Facilities Management (Managing Assets)
HR: A Facilities Swamp?
- By Pieter van der Have
- January 1st, 2017
Am I an effective human
resources manager? How many of us
feel fully comfortable in that mystifying
world? It is probably more likely that most of
what we think we know evolved through inadvertent
on-the-job training, numerous moments and
decisions we later regretted, even with continual
training, administered by HR professionals who
frequently are inexperienced in “managing” FM employees.
I remember all of the times we went through sexual harassment
training. Also every occurrence where an employee, seemingly
anywhere in our organization, made a comment, gesture or innuendo
to someone of the opposite (or same) gender who deemed
that action as unsolicited and undesirable, and had previously said
so. I remember those among us (who may not have displayed inappropriate
behavior themselves) sighing an editorial comment like,
“Geez, do we have to go through that again?” To which we received
the response that, yes, as supervisors and managers, we did get
the pleasure of going through that again. The assumption, and
the point, is that as creatures of habit, most of us have tendency to
fall back into our old habits, good or bad. The other point is that
some of us, innocently but out of genuine ignorance, may say or do
things that we believe to be completely harmless.
Let’s switch directions here, and ask each of us to take an “honesty”
quiz. Assume we have a vacant position for which we are
seeking qualified candidates. This position requires a significant
amount of exposure to our customers and stakeholders. After
having diligently followed all the corporate rules and regulations
for posting a vacant position of this type, we have arrived at the
stage when we can start interviewing a small number of finalists.
We congratulate ourselves in having arrived at this short list with
the expert and unbiased help contributed by our central Human
Resources representative. We schedule face-to-face appointments
with the finalists. We ask the same questions of each of the
candidates, with only slight variations in the follow-up questions.
We are generally impressed by the quality of the finalist pool, but
there are two who clearly rate higher than the others. The trouble
is that we can’t help but rate the two of them perfectly equal. Now,
here comes the rub. One of the candidates is significantly more
“pleasing to the eye” than the other. The question you have to
answer to yourself is: which one do you hire? The more attractive
(a subjective assessment at best), or do you go out of your way to
extend an offer to the other candidate, if for no other reason but to
demonstrate to everyone watching that you intentionally chose not
to be swayed by qualities not directly related to the job?
I discussed this dilemma with a small group of my students.
The unofficial result was that both the men and the women in this
group admitted that they would probably be inclined to hire the
more attractive person. What would you do?
Can You Justify Your Decisions?
Here’s another switch: dealing with a reduction in force. If you
are not in a union shop this can be challenging and tricky situation.
Unless your institution has a clear policy on such actions (which it
should!), and unless you have excellent performance evaluations
and documentations on file, you may hit some painful speed bumps.
Let’s assume that you operate under a requirement to base your
decisions on longevity in the current position (not anywhere else
at the institution). Assume you have two equally qualified incumbents.
Their respective track records regarding performance and
skill levels are identical. However, one has a blemish on her record
in terms of a felony conviction many years ago (of which you were
aware when you hired her), and the other one is squeaky clean.
Which one do you choose? That’s a tough one, right? The magnitude
of your eventual decision is even more burdensome when you realize
that the “survivors,” the employees not selected, likely will also be
judging the wisdom and impartiality of your decision.
The truth of the matter is that the alligators in that swamp
are getting bigger, and more ferocious. The swamp is also getting
deeper. Every decision you make, or resist making, is going to
picked apart and has the potential of being challenged. Every rule
you are perceived of violating can end up making you a new best
friend to your institution’s legal counsel. Clearly, it is increasingly
important for everyone on your management team to be well
versed (trained) in all aspects of human resources management.
“Human Resources Management” sounds impersonal, yet we
should remember that this resource is about people, and every one
has needs, expectations and life experiences. As I said before, our
business is about people, and how we choose to lead them. Or not.
This article originally appeared in the January 2017 issue of College Planning & Management.
Pete van der Have is a retired facilities management professional and is currently teaching university-level FM classes as well as doing independent consulting. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.