From my experience I have found that job descriptions and specifications for SBM vacancies tend to focus on Finance experience, HR knowledge and business skills. Reference to Premise and Facility Management can normally be found further down the list. Often the reference is a one liner in comparison to say the finance criteria. In truth though, get premise and facility management wrong and the consequences could result in, at worst, death or injury of a stakeholder and long term damage to the school’s reputation.
Getting to grips with the building and facility compliance was a steep learning curve on starting my post as a SBM. Responsibilities have increased with changes to Health and Safety regulations and we should always remind ourselves that this area is regulated by law, both civil and criminal. Generally, in life we are told not to sweat the small stuff but in Premise and Facility Management you do. Ignore the need to keep on top of your maintenance and servicing to your peril. You will eventually end up in legal trouble. Alternatively, ignore that dripping tap for too long and you may end up with a costly water usage bill.
Added to this, it is essential to look after the visual standard of buildings and facilities, that is to create a school where stakeholders want to be or send their child to. All visitors to the school, in particular prospective parents, must be presented with a positive image – welcoming reception area, high standard of cleanliness and a cared for environment, both outside and inside the school buildings.
So where to start in having effective premise and facility management? As with all business support areas - with the staff. Some points (not exhaustive) to consider:
- acknowledge the work of the Premise and Facility Manager (aka Site Supervisor, Caretaker) in enabling the outcomes of the pupils
- recognise and demonstrate their value through a regular weekly organised and set meeting
- have open and honest lines of communication between all stakeholders – avoid a blame culture
- raise awareness of the work undertaken by both yourself as the SBM and the Premise Manager in ensuring that the building is fit for purpose on return from school holidays
- re-acknowledge the input of the Premise Manager (with a smile) when a member of staff comments about how great the new science lab is, but in their opinion the colour of the paint should have been Coffee Beige rather than Coffee Latte.
Alongside the above I have found real value in the implementation of business management strategies and use of networks to assist Premise and Facility staff. As a leader, I have used coaching skills, been aware of team development stages and individual improvement potential. In other words, I have developed and improved the effectiveness of this area by using the right time for change. Sometimes this has meant restructures and re grading of posts and jobs.
In premise and facility management we can easily relate to Covey’s first three habits (out of seven) of highly effective people
- be proactive
- begin with the end in mind
- put first things first
And finally, as a constant do always make sure there is access to a qualified building surveyor for more complex issues and compliance advice. Part of a SBM responsibility is managing knowledge limits and when and who to contact for professional support.
In future blogs I will re visit the pre mentioned areas in more depth. Also I will be adding new discussions and current topics. In the meantime, I am off to bake a cake for my hard working unsung hero. Then I need to let him know about the blocked drain outside the visitor toilets, the update to the contractor’s induction pack, the late opening of school for a PTA event and………….
Covey, S. (1992) Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (Accessed online 18th February 2017 http://www.businessballs.com/sevenhabitsstevencovey.htm)
BY FIONA GILL – FEBRUARY 2017