04 February 2019 | Martin Read
Martin Read on why the 'Jack of all Trades' perception of #FacMan professionals might just prove to be advantageous in the long run.
We may need to revisit a well-established if unflattering perception of the workplace and facilities management role, because it might just turn out to herald the further evolution of the profession.
We know that, historically, this profession's practitioners are all too easily bracketed as 'Jills of all Trades' - that is, not specialism experts in a single technical discipline but professionally commission-competent across a spectrum. Unfortunately, 'Jill of all Trades' can be seen as a pejorative term. Sure, it comes with certain positive connotations, evoking such plucky FM virtues as mucking in, making things happen, plugging gaps; but it nevertheless invites the insinuation that, well, "master of none" and all that.
This is deeply unfair in any case. After all, name me one trade or profession where practitioners haven't in recent years had to absorb some element of work hitherto deemed outside of their 'wheelhouse'. Yet it's difficult to shake the sense that others find it all too easy to portray FM as a smorgasbord of odd jobs and tasks rather than a distinct role.
What's new, and what's interesting here in 2019, is how productivity and compliance objectives have catalysed wider talk of 'chief workplace officers' or 'building safety managers'; overarching roles in themselves, but ones for which the workplace or facilities management role would seem well suited, either to incorporate or to manage. (indeed, it often feels like we watch others building what FM already is from the outside in.)
Wouldn't the broad parameters of a chief workplace officer - or the potentially just as expansive role of building safety manager - ensure that those occupying these new posts are themselves seen simply as yet more 'Jills of all Trades', albeit perhaps at a more senior level? Well, perhaps. But it's also possible to smell a fresh opportunity here. Because it can surely be argued that this coalescing of broader activity into a complex yet coherent whole creates a unique new specialism in and of itself; one that demands the unique combination of soft and technical skills that, funnily enough, workplace and facilities managers have been specialising in for many years now.
Martin Read is editor of Facilitate Magazine