One of the main reasons facilities leaders struggle to improve utilization is that they lack support from senior leaders, who may not see space management as a top priority. While most facilities leaders communicate space information to campus leaders on a regular basis, their current approach typically falls short in three ways.
First, space utilization reports or presentations are too dense or jargon filled, leading some leaders to tune out. Second, they fail to communicate how stakeholders will benefit from the proposed solution. Finally, they fail to provide stakeholders with clear next steps or actions. Below we provide three communication tools to help facilities leaders overcome these challenges and generate support for space management initiatives.
1. Top-line space management concerns
The first strategy of effective academic leader communication is articulating institutional space information in an easily digestible format. Pennsylvania State University’s “Top Ten Space Worries” captures the most important points in a concise, one-page list that stakeholders can easily skim and absorb. Each point is backed by campus-specific data and anecdotes that communicate the size of the problem on campus.
Penn State’s Facilities leader regularly uses this document to orient senior leaders to space management issues on their campus. As a result of this consistent messaging, stakeholders were convinced to adopt centralized scheduling software.
2. Translate space data into meaningful metrics
The second strategy is to identify and translate space utilization metrics into relatable measurements that are relevant to stakeholders’ activities and priorities. The California Institute of Technology (Caltech) produces a four-page brief that measures current space utilization of instructional space and identifies opportunities for improvement.
The report is primarily based on a supply and demand analysis outlined on this page. However, Caltech takes a novel approach to reporting findings. Caltech defines the problem in terms of number of classrooms that can be reclaimed and redeployed through better course scheduling. Going one step further, they equate the potential space savings to well-known buildings on campus, making the opportunity more concrete and more compelling for stakeholders.
3. Tailor the message to different audiences
The final strategy of this practice is to tailor the message to different audiences. Facilities leaders can make space management more compelling by connecting space initiatives with the interests of individual academic leaders. The Facilities Forum’s stakeholder-specific communication tools provide facilities leaders with non-technical talking points that highlight the goals and arguments most likely to engage and persuade the intended audience.
Non-Technical Talking Points
Each of the Facilities Forum’s three tools is designed to engage a specific stakeholder: the provost, college deans, department chairs, and faculty. Within each tool, talking points are organized around specific initiatives, such as enforcing office standards or releasing classrooms to the registrar. The documents also include spaces for facilities leaders to enter campus-specific data and case studies to support each point. Facilities leaders can use these talking points as a starting place for drafting memos or to guide in-person conversations.
Discover why perfecting space governance takes a team effort
While facilities leaders are responsible for assessing underutilized space, they must partner with academic leaders to redeploy existing campus spaces. Read our study, Working with Academic Leaders to Improve Space Utilization, to learn about the nine best practices for correcting current space misuses.