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Episode 104

How Tech Tools Help This Facility Manager Reach Her Organization’s Goals

with Jodi Parrott of FBL Financial Group, Inc.

Jodi Parrott is Facilities Planning Manager at FBL Financial Group, Inc. in Des Moines, Iowa where she uses her background in design to manage spaces and elevate the workplace. Mike Petrusky asks Jodi about the importance of change management and collaboration across departments and they discuss why having a positive mindset is essential in our changing world. Jodi and Mike agree that FM leaders must get out of their comfort zones, reach out to others, and communicate effectively as we head into the future workplace together. During challenging times, this episode was inspired with musical magic and may be the single most “podcast karaoke” filled ever for this show...so enjoy!

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Connect with Jodi on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jodi-parrott-a211bba/

Learn more about FBL Financial Group: http://www.fblfinancial.com/

Register for future “Workplace Innovator Interactive” livestreams: https://www.iofficecorp.com/live-webinar-2020-weekly-livestream

Watch Mike on OSW Daily, a YouTube livestream: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9X1busb2H6aJbfQocWZRdw

Discover free resources and explore past interviews at: https://www.workplaceinnovator.com/

Connect with Mike on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mikepetrusky/

Share your thoughts with Mike via email: podcast@iOFFICECORP.com

Read the full transcript:

Mike (00:00):

Hey, it's Mike. I've been reading a lot of articles and I've heard more and more discussion exploring what things might look like when we begin to return to our workplaces. While nobody, of course yet knows a timeline as FM and real estate leaders, your organizations will be asking for innovative strategies and they'll need your help to care for people during the challenges that lie ahead. If you have ideas or questions about the future workplace, please join our community of podcast listeners, this Wednesday at noon, Eastern for an interactive live stream discussion. Visit www.workplaceinnovator.com for all of the details. Thanks.

Jody Parrott (00:43):

Partnership with HR. I actually reached out to them and pulled them into our project, when we were looking at the master plan that we were doing about five years ago and how we were going to share that message with management. So it was a really good partnership for us.

Announcer (00:59):

This is the Workplace Innovator Podcast, where we talk with corporate real estate and facility management leaders about the industry trends and technologies impacting your organization.

            This show is powered by iOFFICE, the leading employee experience focused IWMS software that delivers real time data and mobile tools to help you intelligently manage your digital workplace.

Mike (01:24):

Hey, there everyone. It's Mike Petrusky welcoming you to episode 104 of the Workplace Innovator Podcast. And as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I have one more interview that was recorded before the COVID-19 pandemic changed our world. And I'm really glad to have this discussion available.

            As I was editing my conversation with Jodi Parrott of FBL Financial Group, I couldn't help but smile as I was reminded about how things were just a few weeks ago, and I know they will be this way again someday, for sure. So let's just consider this a preview of happier times ahead.

            Jodi and I talked about the importance of change management and collaboration across departments and why having a positive mindset is essential during quote-unquote "normal times," and while these principles are most certainly relevant today and they will help us as we head into the future workplace together. So I hope you'll appreciate this episode in that context. And just one more thing, I need to give you fair warning. This might be the most podcast karaoke filled interview I've ever done. There is way more off-key singing in the first five minutes of this episode than ever attempted before on this show. Yep. We do have that going for us. So enjoy.

            On the Workplace Innovator Hotline, joining us from Des Moines, Iowa, I'm pleased to welcome Jodi Parrott to the show. Hi Jodi.

Jody Parrott (02:55):

Hi, Mike.

Mike (02:55):

How are you?

Jody Parrott (02:56):

I'm doing great.

Mike (02:58):

This is exciting, the very first representative from the state of Iowa, the heartland of America, you got to represent.

Jody Parrott (03:05):

That's right.

Mike (03:06):

No pressure.

Jody Parrott (03:10):

We feed the world.

Mike (03:12):

Feed the world, see, I'm going to start singing right away. Let them know it's Christmas. Well, this is probably airing in the middle of spring, so let's not sing Christmas music, but I'm excited to have you. We actually know each other a little bit. You are someone who I have seen present at the iOffice user conference in the past. Do you remember that a couple of years ago?

