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Development of the FM Industry

30 November 2012

As the profile and development of the FM industry continues to change and grow, Chris Hoar, Chief Executive of the Facilities Management Association, looks back at where it all started, where it is now and where the future of the Facilities Management industry lies.

Forty years ago, the FM industry didn’t exist. There was no definitive term to fully incorporate the various skills and professionals required to maintain buildings and businesses. Workers went about their daily jobs unnoticed, fulfilling the needs of the ever-growing office buildings that were continuing to spring up throughout the country.

As Dr Brian Atkin, Founder of the Facilities Society explained: “Buildings were serviced, cleaned and maintained and that was it. Building maintenance management was the term most commonly associated with these tasks and it explicitly excluded a role that embraced the ‘softer’ side of an organisation’s support services and its people.”

He continued: “Today, facilities management combines the traditional responsibilities of maintenance and servicing – the so-called ‘harder’ side – with the softer side to provide integrated support to an organisation’s core business. Moreover, facilities management has gone from being a largely reactive response to matters concerning the upkeep of buildings to a proactive force that is able to drive change in the workplace. It is regarded by leading organisations, in both the private and public sector, as having a strategic and, therefore, vital role to play in the success of their business.”

Now it is a different story altogether and as organisations continue to realise the extent of benefits available to them simply by outsourcing their non-core services to skilled facilities management companies, FM is now a service sector within its own right, which continues to not only modernise and professionalise itself for its thousands of employees, but attempts to entice young people to view it as a career with longevity and potential. With over 51% of the FM workforce aged over 45, it’s imperative that more young people are introduced to the industry to gain valuable skills from the already experienced individuals working within FM.
Increasingly, we are witnessing organisations of all sizes realising the importance of providing a development programme for their workforce. In a recent study by Hays Recruitment, 82% of respondents rated training and development opportunities within a prospective organisation ‘fairly’ or ‘very’ important when deciding upon a new role or career path.

With regards to the true value of the FM industry, it is undisputedly difficult to gauge due to its varied and integrated nature. Consequently, reports vary in their estimates. According to the 2012 UK Facilities Management Market Research Report , the FM sector in the UK could be worth as much as £121 billion to the economy, incorporating services such as catering, security, and front of house.

Moving forward, I believe it is also of great importance for the Government to play a role in understanding the size of the sector and industry and the impact it can have on everyone whether it be at home or at work. Often, FM services can appear invisible because they are effective and working well, but when they go wrong, this is the time when most people realise the extent to which they rely on the FM sector.

Steve Davies, Managing Director Support Services, Compass Group UK and Ireland said: “In the future I think FM will have an increasingly important role to play with both the CSR and carbon reduction commitment agenda. The focus on cost efficiency will remain, but no longer at the risk of standards of operation and poor service delivery.

“The FM manager will be seen as a professional who adds value to the business and graduates will have a clear career path to follow. I expect the integration of services to continue, but I think that some companies who have experienced a poor standard of service will look to bundle the services they receive in a different way. Finally, procurement will continue to drive cost down and more and more emphasis will be placed on European or international capability where real value can be driven from having a single supplier.”

Our goal and focus for the future is not only to positively raise the profile of the industry, but to make FM a desirable career path for graduates and school-leavers. Apprenticeships have changed the face of FM and have allowed young people to develop and progress. But what about those who have few qualifications, but have worked within the FM industry for decades? The FMA MBA course [see PFM October 2012 ‘Recognising the old masters’] is designed to recognise this, but also to allow the experienced unsung FM professionals to gain a qualification that reflects the work and skills that they have acquired over the years. The more experienced and professional FMs we have, the greater the opportunity will be to inspire more young people into FM.

However the key to our industry fulfilling its potential is better self-promotion. We need to be more forthcoming in highlighting all the good work the industry does and feel proud to publicise a changing and developing sector that continues to grow and benefit its workforce, as well as the worldwide economy.

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