At Unilever I learned how robot-process automation could play an important role in driving FM efficiency and standardisation, removing risk of human error. My expectations over the importance of technology have developed as the opportunities presented by technology continue to evolve.
Martin Bell, director, Global Workplace & FM, Stanley Black & Decker Inc.
Ten years ago, in a time before the then BIFM awards routinely recognised the achievements of up and coming FMs, we at what was FM World magazine set out to identify a group of 40 individuals representative of the future face of workplace and facilities management. The limit was on experience rather than age, in this case no more than 10 years’ of working in the sector; we wanted to find people demonstrating significant achievement in a relatively short space of time.
One such Rising Star of FM was Martin Bell, then associate director of strategic solutions at Norland Managed Services, and now director of global workplace and FM at Stanley Black & Decker Inc, and former IWFM chair. A decade later, we ask Bell about their personal progress and the evolution of the profession.
What do you remember about 2012 – and if you could, what would you warn your 2012 self about?
2012 started a period of career change for me. Things happened outside my control. My advice would be, don’t worry and stay positive. With adversity comes opportunity. Despite some challenges along the way, I have held some amazing positions in workplace/FM leadership positions with world-famous companies such as Unilever, Nestle and, now, Stanley Black and Decker. Also, it was an amazing honour and privilege to have been a past chair at IWFM. I would not have expected that back in 2012!
What makes you excited about the profession? How has this changed from when you began your career?
When we consider the scale of the challenges of our industry on an economic, social and environmental basis, there is so much value our profession can contribute to this agenda. This has changed over my 20+ year career because this wider societal expectation of what organisations need to deliver has fundamentally increased. This is exciting as the expectation shift directly impacts workplace/FM and creates the space and opportunity for us all to grow into. As this is a profession of change, it offers lifelong learning which is incredibly exciting!
How have your expectations of workplace and FM evolved? And what do you think the profession needs to do next?
I remember being cynical over the role that technology could play and was an advocate of the impact of humans on the employee experience. However, many of the back-end FM processes and activities are repetitive and manual. At Unilever I learned how robot-process automation could play an important role in driving FM efficiency and standardisation, removing risk of human error. My expectations over the importance of technology have developed as the opportunities presented by technology continue to evolve.
Our profession needs to place greater importance in continued professional development. It should be seen as a mandatory commitment we all follow and this will really help us to evolve as professionals as the demands and challenges on us continue to increase in all directions.
What is the most pressing challenge facing the industry?
The most pressing challenge facing our profession is skills and labour availability. There is so much change happening all around us, we really are in a VUCA era. This begs the personal challenge: how do we develop ourselves professionally, so we stay relevant? I think continued professional development will become more and more important for all of us.
What are your top three focus points currently and why?
- Sustainable cost reduction. Creating long-term solutions that help organisations improve their cost competitiveness is always going to be important, but is more so in the current environment of increasing inflation, supply chain and energy costs;
- Carbon reduction. My company has committed to be carbon neutral by 2030. We all need to take responsibility to save our planet; and
- Capability development. Our ability to leverage value from our scale is dependent on establishing a simplified FM management and delivery model. We are implementing a first generation of FM transformation across our 100+ EMEA portfolio.
After more than a decade in the business, what do you think the profession is doing right?
Adapting, professionalising, and contributing. We have a fantastic opportunity to support wider organisation objectives, particularly ESG and the evolution of more flexible working. We can now be seen as a bigger value lever with increasing organisational demands offering us better and better opportunities to add value.
Reacquaint yourself with our other Rising Stars of FM
- Annette Best
- Ryan Botta
- Dean Botten
- Will Bowen
- Peter Burnell-Jones
- Helen Cooper
- Martin Frohock
- Jason Gurd
- Adrian Harris
- Herbie Hawes
- Daniel Hawkins
- Andrew Hulbert
- Ryan Jarman
- Annie Karastoyanova
- Stephanie Kendall
- Ben Luvaglio
- Kate Morris-Bates
- Darren Raczkowski
- Tom Robinson
- Rishi Sharma
- Tristam Slater
- Kate Smith
- Will Tyler
- Clifford Yeend