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The year ahead

Andrew Preston, CEO of recruitment outsourcing specialist, de Poel, looks at 2017 – and predicts on what the New Year has in store for the facilities management sector

The FM market is increasingly competitive, currently estimated to be worth £111 billion a year to the UK economy – and described as a barometer of the economy, by BIFM.

In what are challenging but exciting times, FM continues to create unlimited opportunities for those providers taking proactive steps to adapt to evolving customer needs – and the talent required to make this happen and keep services running around the clock.

However, the only constant is change. In the continued war for talent in a dynamic sector that never sleeps, FM is grappling with a raft of challenges; including the perturbing skills shortage, life cycle sustainability, providing socially responsible solutions, harnessing innovative technologies and delivering higher service levels with less resource. With this in mind, the New Year marks a particularly apt time for FM providers to take stock and consider their New Year’s recruitment resolutions.

Conducting an end-of-year 2016 snapshot analysis of nearly 8,000 workers and utilising their market intelligence from working with a wide range of key FM providers, de Poel gathered some interesting findings. From this, they have identified five key questions for FM providers to consider, when it comes to their 2017 recruitment strategies.

A number of pioneering FM providers are adopting an innovative and strategic approach when it comes to managing a diverse, temporary workforce able to expand and contract, in a sector operating in a constant state of flux.

This new approach enlists the expertise of their counterparts in the recruitment outsourcing world. Recruitment outsourcing specialists act as neutral intermediaries, optimising the relationship between their client organisations i.e. ‘hirers’ and the recruitment agencies that supply talent. This transforms the way in which temporary workforces are procured and managed, with significant – and tangible – efficiencies and improvements as a result, allowing busy FM providers to refocus their time and energy elsewhere.

Procuring a diverse pool of temporary workers on behalf of their FM client base throughout 2016, de Poel has seen first-hand that there is a growing gender rebalance in some roles within ‘soft’ FM including finance, passenger aid, concierge and administration.

In this same industry snapshot, within the under 21 age bracket in particular, there is a 53/46 per cent male-female split, going some way toward dispelling the myth that FM is a “man’s world” – and proving that our FM leaders of tomorrow comprise of an increasingly gender-equal cohort.

It cannot be denied that gender diversity drives innovation, improves performance and helps organisations win the war on talent. With this clear business case, there is no better time than the present to create a greater level of gender diversity in FM. But the question is, what will it take to further move the needle, in a substantive way?

The FM providers leading the way are those organisations proactively making diversity a part of their workplace culture – not simply paying lip service – and implementing programmes and initiatives that foster career development, with equal opportunities for all.

According to a recent survey by International Facility Management Association (IFMA), the average facilities management professional is 49 years old; and 50 per cent of this workforce is expected to retire within the next 5-15 years.

However, according to de Poel’s industry snapshot, there has been a resurgence of older workers employed on a temporary basis in some ‘soft’ FM roles such as customer service and cleaning– also with a 23 per cent increase of ‘over 50s’ in engineering/mechanical roles, when compared to 2015.

These FM veterans are matching in experience and know-how with what our future FM leaders have in raw talent – making for an eclectic, skills and experience-rich workforce that can positively impact bottom line and be reflective of any FM provider’s client base.

However, there are two broad, interlinked challenges for FM employers today. Firstly, it is the vital task of engaging older workers so that they remain fulfilled and productive in the workforce. Secondly, it is the challenge of finding ways to transfer older workers’ invaluable knowledge and experience to younger workers.

The key to engaging older workers within these ‘soft’ FM roles can be found within initiatives such as ongoing training and support, fostering an open and collaborative workplace and by FM employers not just thinking flexibly, but by extending this to working arrangements.

de Poel’s research also shows that catering, cleaning and customer service jobs are seeing the biggest cluster of workers under the age of 21 – with over 948,000 hours transacted this year alone. This is demonstrating the key part millennials are playing in developing a relatively young industry even further and proving how important this type of work and experience is – either as an initial step on the FM career ladder, or as a long-term specialism.

The key objective for FM providers now is to keep the momentum and build on this further, considering how their organisation can further harness the skills and talent our millennials have to offer. By encouraging top young talent into the profession this will help galvanise FM into the kind of creative, proactive thinking needed to exploit rapid change.

The successful delivery of many FM services is delicately hinged on the ability to procure staff on a 24/7/365 basis. Overnight and weekend work can be the norm, especially within ‘soft’ FM roles such as cleaning services and maintenance that would otherwise disrupt daytime work activities.

In the same way that the creeping skills gap is leaving many FM providers paying over the odds in order to attract clued-up candidates, the growing requirement for around the clock talent is adding further fuel to the fire of rocketing rate margins.

However, the New Year represents an opportunity for FM providers to regain control.

Conclusively, 2017 presents a real opportunity for FM providers to transform their attraction and hiring strategies. Whilst there is no such thing as an overnight solution, the right recruitment approach for any FM provider will successfully deliver a myriad of efficiencies and enhancements built on a long-term plan of continuous improvement. This should include streamlined administration, a rich and diverse source of labour supply, upfront cost savings and total compliance – underpinned by an intuitive, simple and reliable technology solution that can be bespoke to that FM provider’s own individual requirements.

With this strategy in place, the compelling motivation is the desire for first class service delivery, business diversification and quality, and it is here where an FM provider can truly develop their competitive edge.

About Sarah OBeirne

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