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Barclays survey: FM sector shows the way

Author : Nicki Thomson

26 March 2015

Nicki Thomson

FM firms lead the way on job creation and wage increases, according to the Barclays’ Employers Survey 2015

Over the past five years Barclays has surveyed decision makers in over 650 UK businesses on their firm’s hiring intentions and other wider employment-related topics. This year the survey also included interviews with 31 FM sector firms.

Against a backdrop of continued falling unemployment and wage growth outstripping inflation in recent months, the survey findings were extremely optimistic, with 75% of FM firms stating they plan to create new roles in the year ahead (2014: 62%), the highest percentage of all the sectors surveyed. The sector’s hiring intentions are also comfortably ahead of the cross-sector national average of 50% of businesses planning to hire in the year ahead.

Of the FM firms looking to hire, 31% are planning to recruit senior management (2014: 35%), 86% are looking to fill middle, junior or skilled roles (2014: 83%), while 64% have a need for unskilled workers, a considerable drop from 82% in 2014, indicating a need for more experienced employees this year. Only 8% said they’d need to reduce headcount this year, down from 9% in 2014.

Back in 2013, 58% of FM firms were interested in taking on ex-public sector workers, interestingly this has since dropped to 43%, possibly as a result of hiring activity taking place last year. Further good news was also revealed in that 73% of FM firms are expecting to increase wages for their staff this year, compared to 65% last year. Once again, this was higher than any of the other sectors surveyed and ahead of the 61% average for this year, when looking at all sectors combined.

This intention to boost wages is in spite of the fact that 61% of FM firms said that wage pressure wasn’t an issue for them, while 9% said it was a major concern and 30% said it was a concern to some extent.

It also came to light that FM firms were jointly the most concerned about ongoing events in Europe - 54% (along with Funds and Asset Managers) versus 40% for all sectors. This could be linked to the fact that the flow of deals from Eurozone countries may be muted while their attention is focused on dealing with issues in their home markets. The trend over the last few years has also been towards larger and cross border contracts and therefore most services firms have Europe firmly on their agenda.

Furthermore, FM firms have seen the biggest increase in confidence about the UK economy compared to the same time last year – up from 53% in 2014 to 62% this year, which chimes with the positive outlook we are seeing from our clients.

Nearly a quarter (23%) of FM firms said they would be taking on apprentices this year, versus 34% in 2014. Apprenticeships are extremely important in nurturing and developing the next generation of FM leaders, and can also bring significant commercial benefits.

At Barclays we firmly believe that quality apprenticeships are fundamental to our business and we’re keen to support any company that wants to tackle youth unemployment. We are currently partnering with the BSA to highlight the benefits of apprenticeships to business services firms, and to connect larger services firms that are already experienced in this area with smaller companies that want to take their first steps in developing an apprenticeship programme.

Looking ahead, 2015 is set to be another active year for the FM market, and while the upcoming General Election will create a degree of uncertainty, the overall sentiment we are hearing from the market is optimistic.

The UK Services Sector PMI survey, published in March, revealed that firms hired staff at the second-fastest rate on record, wages rose and new orders increased. All of these indicators suggest that the economy is off to a strong start and as a result, the sector has every reason to have a spring in its step about prospects for the year ahead.

* Nicki Thomson is MD and head of business services, Barclays Corporate Banking

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