It has been an eventful 12 months for many within the FM profession and I believe a very useful opportunity to reflect on not only the future direction the industry should take, but also to learn the lessons from what has happened, particularly in terms of unsustainable margins and supply chain relationships.
A clear shift of the industry to adopt and embrace the workplace agenda will continue apace in 2019. Many from both the supply and client sides are looking at how they can improve the workplace experience through the adoption of cutting-edge technology, introduction of more innovative working practices and the development and training of staff in the right skill-sets. The key for me has to be fundamentally understanding the needs of the customer and to then develop workplace strategy around that. The benefits in terms of improved productivity, reduced absenteeism, higher staff retention and the ability to attract the best talent has to be the inevitable bi-product.
Staff ‘happiness’ and the metrics used to measure this I believe will grow in importance in the coming months. Many organisations do undertake staff surveys and for FM to gain greater traction in the boardroom, we have to be able to evidence the improving experience of our workplace customers and not just solely concentrate on the impact on the bottom line. User experience scoring metrics still remain rare within FM Service Level Agreements and Key Performance Indicators, in part due to the subjective nature of some of the judgements (“too hot” “too cold”, etc.) and the need for a sufficient sample size. However, if we are serious about our service industry credentials, we have to be more proactive and imaginative in the measurement of the customer experience, starting with the dropping of the outdated term and aspiration of customer “satisfaction”; we should set our goals higher, I believe.
The collapse of Carillion and continued speculation on the financial performance of others has been very damaging for the profession and dented the confidence of many with the outsourcing model. One trend which I believe will continue into 2019 will be for organisations to fundamentally review their facilities management delivery model and for some, a new strategy will emerge to manage and potentially deliver the services using in-house resources and expertise. I sense risk aversion in completely outsourcing their FM service delivery for increasing numbers and is a road they no longer wish to take. Time will tell if this is a short-term trend.
If we are also looking to the next 12 months, unfortunately we can’t avoid the “B” word. I am regularly asked about what I believe the impact of Brexit will be on the industry? The simple and unsatisfying answer is usually “I don’t know yet.” Yes, there will inevitably be some inflationary pressures, particularly on imported goods and materials and worsening availability of skilled professionals, but the scale is simply impossible to currently predict.
The same unpredictability also applies for the procurement of FM services within the public sector, which are currently governed by OJEU regulations, if the contract value falls above the set financial thresholds. I strongly suspect many organisations either will extend current arrangements and “see what happens” in the market or alternatively use existing procured frameworks, such as the Crown Commercial Services FM Framework (RM3830), to be able to evidence a fair and transparent procurement process.
It is really interesting looking back at 2018, Brexit, the collapse of a national organisation and other economic challenges. We are all aware that facilities management is a dynamic profession, which supports the core functions of business through creating an effective and efficient built environment for business; for its clients and occupants to its visitors, while maintaining interactions with parties such as FM consultants, in-house FM teams, contractors, suppliers and service providers. The diverse nature of FM functions necessitates effective supply chains and as such the role of facilities is constantly challenging and changeable. When I have spoken to industry leaders and practitioners it is interesting to hear what is believed to be the key areas that need to be addressed and considered as we move into 2019. These include the imminent technological, sociological and cultural changes facing British business. For me looking back at what happened in 2018 and forward into 2019, I have to consider the what I would call, localised impact, that I believe should be a key focus for our industry, which takes us back to the basics…. and an issue which is critical to both client and supplier alike; the client and supplier relationship, the relationship between the two and the connectivity to ensure business sustainability. I have to ask myself if we truly understand the importance of communications and the clear expectations between organisations working together in FM. This is highlighted when organisations fail to talk about issues that force them to take drastic business action affecting not just them but their supply chain and client base. “If an organisation is struggling why not talk to the partner organisation to look at how a mutual solution could be found?” is often suggested. When this doesn’t happen, is this due to a perceived fear of failure or is it a lack of real partnership, a mistrust in each other? For FM to succeed going forward we need to ensure collective thinking, open book policy and a push for real partnerships between clients and contractors. This will help ensure that both party’s expectations are met to ensure sustainability in business and to create a robust, lasting working environment. With the growing complexities in facilities management and its commitment towards enhancing customer value, establishing the nature of FM supply chain is vital for all.
My plan to get us back to basics will include:
- Removing the over reliance on email and electronic messaging
- Focusing on client relationships through more face-to-face interrelation
- Ensure clear partnership plans to enhance contract management for both parties
Our need for speed to action as leaders and managers has moved us to use technology at an extreme level for aspects of our daily working and home lives which includes the use of email, messaging and Lync for communication. We all are aware how electronic communication can be misunderstood, maybe by stepping back and focusing on relationship building we can bring about a new way of working. It will be interesting to see if more direct communication will indeed make a positive difference in such a business world.