.

Strategic Onboarding Approaches for Facilities Management Success

In the facilities world, it’s vital to start off strong, but not too strong. Wayne Parks from Pace Labs recommends bringing some insights from your previous positions and make a game out of learning the new company’s valued, existing vendors. Above all, don’t try to learn everything right away. Your goal is to help facilities continue to be the problem-solvers for other departments.

Effective Entry Strategies in Healthcare Facilities Management

Peter Martin from Gosselin/Martin Associates and the Healthcare Facilities Network, believes it’s valuable to differentiate at what level you’re entering the team.

At the technician level, adjusting to being a new team member really comes down to the organization’s needs, and what the supervisor wants. Ideally the interview process should help bring clarity to roles and expectations, though that is not always the case.

“When a technician is hired, they are probably being thrown right into the fire, depending upon their competency level and their specific role,” said Martin. “But hopefully, there is a new hire process in place, so they are not thrown directly in without a support system. In a perfect world, they would have the ability to shadow for a bit, learn the organization and where critical systems lie.”

Having a designated mentor for those first 90 days is recommended, but there is a lot of understanding that takes place on an ongoing basis.

“Just last week, I was talking to a contractor, and he told me that with the turnover of facility staff, he goes into some hospitals where FM staff ask him where shutoff valves are located. Learning those things, including med gas, power, water, and the location of critical systems and shutoffs, should be foundational,” said Martin.

Martin believes at the management level, the approach when you’re new is more about observing, asking questions, meeting with peers and facility customers. For management, it is much more observational early on, unless they are hired to come in and put out specific fires, like compliance, which then becomes the first focus.

In hospital settings, understanding and reviewing TJC survey documentation (Life Safety and Environment of Care) helps one better understand the department and its challenges. Many people have learned facilities because they have set forth to first understand compliance, from TJC to NFPA.

Mastering Work Orders and PMs: Building Relationships in Facility Maintenance

Having some understanding of work orders and PMs, what they are, what is important, and the process, is also helpful. Work orders and PMs are going to be a great deal of the work for new technicians. Having visibility, and meeting your customers to build relationships, even if it happens slowly, should begin to occur through this work.

“Observe and listen to the culture of the organization and your internal customers as you go about your work. I think sometimes people want to "do," and they may forget the listen and observe portion,” Martin said.

Forging Facilities Futures

Looking ahead, Grindstaff recommends finding out about the facility’s strategic future plans for current buildings, expansions, and replacements.

Seeing the facility’s financial history helps bring clarity, including what has cost the most, how to cut costs, and how to increase revenue.

Effective communication is critical throughout this period. Ensure that you communicate your plans, goals, and any changes transparently to the team, fostering a collaborative environment and gaining their support as you gain confidence and begin to implement improvements.

Starting a new position in facility management demands a gradual approach focused on consistency rather than instant mastery. Learning to manage stress is pivotal for maintaining composure. Beyond mastering technical aspects, building relationships is essential. Embracing the organizational culture involves active listening and observation, acknowledging the expertise of others while showing initiative. Understanding facility operations and emergency protocols ensures preparedness for unexpected disasters. By encouraging a collaborative environment and implementing improvements gradually, new facility team members and managers can steer towards long-term success and engage in effective succession planning.

Check out this informative article for tips on successful strategies for facility succession planning.

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