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How to attract and retain future leaders in the FM sector

According to a recent report by The Institute of Leadership & Management 47 per cent of recipients who said they are dissatisfied in their current role feel undervalued by their managers. Other factors linked to dissatisfaction include a lack of growth and development opportunities, low salary and negative company culture. What more can the facilities sector be doing to attract and retain future leaders within their organisations?


We can describe the facilities sector as a thankless job. On a good day we solve problems, on a bad day, things have the ability to go horribly wrong. It is a job where in some cases the level of responsibility outweighs the financial package. The majority of facilities roles are not based in one place. This has both a positive and negative effect on those individuals who choose to be facilities managers.

Many FMs do not see their line managers very often as they are not office based, leading to (in some cases) the feeling of being undervalued. One of the most important things we can do within the sector is to ensure that line managers are given the time and training to enable them to be effective managers in such situations. This means being able to spend time with staff in order to understand their needs. We need managers to be able to relate to the pressures of ‘being on the road’. We need to be able to take the time to sit and speak with individual FMs, discuss the issues on site and advise accordingly. In the majority of circumstances, staff are not undervalued; it is more the case that management fail to convey their appreciation as they should. In my experience, it is astonishing how far a kind word or a thank you can go in ensuring that staff feel valued and empowered.

Working for a company with a negative culture is an issue in all sectors. In the main, this culture will be led by senior management and is hard to overcome. The best any of us can do is realise our worth, make the decision (that we choose) not to work within those conditions and find an alternative place to work where you are valued and not deemed as only being ‘as good as your last mistake.’ It does take courage – but those that make the decision to leave due to a toxic environment, will be the influencers for those who need to realise what changes need to be made.

We need to keep growing the sector to allow it to remain interesting. The addition of energy management and sustainability has helped us grow as a vocation, however more training is needed from the FMs perspective to ensure that the level of understanding meets that of the requirements. Access to courses in general needs to be improved, that includes all facilities management training. Standard training courses need to evolve which means managers do not sit in the same conference room, listening to the same speeches year on year. Let’s promote best practice, be it within our own organisations or externally. Let us be proud of our properties, be proud of our chosen career and be appreciative of what we can learn and, in some cases, teach others.

To enable us to amass facilities leaders of tomorrow, we need to plan for tomorrow, we need to give people the confidence to stand up and ask the difficult questions, to have the courage to walk away from negative cultures and toxic environments, for FMs to have the knowledge and comprehension to be able to think about the future and what it holds. To give people space to be innovative and open to new ideas. Allow people to make mistakes as long as they learn from them and ultimately to be proud of what we do.


Attracting talent in the facilities sector is growing harder; with the rise of SME companies, known brands are losing their influence and finding it harder to compete for staff. Flexibility and influence are becoming important drivers, with agile working becoming a trend within FM.

The facilities sector has always been renowned for low salaries, but we believe that changing this may do more harm than good. Rises across the board would cause companies to become uncompetitive and hurt profits and margins. In order to combat this, we would advise FM companies to set in place clear review programs, offering clear targets and promotion plans. Increasing growth, development and salaries in one sweep, this could really improve employee satisfaction rates and help facilities staff gain the confidence to grow within their role.

Promoting from within is another great strategy for retention. Filling a vacancy by giving someone a step up will increase their satisfaction and give you a new manager that knows the way your organisation is set up already. Culture fits are just as important when hiring new staff – ensuring that your employees believe in your core values and match your brand will keep them enthused.

Honesty and integrity from the very start of any employment could improve many companies at on-boarding stage, increasing the satisfaction of employees from day one. Whilst implementing progression plans, giving clear and measurable targets are the key to retention, just being open with staff is a much simpler solution. During the interview stage, it is important for organisations to give an accurate representation of the role, before the new employee starts.

Recently, some professionals have been looking into joint revenue streams to combat the sector salaries. Freelancing and consulting have become more popular, and now some staff require more flexibility in their 9 to 5’s. Companies that get ahead of this curve and offer more agile arrangements around this will be much better in the long run.

We speak to a lot of facilities professionals and we see that some organisations offer benefits and perks but don’t often have buy in from the top. Perks like working from home, shorter work weeks and off-site training are dangled in adverts and at interview stages but go no further once employment commences. Losing a level of trust in the early stages can easily give employees a feeling of being undervalued, even if their direct managers have only the best intentions for them. Decisions at board level to stop flexible working could really detriment the overall experience from the top down.

In order to attract and retain talent, organisations should really be looking to streamline their overall value. Offering support, flexibility and trust will really help when attracting talent, and planning for development and progression will increase retention chances. We would encourage employees within the sector to challenge their employers. Are they receiving promotion targets? What are they currently gaining from their current situation?

About Sarah OBeirne

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