Jody Parrott (03:34):

Oh dear, I try not to remember that. That is just not my favorite thing to do.

Mike (03:40):

But you did great, you did great.

            Well, I know you've had some big projects going on and I want to hear all about those, but before we get too far, let's learn more about you, Jody. You are the facilities planning manager at FBL Financial Group in Des Moines, and what does that mean? How long have you been there and how did you end up where you are today?

Jody Parrott (04:00):

Okay, well, I've been here almost 27 years, but I came out of college in the design field. So I'm a commercial interior designer, specialize in space planning and therefore the facilities planning manager now. And FBL financial and the Iowa Farm Bureau where one of my many clients. So I was a consultant here for eight years before I became an employee. And it just got to the point that the project here and all the various projects that they had going on took all my time. And so, with that, they decided to put me on staff and that's how it all started.

Mike (04:41):

Well, that's wonderful. That's something that you don't hear too often these days with everyone jumping from job to job, and moving all over the place, you found a home and obviously something that you enjoy I hope?

Jody Parrott (04:53):

Oh, I love it.

Mike (04:54):

Excellent. Excellent. As we said, I look forward to hearing a little bit more about the details of your project and what you've learned and what you can share with the audience here. But before we get too far, Jody, you've heard the show before. I need to know a little bit more about the personal side of Jody Parrott. And I do that by asking my favorite question of all time, what are you listening to? What kind of music gets you excited?

Jody Parrott (05:18):

Well Mike, sometimes it just depends on how I feel that day. On a cold winter day here in Iowa, I'm sitting by the fireplace with a glass of wine in my hand, I prefer Pink Floyd, Comfortably Numb.

Mike (05:33):

Wow, that's a first.

            Hello? Hello? Hello? Is there anybody in there? Is that the song?

Jody Parrott (05:33):

That's it.

Mike (05:44):

Join me anytime Jody. [crosstalk 00:05:45] I've become, comfortably numb.

Jody Parrott (05:50):

Something like that.

Mike (05:51):

There you go. What do you do when the clouds and the snow disappears and the warm weather is coming? What's going to get you going?

Jody Parrott (05:59):

I have my favorite toy that I get out, not real old. It's an '03 Mustang convertible. And I like to get that out and head down the road to Kenny Loggins, Dangerous Zone.

Mike (06:18):

That's awesome. When you said the Mustang convertible, I thought you were going to break out a little Vanilla Ice singing, Ice Ice Baby, but I'm glad it wasn't that. I'm glad it wasn't that.

Jody Parrott (06:29):

Hey, I do have one more song to stump you on though.

Mike (06:32):

Oh yeah? Go for it.

Jody Parrott (06:34):

I do. It's the most frequently requested on my Alexa.

Mike (06:37):

Okay.

Jody Parrott (06:38):

It's Baby Shark.

Mike (06:40):

Well, yes. As a Washington Nationals fan. *sings Baby Shark.* Awesome. Go NATS world series champion, Washington Nationals. Very fun. All right. Thanks so much. Great stuff. Well, Jodi, I like to inspire our audience on this show. Do you have a favorite motivational quote you can share with us?

Jody Parrott (07:10):

Well, most recently the one I've been sharing here around the office, considering we're in a state of a lot of change, it's Robin Sharma and he says "change is hard at first messy in the middle and gorgeous in the end."

Mike (07:27):

Wow. I've not heard that one.

Jody Parrott (07:29):

That's been my favorite here as I try to encourage these people that it's going to be okay. You know, change is sometimes good.

Mike (07:38):

Absolutely. We are in a constant state of change and upheaval in our world and especially in the workplace so much going on. So I love that. I'm going to share that one with feature audiences I speak to. Thank you.

Jody Parrott (07:51):

You bet.

Mike (07:52):

And I'll give you no credit for it. No, I'm kidding. I will give you all the credit. So you've been in this industry for a long time and you've seen a lot of changes, but what are you most excited about when it comes to the future of the workplace and facility management opportunities? All these changes we're discussing. Do you see it as the cup, half empty or half full?

Jody Parrott (08:15):

Oh, I'd say it's half full, or more.

Mike (08:18):

More than half more, much more than half more.

