14 July 2014
There has been, quite rightly, plenty of focus in recent years on how best to present the prospect of a career in facilities management to schoolchildren.
Whether about to enter the workplace or otherwise in a position to learn about FM as a future career choice, all agree that it's important to 'get into the classrooms'. And indeed, the BIFM has been doing some particularly innovative work in this area (work that's likely to become breaking news over the summer).
As producers of the FM World Guide to Careers in Facilities Management, we're naturally interested in helping to ensure that the most positive message about the sector is put forward. Despite what many perceive to be the unglamorous nature of facilities work, it's not really that hard to make the case for a career in FM. Do you like the idea of running buildings? Saving energy? Putting on events, designing working environments? When you break it down into the component parts, there's plenty of attractive work within the famously broad church of FM service provision to sate a student's developing interests.
However, in all the examples we put forward to explain what's so interesting about FM, is too much focus accorded to the facilities and not the management? It's great to give examples such as The Shard, the Glastonbury Festival, Wembley Stadium et al, but is enough being done to promote to children the importance of, and indeed the necessity for, good communications skills? Of course there is no shortage of people talking about such skills' importance. But is the 'sociable' element of the sector adequately explained when talking to young people about what makes FM so enjoyable?
Two FMs I spoke to recently both made the point that in order to ensure that their teams are as sociable as needed when interacting with both internal and external customers, they themselves need to demonstrate the necessary people skills to know when and how to talk to their staff. It's a two-way street; to get the best communications performance from both sides of a conversation, each side needs to engage effectively. Managers need to be mindful of those who might struggle in this regard, and to do that demands an innate interest in getting the best out of people. In fact, it's right up front as a requirement. When talking to children about what FM is, all of this is very different from explaining how FM is about 'making a building work effectively'.
Perhaps it's not easy to describe. After all, 'getting along with people' can sound more like an explanation of a career in HR, not FM. But there's a close fit between the aims of FM and HR which brings to mind the BIFM/CIPD collaboration and the striking synergies between both departments, not just in the service provided but in how both interact with the wider workforce.
With so much in FM about relationship management and emerging issues such as collaboration standards, the need to have and to hone one-to-one and one-to-many communications skills is only going to become more important. Explaining this part of the job to aspiring FMs might just make their talking to the c-suite in years to come that little bit easier.
Martin Read is managing editor at FM World