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First steps in FM?

Author : Tim Fryer

28 October 2011

Aimed principally at those new to facilities management, BIFM’s new training tool ‘Getting Started in FM’ is a gentle, but thought-provoking introduction. Tim Fryer took it on a test drive.

Facilities management can be a bewildering discipline, principally because it lacks the clear boundaries that other job functions benefit from. ‘Getting Started in FM’ recognises this and doesn’t endeavour to cover everything. It is more geared to developing the right mindset within the prospective FM. The tool is a web-based package unlocked by an access key that will be sent to the participant by BIFM training. Split into four modules, the programme can take less than four hours – under an hour per module, but to do so would probably mean missing out on some useful information and guidance. The four modules are: Knowing your building (and the role of the FM), FM Support Service, FM Projects, and Health and Safety / Sustainability.

If the objective of the whole exercise is to get prospective FMs to start thinking like a practicing FM, then the first section – Knowing your building and the role of the FM – will probably do pretty well. While questions are asked, and responses compared to the BIFM response, it is not a prescriptive learning environment where answers are either right or wrong. In fact one of the features I liked best was to be able to look through the responses of 20 other (anonymous) course participants. This highlighted that all FMs have different responsibilities and priorities. It was clear, for example, that at the point of doing the course certain respondents were preoccupied by car parking, in one case, and air-conditioning in another.

For new FMs this is probably a good lesson in the reactive nature of some of the FM’s job, while the first module also addressed the need for FMs to apply their trade in a planned, and sometimes strategic, fashion. While reading other participants responses can be time-consuming, it is one of the ways that you can tailor the time the course takes to suit time available. The other component in this is that there are frequent links to BIFM’s Resource Centre, which has a load of documents featuring guidance and best practice. If you feel that you are not getting your money’s worth for four hours of training you can spend many more!

It is probably best to do a whole module at a time, but there is a 90-day period from initial activation to complete the course and dip back into again if desired. This means that all the resources can be ‘consumed’ at a more appropriate time if the initial objective is to get the FM introduction under your belt.

The second module on support services highlights the role of the FM as communicator, mediator and sometimes enforcer. Again there are several useful background files covering the tendering process and what sort of companies, both on client and service provider sides, that you may want to engage in a working partnership with. Newcomers who are about to be thrust into the deep end will find the third module interesting. FM projects concentrates on an office move as the classic example of an FM project, highlighting the FM’s role as organiser and manager. While many questions initially appear to require only common sense to answer them, it is clear from the sample answers of fellow respondents that some issues are regularly overlooked – communications that are positive and encouraging being high on this list.

Having spent many, many hours (in a previous life) concentrating on risk assessments alone, I was aware during the fourth module on health & safety and sustainability, that this was by necessity no more than introduction. However, it was this section that probably had the most background material for further reading and also the one that highlighted the complexity and responsibility of the modern FM. In summary I would say that any four hour course is clearly not going to teach anybody how to be a fully competent and qualified FM, but what this course will do is to encourage new recruits how to think like an FM. Some of the recurring themes – like communication, organisation and flexibility – make useful ground rules for anyone starting out in FM, and the simplicity of the interface hides the large amount of information available to those who want to inquire further.

The course is available on a 90 day license period, either to individuals or corporate groups in the UK and overseas, and package customisation is available to companies who want to tailor or develop additional content to suit their specific needs. Cost for an individual who is a BIFM member is £120 + VAT with costs rising to £150 + VAT for non-members. For more information about ‘Getting Started in FM’ visit

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