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FM 2022 challenges and 2023 predictions



My personal view is that the workplace and facilities management industry has continued to be extremely adaptive in 2022 as fresh challenges have replaced those presented by COVID-19; particularly those relating to the recession, global energy market, labour market shortages, the war in Ukraine, and the cost-of-living crisis.

It’s also important to acknowledge that some of these issues do not have a quick fix and this particularly relates to the skills shortages and “war on talent” that we are regularly reminded of. In the short term, employers have needed to be more proactive and imaginative in how they attract and retain talent, but a more medium/long term strategy is required in engaging with young people about career options and development opportunities available within the profession.

In looking to 2023, the most obvious challenge will be economic, with organisations needing to review their budgetary forecasts and establish whether they are currently receiving value for money for their FM services and whether there are any cost efficiencies to be achieved.

I have spoken to numerous FM companies this year who have stated that their “sell” to customers is now focussed on how they will work with them to ensure their buildings become and remain statutory compliant. The Hackitt review of building regulations and fire safety will ensure this focus continues to be applied to building safety.

According to Research and Markets, the smart building market is projected to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 23 per cent, hitting $47 billion by 2026. As more and more buildings become automated and responsive to the needs of those within them, the new AI and IoT technologies, and the analysis of the data they provide, will undoubtedly impact on the work we do and how we do it.

The future of work conundrum remains unanswered for many employers. Although I don’t expect most organisations to take Elon Musk’s lead and demand that all employees return to the office, there’s still uncertainty over what a post-pandemic workplace that meets both business and employee needs looks like. Employers will need to understand what these new ways of working will require in meeting these needs.

Despite the instability in Government throughout 2022, there appears to be a shift of focus back on climate change and sustainability, particularly highlighted during COP27. Lots of organisations are reviewing the Carbon Net Zero commitments and tracking them against their overall Environmental, Social and Governance strategies. Organisations are looking to their FM leaders to take the initiative in driving this forward, which is undoubtedly an exciting opportunity for the industry.

Finally, and aligned to this, I also sense that, as a profession, there is a shift away from taking a mainly reactive/tactical response, with a greater requirement to be more strategic in our thinking, whether that be in our labour market strategies, building operation or workplace strategy. I remain hugely optimistic for the industry and our increasing profile within the economy; however, it is an opportunity that needs to be grasped. 


While the pandemic saw FM providers pivot to problem-solving and short-term solutions to support their customers and colleagues, recent months have seen an increasing focus on technology and user experience, as well as a returning emphasis on decarbonisation, sustainability, and wellbeing.

These areas present growth opportunities for our sector, particularly for the year ahead, as more providers strengthen their focus on innovation to enhance services which support customers’ own growth and sustainability agendas. However, for this growth to reach its full potential, the looming skills challenge facing FM must be addressed – quickly.

As the Chief People Officer of Mitie, I know first-hand what an important role our 68,000 colleagues play every day to keep Britain running. One pressing challenge is the ambition to grow Britain’s industries of the future – such as energy, solar, EV and telecoms – which will rely heavily on the specialist expertise and skills of thousands, including our very own engineers.

The sector will only be able to grasp these opportunities if it has the skilled workforce to deliver it. We must attract, train, and reskill our colleagues if we are to achieve the country’s targets for sustainable growth, and this brings opportunity for levelling up too.

Our success will depend on the support we receive to speed up our apprenticeship trailblazers and improve the flexibility in how the Apprenticeship Levy can be used. However, while FM leaders are willing to spend the time and resources investing in future talent, the barriers we face, including access to courses and the availability of suitable training programmes, means progress is often still too slow.

For example, opening up the levy so it can be used to help people achieve the entry requirements they need, such as maths and English, would help those without these foundational qualifications get their foot on the first rung of the learning ladder. At Mitie alone, we have 147 nationalities within our workforce, many of whom do not call English their first language. This makes it even more important to support English qualifications for those that need and want them, which in turn would open up further training opportunities within their chosen field, and allow them to progress while earning more.

As we look to upskill our workforce, we must not forget our key workers either. Primarily, this includes creating new apprenticeships to enable our vast workforce of frontline workers, such as cleaners and security officers, to access their own training opportunities. For example, this could help upskill the UK’s one million cleaners who do not currently have an apprenticeship that matches their role.

There is work to do and, like many employers, we are dependent on the Government introducing the much-needed levy reform that will make this a reality. Employers across the sector appear intent – now more than ever – on delivering the specialist courses that will address our growing skills gap and build the FM workforce of the future. As this joint ambition has certainly grown over the past year, I hope to see some exciting opportunities for our workforce in the year to come. 

About Sarah OBeirne

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