The stereotype of a facilities manager - male, aged 40 to 60, from a trade or M&E background - no longer rings true, as our survey demonstrates.
20 May 2015
The facilities management workforce is evolving, with some recruitment consultancies telling us that new FMs represent something closer to a 50/50 male/female split, while routes into the sector - from service backgrounds such as customer service and hospitality, or directly from university - are helping to dissolve some well-worn stereotypes.
In this year's salary survey more than 6 per cent of respondents reported having been in FM for under two years - compared with 3 per cent of our 2014 respondents. Most (78 per cent) have been in FM for more than four years, and more than half boast in excess of nine years in the profession. But as we see more younger practitioners, we are also seeing a tailing off in the number of FMs with 20 or more years' service, down from 20 to 18 per cent year on year.
Those entering FM directly from university are helping bring down the median age - albeit not quickly enough for some.
"The BIFM's surveys prove the age shift in the profession is favouring the 25-35 bracket," comments Don Searle, projects & contracts manager at recruitment consultancy Catch 22.
"But 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. There will be a shortfall at the top of the profession in the next 10 years or so unless FM providers 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," argues Searle.
"There's been a move towards organisations using in-house recruiters, and many of those have expressed support for apprenticeship schemes - but in the medium term, service providers need to drive the on-boarding process by displaying FM as a profession with prospects."
Our salary survey bears out Searle's concerns. The proportion of respondents entering the FM profession from building services or engineering is consistent with previous findings, gradually reducing and currently at 17 per cent. Office management and administration accounted for a further 15 per cent of respondents, with 9 per cent coming to FM from the armed forces.
A third of the female FM professionals we surveyed entered the industry from office management, compared with just 6 per cent of male respondents.
Searle ascribes the growth in female FMs to a number of factors. "The focus of FM as a whole has shifted from being a reactive service to one that anticipates its clients' requirements. FM starts at reception rather than the plant room, and opportunities to lead this service have encouraged more women to consider FM as a career."
Despite the younger age profile of our respondents this year, 6 per cent said they were in their first role after leaving full-time education compared with 8 per cent in the 2014 survey.
But Gary Binder, section manager at recruitment company PRS, says FM today is far from the old cliché of a role into which people 'fall'.
"There are now a lot of younger and more ambitious people in the industry, both male and female," he says. "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."
There remains a fine line between the value of education compared with experience, and it's one that can be dependent on who is controlling the recruitment process, says Binder.
Right now, recruiters see FM increasingly moving to becoming a profession with a customer-centric mentality. FMs are increasingly required to demonstrate top-class customer service skills.
"A lot of new FMs are coming into the sector from client-facing roles within hospitality, five-star hotels and airlines," says Nikki Dallas of Talent FM.
"They have the training to be client-facing and are the sort of people who will always give the client what they want, with nothing too much trouble. Clients are increasingly more demanding in terms of the culture fit - there's a greater focus on front-of-house and meet-and-greet skills. First impressions within corporate environments are especially important."
It's not just the human dimensions. 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," says Chris Moriarty, the head of insight and corporate affairs with BIFM.
"The role of energy manager within the FM team will grow as more people become involved in sustainability."
Peter Forshaw, managing director at recruitment consultancy Maxwell Stephens, believes that as we see these demographic shifts from old to young, organisations may struggle on the technical and engineering side because of a massive shortage of skilled people. He hopes to see more schemes launched to attract new skilled people into the sector.
As for now, "the industry is so diverse that it can be very challenging from a recruitment point of view," says Forshaw. "It's hard to predict which new jobs roles might appear as FM is becoming so broad now. 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."
Martin Davies, training manager at BIFM Training, believes 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 shifting demographics within FM, if occurring at too slow a rate for some, are nevertheless a cause for excitement. As older FMs leave the industry, knowledge and experience is lost. But as the new generation enters in their place - full of enthusiasm and aided by the emergence of a defined career path - the opportunities they have are considerable.