August 2014

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Focus on People to Advance Technology

My observation is that your understanding of where on the adoption curve the technology around you and part of you is provides the value you bring to your company and our industry.

Ken Sinclair,

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Facilities Management

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I find it interesting that, in the blur of technology, it is the people of our industry that are our cashable assets, not our technology.

Geoffrey Moore's pragmatic and systematic approach to the chaos created by technological innovation, a book called Crossing the Chasm, provided insight and guidance to the adoption journey. This is an excellent message for us all to get our heads around. Where we are on the adoption curve? Moore maps out all the milestones of the journey.

My observation is that your understanding of where on the adoption curve the technology around you and part of you is provides the value you bring to your company and our industry. “R U the Asset?” To invest and grow our companies’ assets we need to clone your knowledge and understanding. We as an industry and you as a company need to invest more of you (Time and Money) in the training and growth of those around you. Mentoring is an amazing feel good, do good vehicle, and every mentor should have a mentor, all working to create a network of brain trust to be part of your own company culture collaboratory.

For the survival of our industry we need to reach out and engage the bright minds who have grown up with the chaos created by technological innovation and share with them the wisdom and reason of our grey hairs and our lives of planting, growing, and nurturing truly smart intelligent buildings. Engage in mentorship and you will be amazed at what you learn from these bright minds, oh you thought you were the mentor … smile.

Create a new collaborator around your world that includes their world.  You will be amazed at how this will increase your assets and general understanding of the blur and chaos that is our new reality.

How do we build this valuable people asset?

An article on by Paul Oswald, President, Environmental Systems, Inc. (ESI), speaks well to this and does an amazing job of defining the task at hand and is a must read for all.

The article is called "Addressing The Skills Gap." It’s time we as industry begin to focus our efforts on investing in the people necessary to properly apply all the great technology we have in order to deliver quality solutions that provide real value to end users.

An extract follows:

Inevitably conversations in our industry focus on technology; new or old, doesn’t matter, we like to talk about technology; even to the point where we lose sight of the other things that make our industry work. The most important of these non-technology issues is the skills gap.

For most of the system integrators in this industry, they have only one asset – people. Contractors may have trucks, tools and inventory, but their number one asset is people. Let’s face it, integrators and contractors don’t manufacture anything, they typically don’t have any patents or licensable IP. 

They have one primary asset and it goes home every night.

Yet, how do we manage the number one asset? What do we invest in it, how do we attract it, how do we retain it? For most services firms, their real point of differentiation is their people, not the brand of product they represent or the geography they conduct business in.

We have an abundance of technology with more coming at us every day and yet we do little to equip our number one asset, our only asset in many cases, to deal with this technology effectively. This leads to the industry facing a significant skills gap. According to Forbes magazine, more than 70 percent of organizations cite “capability gaps” as one of their top five challenges, and many companies say that it takes three to five years to take a seasoned professional and make them fully productive. This is an incredible statistic and one that as an industry is frequently overlooked.

And this skills gap exists in two key areas: within organizations such as system integrators and services firms who provide the technology and solutions, and the end users who use these solutions on a daily basis. We are losing experienced building engineers and not replacing them or attracting younger talent to fill their roles. The result is powerful technology being delivered and not enough skill to properly use it.

[an error occurred while processing this directive] With so much riding on our people, what are we doing to attract, retain, and develop them? What are we doing to challenge them and keep them engaged so they continue to add value to their organizations and their customers?

The answer lies in how businesses manage their talent; how they invest in it. It’s not enough to simply hire an engineer and provide them with basic factory training (a model that unfortunately happens all too frequently). That’s training, which is not the same as learning and too often it becomes a one-time event. 

Businesses need to manage their investment in people as much as or more than they manage their investment in technology, tools, business systems, etc. To compete effectively in today’s market, they need to invest in developing a learning organization; one that promotes life-long learning and development and career development paths for its employees.

They need to ask questions such as:
• What’s the average age of your talent pool?
• Do your people have the right skills?
• What’s your talent attraction strategy? Do you have one?
• What’s your talent retention strategy?

Firms engaged in the business of providing solutions in our industry should understand that the value they bring to their customers is proportional to the knowledge and skills of their people; not the brand of the products they represent.  And as history shows, if you’re not consistently adding value to your customers, you will be replaced.


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