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Employers take cautious approach to hiring FMs

24 March 2009

The FM sector continues to offer good career prospects at all levels, according to the 2009 Hays Salary Survey published in PFM’s March edition. Compiled by recruitment specialists, Hays FM, the survey examines trends in salaries and benefits across the UK.

Sentiment is strongly correlated to any upswing in economic growth and while only 36 percent of employees thought that the economic climate would affect the state of the FM market when questioned in 2008, it comes as no surprise that this should pre-occupy the thoughts of jobseekers in 2009. Salaries have, however, remained competitive over the past 12 months and we have seen an increase in public sector opportunities, particularly at the senior level.

“Employers are adopting a more cautious approach in their recruitment and the onus is on the jobseeker to prove their worth and show evidence of their technical skill sets,” comments Karen Nodwell, Regional Director at Hays Facilities Management. Although there have been deflationary pressures in the economy as a whole, salary levels have continued to rise, albeit marginally, across the UK. Salaries for facilities directors have on average increased by 5 percent across the UK in 2009, while multi-site heads of FM and operational roles (in-house and contractor) have seen increases of 8 percent and 7 percent, respectively. Average increases for facilities consultants (2 percent) and facilities assistants (4 percent) have been more tempered. It should be noted that some variances are more pronounced than others and this depends on the role and region.

According to Karen Nodwell “Salaries continue to remain resilient and we have not yet experienced any marked reductions in pay scales.”

The main trend has been the influx of expertise into the public sector as a direct result of continued government expenditure in the built environment. This has been particularly marked around London, the South East and South West, where the movement of labour has been accentuated by the problems faced by the banking and financial industries. There has also been an increasing propensity over the past 12 months for public sector organisations to employ corporate expertise, given the commercial ethos and cost-focused approach that these specialists can bring.

“The public sector is redefining its recruitment criteria and is far more willing now to employ individuals from the corporate experience who have change management experience. We have noticed a growing demand for senior permanent placements and interims,” says Alex Cooper, Manager at Hays Facilities Management.

While demand remains resilient across all levels of experience, individuals are less likely to seek a change in employer in the current climate, where job security continues to dominate the agenda. “Jobseekers are wary of probationary periods and these are acting as a deterrent to labour mobility,” explains Coleen Cloherty, Regional Manager at Hays Facilities Management.

Those that are prepared to make the move will only do so only if they can command an improved salary and benefits package. Although this has led to some inertia, jobseekers are still looking for new opportunities and will move if the salary is competitive. While demand for most roles has held firm, the volume of jobs for mainstream operational roles, for example, single site facilities managers, entry-level managers and FM consultants, has fallen. There is also evidence to suggest that jobseekers are now more prone to considering temporary assignments than they were 12 months ago.

Some organisations have restructured their facilities teams and the streamlining of staffing levels has meant that employers are being more selective in their hiring. “Employers are being very meticulous and only the best applicants are being considered, therefore jobseekers have to match up very closely to the selection criteria,” comments Alex Cooper.

To counter some of these issues and improve job security, individuals are looking at ways in which they can add value to their employers. In the current climate, the onus is on employees to manage their own careers and to be seen taking on extra responsibility. ‘Upskilling’ remains an important part of employees’ career development, and there has been a growing trend for individuals – both in employment and out of work – to fund their own studies to improve their chances of finding a job and boost their job security. Almost nine in 10 employees surveyed said that qualifications were either ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ important’ to their roles. By far the greatest reason for pursuing further studies is the desire for career advancement and development of skills and not as a way of negotiating a salary rise (12 percent).

What are the main qualifications that employers are looking for? As well as the industry standard BIFM qualification, individuals from an FM background with a strong health and safety experience have a distinct advantage in the market. As organisations have had to implement more stringent safety procedures since the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act (2007), industry qualifications such as IOSH and NEBOSH have become highly sought after by employers.

Employers are also showing increasing interest in the Chartered Manager designation:

“We’ve been working with the Chartered Management Institute and this not only raises the profile of the sector but makes it a lot easier to identify those individuals who will make a real difference to a company,” comments MauriceTidy, adviser to the FMA.