Jody Parrott (08:20):

Overflowing. No, it's an exciting time. I look back when I started in facilities and I had 600 people. Now I have over 2000 to take care of and the speed of technology, the change in technology, how quickly it comes to us and how quickly that begins to affect our workplace.

Mike (08:44):

So you see it as exciting, which is great, which is the way I look at it.

Jody Parrott (08:47):

Yeah.

Mike (08:48):

I think it's really a mindset, right?

Jody Parrott (08:50):

Right.

Mike (08:51):

To lean in and embrace it as opposed to resist the change.

Jody Parrott (08:56):

Right. Well, I tell you what, this project that we're working on now, I'm replacing furniture that we purchased 30 years ago.

Mike (09:04):

Really?

Jody Parrott (09:05):

When I was still a designer, I assisted in designing the furniture that we are currently using, that we are getting rid of. And so, I was beating my head against the wall for a number of years, trying to encourage change in the workplace, and those years were slow and they drug on and there was no excitement. So I'd much rather see what's coming ahead of us and be enthusiastic about it.

Mike (09:32):

Yeah, absolutely. And interestingly, you've been with the same organization for all these years, has there been a lot of changes in the culture?

Jody Parrott (09:41):

We still are a very conservative company here in the Midwest. I have seen a lot of changes in how we embrace our customers. Some of it was maybe slower to catch on within the office, but when you're looking at your customers and how you're going to interact with them, you've got to make the change in the area of technology and the area of how you meet their needs or how you communicate with them, or make it easy for them to communicate with you. If you don't do those things, you're going to be behind, and be behind very quickly. As a result of that, then you start bringing it internal and saying, how can we be more innovative with our internal processes? So things have been changing just even in the last, oh I'd say, four years, I've seen a big shift.

Mike (10:31):

Yeah. And I think that this is a great conversation for my audience, Jodie, because most people out there are not living on the coast or in Silicon Valley or in the big, big cities. Many, many FM and workplace leaders are dealing with a similar situation. They've got an organization that is maybe traditionally slow to change, conservative, but now we're actually seeing some movement here because of the evolving marketplace and the war for talent, I'm sure contributes to that and everyone wants to keep up with others. So I, I think that your perspective is going to be very well appreciated. Any advice to leaders that are in a similar situation as yours and how they can help move things along?

Jody Parrott (11:15):

Well, I think you just need to keep a pulse on your leadership, make allies in HR and in the C suite so that you're at the table and you're having these discussions with them. We also do a LM meeting every month. It's called leadership connection here. And it's with all the directors, VPs and up. And I like to attend those because they discuss what various different departments or projects are doing and what they're taking on and the things that they're looking at for the future. And I find that very helpful to, as a facilities professional, to know what they're thinking and what direction they're planning on going, so that I can better support them.

Mike (11:59):

So what would you recommend when it comes to technology tools? I know full disclosure, you are an iOffice customer. We appreciate that.

Jody Parrott (12:08):

Yes. iOffice has been a huge tool for me. I do have a very small department of me and-

Mike (12:16):

Of you and you yourself and I?

Jody Parrott (12:18):

Yeah. The three of us stay very busy, and so having a system like iOffice that can assist me with all the aspects of facilities management. We do have another sister department that does the maintenance side of the facilities' management because our building is actually owned by the Iowa Farm Bureau. And so, I have them on board using the service requests and doing their PMs and iOffice. We do all the move management, which is, that's huge. That's been a big factor for us, is all the space allocation and the move management pieces that iOffice offers. Now we're super excited because of iOffice's purchase or acquisition of Team. We're also a Team user, but I always wanted those two to communicate together.

            So, we're super excited about the future with those two products and those two coming together and being more cohesive there. Some of the things, well, if you see any of our commercials, depending on what state you're in, AI is going to be a big player in technology everywhere. Without my crystal ball, I'm not exactly sure what that means. I don't know if anybody does, but I think there are going to be a lot of discussion, even within our organization in terms of how that's going to be implemented into what we do.

Mike (13:46):

Absolutely. And that's interesting, you mentioned the combination of iOffice and Team, because one of the great opportunities I see from what I've learned so far, is Teams reporting and AI driven analytics tool is something that can be integrated across the technology platforms to really have an impact on helping FM leaders like yourself to deliver those outcomes' everyone's looking for. So that's where I think AI is going to really assist us in crunching the data, all the information we're gathering about the workplace and the spaces we're managing and how people are using those spaces, and then be able to really gain some actionable insight about it and move forward more productively, more effectively.

