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Raising the bar – Professionalising FM

21 December 2011

What is an FM professional? What do they do? What are they responsible for? Ask twenty FMs, and they’ll give you twenty different and probably conflicting answers. These are fair questions and serve to demonstrate that one of the FM industry’s continuing challenges is in proving the value it adds to an organisation at a strategic level.

Iain Brodie


Nevertheless, it’s a problem already recognised by FMs working in the sector. During last year’s Total

Workplace Management exhibition, a RICS survey found that 85 per cent of those asked felt the sector lacked clear, strategic leadership and just as significantly, 56 per cent didn’t feel the industry was doing enough to demonstrate the value it brings.

That’s a real problem, but right now there are some significant opportunities for the sector – none more so than the economic challenges currently threatening recovery after the 2008/09 recession. With corporate belt tightening in the private sector , tough coalition measures biting hard in the public sector and concerns over the stability of the Euro Zone hanging over us, looking for ways to make cost savings and efficiency gains are at the top of
most business agendas. This puts FMs firmly in a position of considerable influence. With the right know-how supported by appropriate qualifications, an FM is almost unrivalled in their ability to prove their worth when it comes to delivering organisational efficiencies, whether public or private sector. It may simply be reevaluating catering costs or implementing energy saving measures, an experienced FM can help turn an under pressure business into one that’s leaner and more agile.

But it’s also about ensuring other professions understand this and, in 2010, RICS launched its Professionalising FM campaign in order to demonstrate the importance of professional development and accreditation. While we know FM plays a vital role in a modern business environment, not everyone outside the profession understands this, and that’s something that needs to be addressed. After all, in the last twenty years, both HR and IT have made the leap from support function to business critical profession, and FM should be there as well.

RICS has worked to lay the groundwork for this through the development of clear support guidance and a governance framework that appeals to both experienced and aspiring FMs alike. The RICS Facilities Management Standards ( The White Book suite) – first launched in 2009 and accessible via the RICS bookshop at www.ricsbooks.com – is a clear indication of the work done to support the development of the sector. It provides guidance covering the different FM disciplines, from health and safety to asset management, and outlines best practice in all sectors and industries. It’s supported by other Guidance Notes and Information Papers that ensure that the Chartered Facilities Management Surveyor can stay on top of legislation and statutory compliance.

Importantly given the constantly evolving nature of FM, this guidance is updated and reviewed regularly by RICS to ensure FMs are kept up to date.

Professional development is also important. Achieving Chartered status is a desirable and sought after way to demonstrate an individual’s ability and experience in a competitive world. As well as giving the individual the opportunity to differentiate themselves from their peers, it denotes achievement, on-going education, a commitment to long term continuing professional development and a strategic knowledge of the sector.

But the FM sector is unique among its property cousins and often employs people from a diverse range of backgrounds, so in January 2010 RICS launched the Associate RICS qualification which offers an alternative route to RICS membership for those with experience but without an RICS accredited degree. To date, the response to this has been positive with a mixture of senior FM professionals and new college graduates showing an interest in pursuing a career in the sector.

Similarly, RICS A s s o c i a t e membership also gives larger organisations a training and development opportunity for their staff to progress to Chartered status and help ensure they’re kept up to date with what is happening in both the public sector and commercial world. Things are looking good for facilities management. While the industry has its challenges, FM has come a long way in the last thirty years. From humble beginnings to asset management on a global level, it’s now about presenting facilities management as the keystone to supporting the business needs of an organisation.

Iain Brodie is Chairman of the FM Professional Group Board at RICS and General Manager for Facilities at the Mid Yorkshire NHS Trust.

Associate RICS Case Study

Every business needs good leaders, and good leaders need good training. As one of the largest support services and construction providers in the UK, Interserve wanted something to set apart its employees – and future leaders - from the rest of the industry.

The support services business has an annual turnover of £1 billion and employs 29,000 people, therefore ensuring staff training is kept up to date is central to the business planning process. Interserve is completely committed to delivering training and development opportunities for all their staff from Skills for Life through to their Leadership Challenge programme. Every individual is given the opportunity to develop and equip themselves with skills and competencies to perform their roles to the highest standard. As part of offering employees the best support available they have implemented a suite of e-learning modules and workshops to address gaps in staff knowledge and skills. Adding to this they have recently taken the opportunity to link training with RICS’ entry level RICS Associate qualification.

RICS Associate membership provides an opportunity for individuals in land, property and construction sectors, with relevant work experience or vocational qualifications, to gain industry recognition for their skills. For Interserve, this allows its employees to be assessed against RICS’ technical and ‘soft’ competency skills and gain a recognised industry qualification – giving them and the company a key competitive advantage.

In 2010, Interserve worked with RICS to develop an Associate pilot scheme. Over a six month period, ten Interserve employees were asked to record and track their progress for measurement against each Associate competency and provide a portfolio of work experience. If there were any areas of weakness or areas where an individual didn’t feel as capable as they should, they worked closely with their line managers to gain experience and provide evidence for any training and development they undertook. The final portfolio was then submitted to RICS through the online Managed Learning Environment (MLE) where an RICS assessor reviewed them for the Associate qualification.

It was a flexible process that allowed each member of the pilot scheme to work towards the qualification in a structured and practical way. Tony Sanders, Managing Director - Commercial at Interserve, explained: "The RICS Associate qualification fits well into our business aims. It’s flexible, userfriendly and causes minimum disruption to service delivery. It also ensures that our future leaders are fully prepared and gives them a real competitive advantage – especially in front of clients who demand an assured level of competence from their suppliers. We’re really pleased with the pilot scheme and expect to see more members of staff work towards the qualification in the coming months." RICS Chief Executive Sean Tompkins said: "What we have with the RICS Associate qualification is a way to raise standards for facilities management professionals around the world and allow them to understand more about their role and how it impacts on a business, without them needing to have academic qualifications.

"For Interserve, RICS’ Associate qualification has helped to up-skill staff and has given professional recognition for their skills that will give them more confidence when dealing with clients."



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