But while qualifications remain firmly on employers’ radars, jobseeker experience – especially sustained work longevity as highlighted on a CV – still takes precedence in many cases. As well as strong technical skills, jobseekers also need to demonstrate strong interpersonal and customer service skills.

There is no dichotomy between the total reward package offered by employers and the preferences of employees. Although 17 percent felt they were not competitive enough, the majority are satisfied with their annual leave entitlement, pension provision and performance related bonuses.

The public sector continues to offer excellent benefits, particularly for senior roles, “We’re seeing improved packages, particularly healthcare, pensions and benefits for other family members,” notes Chris Babbage, Senior Consultant at Hays Facilities Management.

Other important benefits include flexible working hours, private medical care, overtime and time off in lieu. Life insurance, season ticket loans and car allowances are also valued by jobseekers. . Job security remains the major selling point and those employers that can offer career opportunities and reward length of service are likely to benefit when the economy picks up. The majority of respondents (63 percent) would also recommend their employer to a friend, which indicates that benefits and working environment are satisfactory in the industry as a whole.

While a higher salary remains the prime motivator for those contemplating a change of working environment, seeking a new challenge comes a close second, which suggests that a greater level of income and the challenges of more interesting work are inextricably linked.

Training and development opportunities also feature highly. Improved benefits and greater responsibility carry an equal weighting (43 percent) followed by job security (39 percent), which is not surprising given the downturn. Under a third cited improved work-life balance as a factor, and as far as this is concerned, most were divided into two camps: it was deemed either good or average while less than a fifth thought it ‘poor’. For nearly a third of respondents, the recognition (or lack of) for work done and the location/commute were also key factors in their decision to look for another job.

The PFI industry has been affected by the downturn but demand for highly skilled and experienced individuals, such as commercial managers, remains buoyant. There is a shortage of individuals with PFI Framework experience and salaries are reflecting the increased demand. Bid managers are also highly sought after. “Experience is particularly important given the complexity of the bid process. Individuals do, however, need to be customer focused and commercially aware,” remarks Justin Thomas, Senior Consultant at Hays Facilities Management. The contract duration of PFI adds to job security, although firms are re-assessing their bidding approach given the costs incurred if they are not successful.

Sustainability is another key theme affecting the industry and one that will bring significant cost savings to FM departments; legislation will also help the profession to mitigate the effects of the downturn. Some companies are already showing interest in jobseekers that have prior experience in the implementation of policies on sustainability, the environment and energy efficiency. Demand for this skill set is only likely to grow in the future, as and when the effects of the downturn start to alleviate. “The industry needs to be viewed as a cost-saving department and sustainability remains very much a part of the facilities manager’s remit,” adds Alex Cooper.

The profile of the industry has made great strides, particularly over the past 12 months and the majority of respondents are happy in their current roles – two thirds would recommend their employer to a friend.

“Despite the cautionary approach to expenditure, companies are realising that the cost saving benefits can be quite significant. Having a facilities management team is now seen as a necessary part of the supply chain management process,” emphasises Karen Nodwell.

Although the industry remains male dominated, women continue to bolster the image of the industry, as evidenced by the FMA’s endorsement of the ‘Women in the City’ award for senior women in the industry. Achieving Chartered status remains one of the industry’s main goals and this will further raise its profile and provide a more defined career path.

The economic climate is now the top priority for almost half of professionals in the FM industry – the figure has doubled over the past 12 months, as the impact of the current recession has filtered through the economy. A fifth of respondents highlighted skills shortages, although the impact has lessened during the last year. Examples of in demand skill sets include technical services, international experience (especially for senior roles), health & safety, energy, carbon and corporate social responsibility.

● Hays Facilities Management is the UK’s leading specialist recruitment consultancy for FM professionals. Working with the top employers in the sector, Hays Facilities Management placesjobseekers in permanent and temporary positions. This guide is based on the expert knowledge of specialist recruitment consultants across the UK. It also includes findings from a survey of 135 industry professionals. To talk to specialist consultant or for further information regarding current employment opportunities, please call 0800 716026 or visit

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