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Competency in FM - part two

Author : Joanna Harris

15 October 2018

In the second part of her study on the importance of competency in all areas of FM, Joanna Harris says legislation places a duty of care on those operating and maintaining buildings to be competent.

Just because someone has been trained in a subject does not mean that they are competent.

In FM, formal training is a good start but an operative is only competent when they have acquired sufficient experience and knowledge to undertake an assigned task proficiently, safely and effectively.

Competence management is collectively the arrangements to control, in a logical and integrated manner, a cycle of activities within an organisation that will assure and develop competent performance.

The aim is to ensure that individuals are clear about the performance that is expected of them, that they have received appropriate training, development and assessment, and that they maintain and develop their competence over time.

One of the challenges of working in FM is that roles are frequently quoted in job descriptions without definition, for example “Authorising Engineer”, “Approved Person” or “Responsible Person”.

Appointment to such a role should require auditable and demonstrable competency. A competency management system provides the framework within which an organisation can demonstrate a quantifiable and consistent approach to the management of risk to the business as well as a method by which it can mitigate or control loss and importantly operate within a transparent manner across the entire organisation.

The aim is to ensure we are managing, developing and maintaining the competent knowledge that FM staff use to support the core business. Competence management is a five-phase approach:


A manager should assess a business for significant risks that require specific competences, which can then form the basis of a job description, including qualifications and experience needed to undertake the role.

This is preferable to defining the role by job title alone, which lacks specifics and is open to interpretation. This should include the management of external resource employed to support the business.


Where there are high levels of risk, for example where there are complex hazards, a management policy should be developed that can be followed by a competent person. It may be necessary in some organisations lacking specialist engineering skills to use external consultants to assess competence.


Assess staff against defined competencies required for the tasks they must undertake in order to determine knowledge gaps that need to be addressed.


Provide training to fill knowledge gaps and monitor performance.


Businesses evolve over time so it is important that managers regularly review, verify and audit risk and hazards to ensure competence is maintained - remember lack of knowledge is no defence in law.

While it is possible for a competency management system to be standalone, most are usually linked to, and integrated with, personnel development programs and a business’s human resources processes.

A competency management system, when used effectively in a commercial business, can be effective in differentiating and promoting a business. Even the smallest organisations will have systems that can be developed cost-effectively to form a competency management system.

A business needs competent people to protect themselves, ourselves and its customers.

CIBSE’s recent publication KS21: Competency and Competency Management in Facilities Management can support business in undertaking this task, to find out more or to purchase a copy go to

Joanna Harris is chair of the CIBSE Maintenance Task Group and co-author of the CIBSE Competency and Competency Management in FM Guidance publication.

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