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Emerging trends within the FM employment market

Author : James Fitzpatrick, managing director of Boden Group

08 September 2021

Recruitment specialist and PFM Awards Young Leader of the Year sponsor Boden Group shares its overview of the FM employment market as the industry returns to more normal conditions.

The turmoil of the past 18 months is beginning to die down. The instability of job losses and furlough schemes is coming to an end. And it would seem, from a recruitment perspective, that the flurry of activity has died down.

Or at least, the activity from candidates has died down. In fact, it’s becoming clear that, in facilities management, candidates have knuckled down and are sticking where they are.

But there are some clear trends emerging in the recruitment market which we can learn from. These trends may help managers to make decisions and pitch their offers over the coming months.

Engineering shortage

There has been a persistent shortage in engineering candidates for several years now, which is set to deepen over the coming 12 months. This may lead to employers within the hard FM space finding it increasingly difficult to source and win talent.

Almost 20% of the present engineering workforce is due to retire within five years. Less than half of that number are entering the profession. Between a decline in apprenticeships over the past three decades and a reduction of entry-level positions, a skills gap has emerged that seems impossible to plug.

Even with a huge drive to increase awareness of engineering careers at higher education level, it may be too late to see the benefit.

Increased focus on compliance and safety

Covid has increased the focus on safety and compliance for many organisations.

Because of this, we’ve seen a rise in the demand for Compliance Managers, especially at project level. Many are wanting to make sure that they are welcoming back staff in the safest way, to an environment that poses no health risks.

This, paired with an increased organisational commitment to CSR, has also seen SHEQ (safety, health, environment and quality) professionals becoming a more sought-after team addition. Similarly, mobilisation and transformation managers are playing an important role post Covid.

There has been a definite shift in the way that people view facilities, and cleaning particularly, in the workplace. Cleaning is no longer an invisible workforce, completing tasks during office closure. Now cleaning teams have become a visible sign of workplace confidence.

Mobilisation managers have played a vital role in re-defining and re-mobilising teams to meet this change in demand.

A shift in workspace usage

And as well as a change in demand for soft services teams, there has been a definite shift in workspace use during 2021. This shift has seen the traditional office workplace become much more of mixed use, collaborative space.

The experience of a space has become more important than ever before, both in working and leisure environments. While there has been a rise in working from home patterns, companies are retaining their space to use more creatively.

This rapid evolution of both work and leisure space and the blurring of the line between the two has resulted in the need for new skills within facilities management.

1) Client facing

There’s an increased focus on customer service and client relationships. Where those working in facilities were once required to be experts in the running and maintenance of a building, they now also have to have a greater understanding of the client’s industry, their ways of working, their company culture.

2) Strategic partners

One of the more positive shifts that the pandemic has caused, is that facilities management is being viewed as a strategic partner. But this calls for operations and technical managers to be more involved in client-side conversations and strategy planning. With this being a newer feature of the role, there is an experience gap for many candidates working in this area.

3) Digital skills

The drive to digital has affected almost every sector and FM is no exception. The rise of data use and smart buildings had already begun before Covid’s market shakeup. But now the push to use sensor technology and the Internet of Things (IoT) to create a streamlined building maintenance schedule. The ability to implement and analyse these systems and make the most of automation has become an intrinsic part of management roles.

What’s the answer?

The skills shortage is making the transactional model of recruitment less and less effective. Displaying the job title and salary of your vacant role isn’t going to have much of an effect in the current market.

Companies who wish to attract talent today would be well advised to develop their employee value proposition (EVP). While we haven’t seen a demand for higher salaries yet, Covid has shown candidates that there is a different way of working.

For many, a period of working from home or being on furlough has pushed them to re-evaluate what is important to them. Presenteeism is on the decline and most candidates now expect a level of flexibility to their hours and/or location of work.

Counter-offers are high, and employers are paying more to keep good team members. Culture is becoming increasingly important in the decisions candidates are making. The organisations that have developed thinking around mental health support, work-life balance, diversity and CSR are the ones that are winning the talent acquisition battle.

Your salary is no longer the only (or most) attractive thing about your package. Those looking to recruit well are going to need to step up their game. Top of the list will be communicating the organisational culture, and the value-added by the people they’re looking to hire.

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