The FM future looks bright. But there is, as they say, trouble ahead. Online, in print and at events, there’s been forecasts and articles arguing that the market is positive for FM. Yes, we all need to adapt. Yes, we can all improve and yes, debates about workplace strategy, productivity and the impact of technology on the delivery of FM services may well be the themes that get the most airtime, but what else? Where’s the trouble? We need to look further ahead. Over the horizon.
If the FM industry were like Mutiny, the C4 re-enactment of Captain Bligh’s epic journey across the Pacific we would be stocking up on supplies, reefing our sails and preparing for stormy weather. Because, whilst the future is bright now, we face some serious headwinds. We must plan. That means a focus on how we recruit, retain, develop and inspire both the next generation as well as those already working within our industry.
So, whilst it’s easy to harp on about navel gazing and defining FM, it is important to determine what kind of industry we want to be. Because if we don’t know now, then how we will address the issues looming over the horizon?
Think about where the future talent is coming from. Is FM a career of choice for school leavers, let alone graduates? Anyone under 25 is very aware of issues such as diversity and inclusivity, but does our industry reflect that? Are we employing enough people with disabilities; do we appeal to different ethnic and minority groups; does FM provide enough opportunities for women? These are organisational cultural and behavioural issues, but as an industry we can set an example together. There is a pool of talent in the UK that we need to tap into, if we mirror the society we serve.
This puts the spotlight on industry institutes. BIFM, as outlined by Linda Hausmanis at Workplace Futures, must continue to deliver high quality training and development. Then, the IFMA/RICS collaboration will be able to detail a career path to chartered professional status.
Developing FM as a profession is crucial. But not just in attracting talent. It is also about behaving as a professional and trusted advisor to customers and clients. More organisations are becoming aware of the impact FM can have on the delivery of their own business objectives. That requires discipline, professional rigour and a focus on value. FM has no future as a profession if individual service providers take part in a race to the bottom and forsake value for price. Clients will receive poor service at a price too low to be affordable, leading to tension, arguments and unsustainable contracts.
To attract the best into our industry, and to retain those of us that work so hard to enhance the profession, it is important that we are seen to deliver to the very highest industry standards and with a strong ethical and professional bias. Value must be put ahead of price. The values that need to underpin our industry need to be ones of excellence, collaboration, innovation and integrity. Mix these with technical, commercial and business acumen, all of which support and enhance the services we deliver, and FM becomes a profession that has a future and looks good as a career choice.
The uncertainties around Brexit deserve their own 500 words. There is a big chance there will be an impact on lower skilled roles, FM’s unsung heroes: the cleaners, night workers, maintenance teams and admin staff. We need them as much as rising white collar stars. What FM supports is often business critical, dynamic, exciting and rewarding. There’s no reason why it should not be an easy sell to new entrants.
This war for talent is real, FM will need to battle hard with multiple sectors to attract the best. This is the storm cloud on the horizon. Batten down the hatches.