WW13: Day two

Communication, guns, productivity and more parties. Cathy Hayward reports from Philadelphia on day two of World Workplace 2013

World Workplace has a work hard, play hard culture. The parties last well into the night – after the museum last night, the local IFMA chapter was one of many bodies hosting after-party parties – but the conference starts at 8am sharp (with much-needed coffee from 7am). And even more impressively the Pennsylvania Conference Center is packed with keen delegates ready to start the learning, networking, selling cycle.

IFMA’s communications manager Jed Link kicked off one of 12 concurrent hour-long sessions, looking at the benefits of good communication, from communicating the benefits of FM at home and in the workplace to top tips on talking to the media. “People with good communication skills are perceived as being more competent, intelligent and confident, are more popular, and have more charisma. Good communication skills is a superpower,” he said. But he warned that communication requires the receiver to be an active participant in the process – it’s not a broadcast but a dialogue. The key, he said, is to work out who the audience is and their desired end-result and talk about the impact of FM, not the nitty gritty technical detail.

It was refreshing to see that there were a couple of sessions on communications skills (although the other that morning, about communicating with the c-suite, clashed with Link’s talk). And speaking to Link after his presentation, it appears that Ifma is considering launching a dedicated communications stream at World Workplace 2014.

As a Brit at a largely American conference, a session entitled Violence in the Workplace: how to survive an active shooter was too unusual to miss. And fellow Brit David Sharp from Workplace Law was also in the audience together about 150 other delegates who packed out a small room – perhaps as a result of the news that there had been a fatal shooting near the conference hotels a few days before.

Francis Merrins, owner of Tecm LLC, gave a fascinating insight into what happens during a workplace shooting. The average length of an incident is 12-15 minutes and it is typically as a result of a problem in a personal relationship. “This is the most dangerous thing. It’s happening outside the workplace, so you can’t see the problem developing, and the first you know of it, is when the ex-husband or wife turns up at the workplace with a gun.” People being made redundant, sacked or not receiving an anticipated payrise or promotion, are also typical causes for workplace shootings, he said.

Merrins urged the audience to have a procedure and training for dealing with workplace shootings, in the same way they plan for fire, floods and quakes. “Run, hide, fight in that priority is the key message to get across to co-workers” explained Merrins, demonstrating through a video of a real shooting, how the people who react correctly in the first three seconds are the ones that survive. He advised people not to pull a fire alarm (as it simply puts more people in the path of the shooter) and to call 911 and say “we have an active shooter”. The news, just a few hours later, that there had been a shooting in Washington DC and the capital was in lockdown, made the session even more relevant.

Despite the American focus, there were a number of sessions with a truly international flavor: the Dutch approach to the value of FM in risk management; improving the maintainability of buildings in China; the repercussions of the Brazil fire; and assessing conditions of US embassies around the world. With almost 50 sessions topics were equally diverse: a plethora of technology-related sessions involving BIM, CMMS and mobile solutions; together with presentations on leadership and strategy, project management and finance and business all living up to this year’s theme Leading FM: Advance Business, Get Results.

An afternoon session on Measuring Productivity: Rethinking the Old Numbers’ Game was another popular session with FMs desperate to get answers to this, the holy grail of FM. While interesting, the presentation posed more questions than answers arguing that productivity was an equation between time, money and widgets with quality, value and social dynamics. “It’s not about statistics,” said speaker Brady Mick, client leader, senior workplace strategies, BHDP Architecture.

My choice for the final session of the day was a session which analysed global trends in energy efficiency, something the FM at the convention center should have attended as rooms were over-air-conditioned in comparison to the balmy 80 degrees on the sidewalk outside. Jennifer Layke from the Institute for Building Efficiency, Johnson Controls presented the results of the seventh annual Energy Efficiency Indicator survey which drew over 3,000 respondents from 30 countries. It revealed that energy cost savings was the primary reason behind pursuing energy efficiency in buildings across all countries but other drivers from legislation and incentives, to recruitment and retention of employees, and attracting clients, set the countries apart.

A quick change for the Ifma Foundation FM Academic Awards, where Alita Jones was named the 2013 International Student of the Year, together with the award of a host of scholarships, and then it was off to the traditional Corts party, the furniture rental company’s 20th annual bash which has become a World Workplace institution.

Tomorrow is the final day of the World Workplace carnival, my fourth Ifma conference in the past 10 years, before the show packs up for another year. I can’t be the only one looking forward to a rest back in the office.

 Follow Cathy’s #ww2013 tweets at cathy_magenta

Cathy Hayward