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New broom for 2013

Author : Tim Fryer

02 January 2013

Tim Fryer

Always an appropriate time for a wistful look at the year ahead, this January also marks the end of my stint as Editor of Premises and Facilities Management – a role that it has been an honour to fulfil. So while it is a time of change at PFM, can we expect a new broom to be sweeping the changes through the FM sector?

I doubt it.

When we look back on 2012 will we say that the FM sector moved on substantially? Probably not and the reason for that is that it is difficult in an economy that is not growing and where investment has been limited. Caution was the word. Large corporations sat on their massed reserves while small companies, allegedly, failed to convince the banks they were worth investing in. And so 2012, while not exactly being stagnant, was not a year of great drama and for the same reasons we should expect 2013 to be similar.

Not that 2012 was dull. If the Olympics really is the greatest show on earth, and most (British) people agree that the London Olympics was the best ever, then the UK has been responsible for putting on the greatest show ever. Even with its sporting context, the Olympics is a massive FM event, and it has only been the publicity restrictions placed on contributors to the Games that have prevented FM-related Olympics stories filling the pages of such magazines as PFM and into the more mainstream press. This lack of exposure is such a shame given the inspiration it could have given to young people unsure what careers in FM and service industries could offer.

It has been a year where some margins for outsourced services reached the bottom of the barrel and with it the client realisation that you really do get what you pay for. When we are at this stage, when there is nothing left to cut, the differentiators come in service offering and quality. The race to the bottom, financially, will always be there, but hopefully now there is client recognition of its limitations, it empowers service providers to invest in their people and services. Many FM companies have introduced training schemes and internal academies in order to offer quality and improve staff morale, and I know companies who have gone down this route hope to see further progress in 2013. There is a virtuous circle to this – companies who train their staff offer a better service, are more likely to retain contracts when they come up for renewal and so it becomes of more value to train long-term staff. There is obviously a vicious circle working the other way – if you keep losing contracts after one term then why waste money training staff who won’t be with you in three years? If this trend continues in 2013 we could see reputations – good and bad – becoming more firmly established.

FM continues to establish and define itself, all the time becoming more appreciated for the value it brings to organisations. While I don’t think the bridge has been fully crossed as to how attract raw recruits to the sector, particularly at school leaver age, it is an increasingly exciting sector to be involved in, and opportunities abound!

I wish you all a successful 2013 and beyond.

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