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Training for Success

15 December 2006

The most successful business sectors in the UK put a high priority on training and development. PFM's survey reveals that the FM sector has some way to go to emulate best practice and develop its people to the full, as Beverley Thompson explains

LAST SEPTEMBER INVITED PFM AND FM Report readers questions on their experience as facilities professionals of training and development in the PFM Survey on Training and Development. This survey investigated the current state of play and explored whether the FM sector is providing real training and development opportunities. We wanted to know whether the FM sector has the capability and enthusiasm to develop and manage talented people, and whether it is placing enough focus on leadership and management development? Although the response was not as high we would have liked, the results still provided relevant feedback and some interesting indicators of the current situation.

Our typical respondent was male, aged between 36 and 50 who has managerial responsibility and works in an organisation with more than 500 employees. However, as a group, the respondents held a wide variety of academic, vocational and professional qualifications but no single qualification dominated. We found that the FM sector is still academically less qualified than other industry sectors - only 12 per cent of the group had Undergraduate degrees and 10 per cent had Post Graduate or Masters level qualifications. Just 16 per cent had a BIFM qualification, however, the majority (68 per cent) had been gained during the respondent's most recent role. This perhaps suggests an increasing popularity of this qualification.

Development plans
Best practice suggests that development plans should be used as tools to ensure that organisations are building the capability they need to deliver business success. It was encouraging to see that such development plans do exist in the FM sector. Over 70 per cent of the respondents said that they had development plans that included specific development objectives. However, 18 per cent said that they never reviewed them and 28 per cent said that their manager never reviewed them, a clear indication that real emphasis on development activities may, in fact, be lacking.

Those who reviewed their progress did so typically on a quarterly basis and managers usually reviewed plans on an annual basis. This indicates that different priority levels exist. Best practice suggests that brief quarterly reviews of progress work well. Managers in the FM sector should consider increasing the frequency of such reviews.

The picture on career planning revealed by the survey was less positive. Whilst development plans were in place, career planning was not a common part of the plan; 42 per cent of the respondents said that career planning was not part of their personal development plan.

Particularly significant was that half of the respondents said that no clear career paths or opportunities exist within their organisation. This is a likely contributor to industry turnover of staff. Lack of internal opportunity is often cited by job seekers as the main reason for leaving a company. If FM organisations do not offer the potential to stretch in existing roles or move into new roles retaining talented staff will be difficult.

The questions we asked to establish the views of the respondents on training and development (above) provided positive feedback with a general message of "There is still some way to go."

Four key questions explored whether priority is given to training and development, whether training needs were met and whether managers had the skills to support learning and development activity. In all cases, the majority of respondents agreed but a significant proportion indicated to the contrary; 19 per cent felt that training was not a priority for their company; 25 per cent said their manager did not see it as a priority. Additionally, 29 per cent of the respondents felt that they weren't receiving the training they needed and 37 per cent felt that their managers were not skilled in supporting learning and development. Of these, the latter is potentially the most concerning as line managers are key to developing and delivering business performance.

Training and development solutions commonly used by other industries are used in the FM sector but the extent to which some of them are applied is limited, indicating that it may need to review its methods to take full advantage of the training and development tools available. The diagrams on the next page shows the extent to which the various types of activity are used.

The picture overall is of training and development predominantly being delivered by workshop based sessions - some 98 per cent of organisations are using these to some or a great extent. This is still the norm in most other industries and is regarded as one of the most effective practices. Although a broad range of other training and development activities are used, they are still under-utilised by comparison to other industry sectors. This is particularly so in E learning and secondments, both significantly under-utilised; respectively, some 45 per cent and 56 per cent of respondents said that these were not used at all.

For the FM sector, e-learning can be particularly useful for delivering training in multiple locations to large numbers of people and is an extremely flexible method ideal for learning and testing understanding of key information and processes. One example of where it is being used successfully is the Hilton Hotel group. In this not entirely dissimilar industry, 90 per cent of responses from their 1,800 learners said that the 'e' courses helped with their personal development and 70 per cent agreed that, "What I learned yesterday in my learning activity, I use today at my work".

Increasing the use of internal secondments could be one way of assisting with career development planning and improving retention of FM staff. In a recent learning and development survey completed by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, internal secondments were regarded as one of the most effective practices for developing talent along with coaching and in-house development programmes. Coaching, using mentor/buddy systems and on-the-job training, are all methods that this industry sector could use more to build higher performance levels. The recent CIPD survey indicated that 75 per cent of the public and private sector organisations surveyed are now using coaching activities to drive individual and business performance.

Lost opportunity
Induction training, leadership, management, business skills and job specific skills were investigated in our survey. Although 62 per cent of respondents had received induction training, a massive 43 per cent of these said that it did not provide all the information required. If this is a reflection of the industry then it is missing a great opportunity to get people quickly up to speed, engaged and productive. For induction into a management role the picture is not much better. Some 41 per cent of individuals starting in a management or supervisory position had not received any relevant training, and 63 per cent of individuals starting a first management role did not receive any management specific induction. This means that a large number of managers are being asked to effectively manage others without experience or guidance.

The bar graphs on this page show how training needs are being met. For each area the percentage of respondents who have received such training is given as is the percentage of respondents who still have a training need in this area.

The responses indicate that a significant amount of training is being delivered but there are still requirements to be met.

Over 30 per cent of respondents indicated strategic thinking, executive coaching and advanced presentation skills as leadership development needs. Half of the group had received management training and development except in the area of coaching and mentoring skills (only 41 per cent had received training in this area) and 27 per cent indicated a specific requirement. The general business skills of business development and finance were particularly highlighted as areas requiring training and development.

Unsurprisingly, it was no surprise to find that job specific training was highly focused on health, safety and risk, however, other needs such as contract management, space planning and disaster recovery were all indicated as a training need for 30 per cent of respondents.

There are signs that the FM industry is moving forward on training and development, and it does appear to be being given increasing priority and is starting to incorporate more of the methods used by other successful industries. Nevertheless there are key areas that this survey has revealed that the FM sector - both the in house team and outsourced service providers - needs further development if it is to approach best practice in successful sectors and develop its people to the full.

Checklist for improvement
....Create and review development plans
....Review plans regularly with staff
....Build career pathways
....Train managers in learning and development methods
....Continue to use 'new' and different development methods
....Consider e-learning as a method
....Build coaching and mentoring skills
....Get induction right

Win an iPod Nano
Thank you to everyone who completed the survey. Congratulation to Chris Rose, General Site Manager for ESS Support Services Worldwide at Dungeness B Nuclear Power Station, whose name came out of the hat to win an iPod Nano.

....Beverley Thompson is HR and People Development Consultant and Co-Director of Humanics Limited

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