Developing a secure future for facilities management

Developing a secure future for FM

The Building Futures Group’s Sarah Bentley provides suggestions that the industry and stakeholders should consider to ensure the services we all rely on in the UK have a sustainable future.

Like many sectors, facilities management (FM) faces a number of issues in attracting and retaining talented workers. From an ageing demographic to encouraging young people to consider careers in an industry that is still considered ‘invisible’, successful service delivery relies on a range of factors. This article will explore some of the key issues.

Future Managers
FM companies should work to identify young people with the potential to be future managers and who will be able to contribute towards the industry’s growth. FM offers young people excellent opportunities for employment. From entry level to those with advanced degrees, FM companies enable young people to develop their careers whether this is through an apprenticeship, a mentoring programme or through a graduate scheme.

However, research by The Work Foundation has found that the way employers recruit can hinder young people’s employment chances. For instance, employers can sometimes fall into the trap of recruiting informally, through internal networks often less accessible to young people. This can cause issues for young people in finding work.

That’s why The Building Futures Group developed the #secretjobs initiative which was specifically designed to provide young people with information about the range of opportunities FM provides. Launched in August 2014 #secretjobs was the first ever national FM careers campaign. A guide for young people was produced which showed various pathways and entry points to a career in FM. As a well as a guide for young people, The Building Futures Group also provided guides specifically designed for Jobcentre+ advisors. Sent to every Jobcentre+ advisor in the UK the guide enables advisors to tailor their support to jobseekers at every career level.

Targeting young people
As well as working with The Department for Work and Pensions via the Jobcentre+ network across the UK, the Group ran a comprehensive media campaign targeting young people who had just left school or university. The campaign reached over 8.5 million people via radio and a full page feature in The Sun employment pages.

The results of the campaign are promising and the campaign guides are still used extensively by careers stakeholders across the UK. Having introduced young people to FM careers, it is essential to capture young peoples’ attention and imagination at key moments and is crucial for successful recruitment. As previously mentioned it is well known that the facilities management sector remains a hidden industry and the sector, whether private or public, needs to work collaboratively to raise awareness of the opportunities presented by the industry and the variety of jobs on offer.

To those who do not work within the sector, FM job roles may not look all that glamorous and can be seen by some as an entry level, low skilled sector. The reality is quite different, very few sectors offer such variety of roles available for people at every level of their career. A coordinated effort by FM organisations and key stakeholders is needed to develop initiatives in schools to raise the profile of the industry and show just how easily a career in FM can suit people’s career aspirations.

Employers can play a key role in assisting in young peoples’ transition from education to full time employment. Through working closely with schools and educational establishments, FM companies can offer activity days, mentoring, work experience and guidance to those wishing to enter the sector. Visibility is key and some FM companies visit schools and colleges to promote the opportunities to young people. One senior director recently told me how he delivered a careers talk to children in a London borough school. He asked the children who wanted to work in FM? Not one child raised their hand. Over the course of the talk once the children realised that FM offered exciting careers, decent pay and job roles to suit every personality type, over 90 per cent of the children raised their hands when asked again, who would like to work in FM.

Such anecdotes show that when made aware of the career possibilities within FM young people are keen to take advantage of them, however the sector requires an element of rebranding to attract the brightest and most talented individuals.

Encouraging diversity
A PwC survey found that ‘two-thirds (64 per cent) of UK businesses are concerned that they will fail to find the people they need to fill their positions – a higher proportion than any of their western European counterparts.’ Employers may feel that the ‘right’ candidates just aren’t coming forward. An initiative which plans to address this is the ‘Ban the Box’ campaign set up by Business in the Community (BITC). The initiative challenges the tick box style recruitment programme which it is argued, restricts some candidates potential at the application stage of recruitment. This in turn restricts the recruiting company’s access to valuable talent – all because of one tick on an application form.

Ban the Box calls on UK employers to create a fair opportunity for ex-offenders to compete for jobs by removing the tick box from application forms and asking about criminal convictions later in the recruitment process.
Research by BITC found that: “Three-quarters of employers use a criminal conviction as a reason to ‘skip over’ an applicant. But when employers Ban the Box, they allow the candidate’s skills and abilities to shine through.”

As the skills gap widens and employers are pushed to fill vacancies, companies should not close the door on ex-offenders, but instead consider their capabilities and what they could bring to the business.

A flexible workforce
How we work and where we work is changing at an unprecedented level. As a result recruiters are looking for people with a far wider range of skills than ever before. Gone are the days of life-time careers; employees who can embrace change and apply their skills whenever and wherever they’re needed are now in high demand’ reports PwC. As more providers move towards a ‘Total FM’ offering flexible workers who are prepared to adapt and demonstrate the capacity to learn new ways of working will be especially valuable. This type of workforce is essential for the FM industry and whether one is recruiting for in house government FM services or procuring such services, this is an issue that needs to be addressed. Measurement of the investment in training and development resources is a key criteria for assessing how adaptable an FM provider is. Such adaptability is likely to lead to better services.

Learning and development opportunities can assist in attracting ambitious and dynamic individuals to FM careers. It is important to note that not all recruits are purely driven by salary. They may be attracted by progression opportunities, organisational culture, mentoring and training amongst others. However, with skills shortages in mind, people with transferable skills will no doubt be able to command higher salaries.

Stemming the tide
There is already the need for a skilled STEM workforce in the FM industry. STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering and mathematics, all of which are becoming increasingly important in today’s technological and scientific environment. Take the development of robots for example. Robots are becoming more technically advanced and capable of human tasks everyday.

It is envisaged that human beings will be employed to teach socially intelligent robots how to perform an increasing number of tasks. Research by the International Federation of Robotics shows that ‘for every robot deployed, 3.6 jobs are created. By next year robotics is expected to account for an additional 110,000 electronics jobs across the globe’.

Robots are already populating our buildings, cleaning floors and washing windows. These mechanical peers are also stepping in to assist where humans can’t such as germ-fighting robots which use UV rays in hospitals to destroy antibiotic resistant bacteria such as MRSA, reducing infections and ultimately helping to save lives.

Having employees on board with knowledge of STEM subjects are integral to the UK’s success and that of the facilities management industry. Yet a hindrance to sectors such as FM in attracting STEM skilled recruits is one of gender. According to a recent report published by the Institute of Physics (IoP), almost half (49 per cent) of state-funded mixed schools in England are ‘reinforcing gender stereotypes’ in terms of the subjects students study at A-level.

This is an issue for consideration as it is important to ensure that both sexes are being recruited and there isn’t a preference from employers when it comes to job roles. Indeed more women need to be attracted to the FM industry at all levels. It is apparent that FM providers need to demonstrate that they actively seek to recruit and promote people from a diverse range of backgrounds.

Doing so will ensure that the FM services we all rely on in the UK will continue to provide efficient, effective and essential services for the foreseeable future.

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