The workplace is changing, and we need to change with it. For some of our FM colleagues, the changes brought by COVID-19 mean redundancy or lack of job security in a challenging job market saturated with talent. Even for those lucky to have retained their roles, it is still a very challenging time with an uncertain future. It is therefore essential that we all recognise that standing still when everything around us is changing comes with risks and we need to consider how we can improve our knowledge and skills to make sure we don’t get left behind.
The problem is finding the time. So many FMs are already working flat-out and finding time for personal development might not feel like a priority. Another challenge is cost. We know that in times of financial crisis, learning and development take a back-seat to just about everything else. So, what can we do to keep our knowledge and skills future-proofed and make sure we don’t get left behind?
Firstly, we need to acknowledge that learning and development is important and that not moving forwards is akin to going backwards. Secondly, we need to stop ‘reinventing the wheel’ and use the huge amount of free learning and development resources available on the internet. Thirdly, we need to schedule time for training into our diaries otherwise it won’t happen.
As an FM Trainer and Consultant, I regularly get asked, ‘What should I know to progress in my FM career? What’s the best course to go on?’ My answer is usually ‘it depends!’ There are so many required skills to learn, it really does depend on what you know already, the role you are currently in and where you want to go, but in general, these are some of the key tips I share.
Tip 1. Complete a skills gap analysis to help identify what you need to know. The best way to do this is by using the free tool developed by IWFM called the ‘Professional Standards.’ Their free to download handbook ‘define the competences necessary to be an accomplished workplace and/or facilities management practitioner at every career stage.’ They cover everything from finance and technology to business continuity and compliance and are a very useful resource.
Tip 2. If you need a formal qualification in FM or H&S for example, now is a great time to consider it, because virtual or online training is being offered at a fraction of the usual face-to-face training cost. Also, and I may regret suggesting this, be cheeky and ask the training companies for discounts, particularly if you have been made redundant. I have given away free places on all the public training courses I’ve run since March and I’m sure others have done the same.
Tip 3. Learn for free in less than 30 minutes. YouTube is a brilliant starting point. Whether you are looking for a specific topic, e.g. ‘how to flush little used outlet’ as part of your legionella programme or want to learn more about an important subject like mental health there will be a range of useful videos. I recently launched the ‘FMHS Consulting’ YouTube channel which features two useful playlists for learning, the popular ‘FM Expert’ series with over 50 interviews with FM industry leaders sharing their top tips and the ‘FM Recommended Watchlist’ which features videos I recommend on my training courses.
Tip 4. Free e-learning courses. There are literally thousands of free e-learning courses on such a wide range of subjects useful to FMs including project management, accounting, IT, business and management skills and mental health. To save hours of searching for relevant websites go to the myworldofwork.co.uk website, click on the ‘learn and train’ tab and ‘free online courses’ where on one page they have links to all the main websites offering free courses.
Tip 5. You might need to relearn what you think you already know… Do you really understand the financial model or budget you are working to in detail? Have you read your supplier contracts and property leases enough to be confident you really know the content? Are your service specifications being adhered to fully or are you paying for services that aren’t being delivered? It takes dedicated time but check the details and look up anything you don’t understand. Without exception, everyone I know who has done this has discovered new information and improved their management of the service area or function.
Tip 6. Rethink how you communicate.
In an increasingly automated workplace, it is recognised that interpersonal skills are what make us stand out. In a PwC publication titled ‘Workplace of the Future’, 52 per cent of CEOs said finding the skills they need; problem-solving, adaptability, collaboration, leadership, creativity and innovation, has become the biggest threat to their business. With so much more of our communication now happening via video calls and telephone, we need to recognise that our communication skills may need to adjust to suit these changes.
Finally, for those FM colleagues who through no fault of their own find themselves looking for new opportunities, remember, employers don’t expect you to know everything, but being able to demonstrate that you’ve been proactive in learning new things will make you stand out for all the right reasons.