In 2015 it is arguable that there now exists more hope and opportunity for facilities managers to significantly develop their careers than ever has been the case before. And together with the increasing breadth of job opportunities is coming a change in the typical FM profile; the typical age, level of education and breadth of experience of the distinctive FM is shifting, with long-established stereotypes coming under considerable strain.
Our salary survey in May 2015 confirmed trends that we have seen in recent years – the number of older FM practitioners steadily reducing, the number of younger practitioners steadily rising. More FMs are coming into the profession from university, raising not just existing quality levels, but also the expectations of employers. And yet despite the trends, there are skill shortages that need addressing. Don Searle, projects & contracts manager at recruitment consultancy Catch 22, explains that “the industry has an imbalance in the older age group, between 50-65, where ‘lifers’ are at the top of their profession and likely to stay until retirement.” Searle expects that replacing these individuals is key if there is not to be a shortfall at the top of the profession within the next 10 years. FM providers, he suggests, need to “put some senior succession planning into place”.
“The organisations that stimulate the market – in our case large FM providers – need to establish a conveyor belt of talent at every level of their organisations to ensure continuity,” says Searle.
But overall, there are now a lot of younger and more ambitious people in the industry. Some recruitment specialists such as Gary Binder, section manager at recruitment company PRS, suggest that the value of experience – for so long the principal component in successfully obtaining an FM role – has now been equalled by the value of education – the ultimate determinant being the person controlling the recruitment process.
“FM is now a career with its own pathway. Companies are increasingly keen to capture talented individuals and give them broad career experience before allowing them to focus on a business stream that suits their skill set best.”
And recruiters are also seeing that FM is increasingly becoming a profession for those who best demonstrate a ‘customer-centric‘ mentality. FMs are increasingly required to demonstrate top-class customer service skills.
A focus on sustainability issues will also set FMs apart. As the push for greater sustainability increases, more people are beginning to specialise in energy management and sustainability. As energy prices are set to double by 2020, the role of the energy manager within the FM team will grow as more people become involved in sustainability. Clearly, there is great scope for FMs who already specialise in the engineering side of the profession. But the likely shortage of technical FMs, while good for those already in the profession looking for their next challenge, needs addressing at the younger end. Martin Davies, training manager at BIFM Training, believes that the profession has become demonstrably more professional. “There’s a career path benefiting from training and qualifications at all levels and across all specialisms within FM, most of which simply wasn’t available in the past. “Employers are already looking to hire people who either have FM qualifications or are working towards them. It’s going to be increasingly difficult to ‘fall into’ FM unless candidates have the right qualifications or the willingness to undertake them and further learning and development.”
The recent BIFM Awards illustrate the extraordinary breadth of facilities management, a business activity that is difficult to describe as a single discipline.
Last year’s figures showed more women than men getting more sizeable increases. That trend continues – 9 per cent of female respondents saw a pay rise of 5-6 per cent compared with just 3.7 per cent of men.
It’s this variety, of course, that appeals to so many. But even as FM becomes more routinely accepted within organisations, the variety of roles shows no sign of abating. We’ve recently seen a merging of disciplines and roles becoming dual-focused – for example, head of facilities and IT or health and safety, and FM roles that include elements of environmental and sustainability management.
“The industry is so diverse that it can be very challenging from a recruitment point of view,” says Peter Forshaw, managing director at recruitment consultancy Maxwell Stephens. “It’s hard to predict which new job roles might appear as FM is becoming so broad now.”
Career progression can sometimes be, quite simply, a matter of itchy feet. Concerns about pay, benefits, and career prospects are the main reasons cited by FMs for wishing to leave their current employer. Lack of management support is also seen as a motivating factor; the stress of the role is an increasingly rare trigger for departure.
To read more from the 2016 FM World Guide to Career Development please click here.