Facilities management is a profession under a rock, invisible and unheard of from those outside of the industry. For a profession that is so essential to the business world it seems unreal that it goes unnoticed as a viable and noticeable career.
Before entering in recruitment I would have been able to take an uneducated guess at what a facilities manager was (a manager of facilities perhaps?). Taking the example of university it becomes clear just how much a FM may be responsible for: catering, cleaning, security, maintenance and repairs, servicing, health and safety. This can be applied to almost every aspect of everyday life, from shopping centres, hospitals, and even the office you may be reading this in right now.
In 2012 the UK facilities market was valued at £106.3bn and it was forecast to grow by another £10bn by 2017 (http://www.fmj.co.uk/uk-facilities-management-market-to-rise-to-177bn-by-2017-report-finds). This highlights the importance of facilities management to the UK business industry. The best expression that represents the significance of FM is that ‘the most important man in the White House isn’t the President, but the man that makes sure the lights stay on for him’. Despite its importance, many in the profession have simply fallen into it by chance. Its not the type of career that you would one day go running downstairs screaming ‘Mum, I want to be a facilities manager when I grow up!’ (Although I’m sure there is someone currently reading this that did that).
In my experience many FM’s currently fall into it by chance or by natural career progression from technical backgrounds. This is a big issue with facilities management, as currently there is no defined or ‘correct’ path for people to take into FM. It has only been recently that people have taken FM seriously and have consciously started targeting it as a career. This is largely due to companies such as Servest and EMCOR now actively promoting facilities graduate schemes, to rival those schemes that have been snatching the top potentials for their companies. Although these are excellent developments, much more needs to be done to increase these schemes’ visibility, for an industry that is notoriously hidden. In order to do this, facilities management has to be made appealing to graduates. Currently FM graduate schemes are treated as an insignificant part for enormous companies. Graduates are drawn to programmes where they feel like they can make an impact and difference. Perhaps the best example running at the moment is Servest where their scheme is known as the ‘Future Leader’ programme.
However a simple name change is not the quick fix solution for the industry. It has to be promoted as a challenging and respected career, and a genuine alternative for graduates who are bombarded daily by exciting and respected opportunities. More information has to be given upon the prospects that a career in FM can provide. Although it is naturally harder to compete with the likes of Aldi and Microsoft in terms of salary and package, they can be overcome by programme structure. The promise of gaining qualifications through the British Institute of Facilities Management and Institute of Leadership Management, along with the opportunity for genuine career progression can strongly compete with a simple high base and lack of opportunity. Better explanation of how these qualifications can benefit someone will naturally allow for it to be seen as a secure career move.
The most effective FM providers in the years to come will have to realise this. With the advent of increased technological complexity in workplace those who simply fell into the industry will be fossils. It would be very hard for this candidate to compete with one who has been professionally trained from day one of their career to have an understanding of M&E servicing, pre-planned maintenance schedules and the unique soft service needs of each individual site. Similar situations have been repeated many times over in companies that have strong graduate programmes, with productivity and effectiveness similarly increasing. The companies that fail to adapt and implement these graduate programmes in the coming years will naturally fall to their competition, and will come to be seen as dinosaurs of the Jurassic FM days.