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Brand new goal


After stepping out of FM for a couple of years it’s interesting to hear Sykes’ take on how the sector to which he’s devoted much of his career is dealing with the challenges of meeting ESG and embracing technological innovations.

Says Sykes: “Coming back into FM I’ve noticed that the sector has been relatively behind the ESG journey. Working in infrastructure alongside utility companies, they’re way ahead. It is at the very top of their agenda as you wouldn’t win any work with clients if you’ve not aligned your offer completely around your ESG credentials.

“By contrast, the client tier in FM are asking us, ‘what do we need to do?, how can we align to these goals,?’ rather than really driving them. Whereas in utilities, the clients are driving ESG, in FM it almost seems the other way around, with the services companies pushing the customer towards embracing ESG.”

He continues: “Too many customers don’t understand the need to put cash behind meeting net zero and other ESG targets. You might talk to a customer and advise that to bring all their energy costs down they’d need to renew certain assets; for instance, if the lifecycle of a current asset means it could run for five more years but we recommend replacing it to improve energy performance. In many cases they’ll often prefer to run it for five more years.

“So, we’re starting to have the discussions but the budgets just aren’t flowing. They’re in this limbo of ‘let’s just see what happens with the cost of living crisis and high inflation’ so everything is put on hold a little bit.”

He’s similarly disappointed with the technical evolution of FM, which was supposed to have accelerated during the pandemic given the widespread adoption of sensors and other intelligent devices to monitor occupancy levels and cleanliness.

Says Sykes: “I haven’t seen much innovation emerge in the couple of years I’ve been out. The use of AI and IoT is being talked about but not being really used. By comparison, in Utilities for example they’ve already got digital twins, with the use of mapping tools where they can analyse where breakages might occur, meaning they’re way ahead proactively in using digital technology. This is something which we could do more of in FM.”

However, he believes where FM is ahead compared to other industries is in employee engagement: “I’ve always believed FM is about people and that comes across strongly in ABM.”

The FM sector he feels, also excels at employee engagement and being customer centred.

“In comparison, infrastructure businesses are quite distanced from their customers because they get onto frameworks and land a contract for five years during the regulatory period but don’t worry about engaging with customers until the next regulatory period comes along.

“By contrast FM is day-to-day, we’re always trying to satisfy and impress our customers and stay close to them.”

About Sarah OBeirne

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