Jody Parrott (14:28):

Yeah, most definitely. In years gone by, it was enough for me to come to management and say, well, I believe this is what is going to happen, or I think this is the direction we should go, but more and more, you really need to have that data to back up your story. So I think that's going to be very useful .

Mike (14:47):

Selling the case with data driven decisions and creating a connected workplaces and frictionless experiences, but I hate buzzwords, Jodi. So I won't use any, I love that word, frictionless technology folks. It is required for the future of work. Well, how about this? We also use the phrase a lot, especially these last few years, employee experience. So what does that word mean to you and how has it been a part of your journey?

Jody Parrott (15:16):

Well, that was something that there was always the HR component and they were always doing the employee satisfaction surveys is how they started, and then eventually those morphed into the employee experience. So partnering with HR very early on in some of our planning when we were doing just some master planning of our facility really helped. And again, having those allies being, not just the silo over here of facilities, but you know, to really be part of the total solution. That's been a huge part of what we're doing, and then, and then you combine that with iOffice and their Hummingbird app and we are gradually rolling that out to our employees so that they can do wayfinding and just simplify their day as well.

Mike (16:07):

A simple consumer friendly experience with our technology as we interact with the workspace. So that's what we're trying to do here at iOffice with Hummingbird.

Jody Parrott (16:16):

I think it's become an expectation because of the marketplace outside of our workplace. It's just the consumer marketplace where we've got our iPhones, or our Alexa's, or all the different things that now come into your home that used to just be in the office. People are expecting that simplicity.

Mike (16:35):

Yes.

Jody Parrott (16:35):

And so, you need to meet that expectation, and I think finally leaders are realizing that happy content employees make them money. That's important.

Mike (16:44):

That's right. You tie it to outcomes, the productivity and happiness factor and delivering on those things that help employees be more productive and engaged. The evidence is out there, the research shows it that it makes a big difference on the bottom line. So just being happier, healthier people is a good thing in today's stressful world. There's a lot of certainly cross-collaboration needed these days. Isn't there?

Jody Parrott (17:08):

There is. And that was key, that partnership with HR. And I actually reached out to them and pulled them into our project when we were looking at the master plan that we were doing about five years ago and how we were going to share that message with management. And so, it was a really good partnership for us. You know, the workspace change, as you just mentioned, the wellness factor, our HR department also has a wellness staff. We have a gym and a wellness facility here. The wellness, the workplace, and the HR. It just all pulls together, and it was a huge part of why we were successful in getting this project underway.

Mike (17:51):

Really cool. I love hearing that, and I love hearing that you reached out and you initiated. That makes you Jody, a workplace innovator. So congratulations-

Jody Parrott (18:01):

Thank you.

Mike (18:02):

For always encouraging people to do is take that proactive step and begin the conversation. Because sometimes it's uncomfortable.

Jody Parrott (18:08):

Sometimes it is, but you've got to communicate. You've got to have those conversations.

Mike (18:12):

Wow. This has been great. Jodi, thank you so much for joining me today. And I'm so happy you finally got a chance to be on the workplace innovator podcast.

Jody Parrott (18:21):

Well thank you, Mike. It's been fun.

Mike (18:25):

There you have it everybody. Jody Parrott of FBL Financial inspiring us to get out of our comfort zones and reach out to others in our workplaces, communicate and face the change that comes our way, and we'll get through whatever may come, together. I think that message resonates now more than ever. So I hope you enjoyed today's chat. And to hear more conversations like this one, please check out www.workplaceinnovator.com, where you will find over 100 past podcast episodes with more industry leaders like Jody, that will encourage and inspire you to be a workplace innovator. Peace out.

Announcer (19:14):

You've been listening to the Workplace Innovator Podcast. I hope you found this discussion beneficial as we work together to build partnerships that lead to innovative workplace solutions. For more information about how iOffice can help you create an employee centric workspace by delivering digital technology that enhances the employee experience, visit iOfficecorp.com.