In the fourth of a series of industry roundtables, arranged in association with BDO Stoy Hayward, experts discuss how to encourage FMs to positively plan their career paths
FM World magazine: 11 Sept 2008
Cathy Hayward (chair) editor, FM World
Jane Bell, consultant and director of learning and development services, BIFM Training
Valerie Everitt, professional standards and education director, BIFM
Ashley Adams, manager for FM, Michael Page
Richard Beamish, chief executive, Asset Skills
Ian Fielder, chief executive, BIFM
Joanne Bell, director, Park Point Consulting
Paul Wyton, senior lecturer, Sheffield Hallam University
Andrew Mawson, managing director, Advanced Workplace Associates
Iain Lowson, partner, BDO Stoy Hayward
Cathy Hayward BIFM research found that more than 80 per cent of respondents did not have a formal FM career development plan. Is that surprising considering recruitment and retention difficulties?
Ian Fielder Not surprising. FM as a profession was a vacuum 20 years ago. Other professions such as architecture and surveying, with defined career development, filled it. When BIFM came into the market in 1993 it inherited exam qualifications. Yes, we have school diplomas and entry-level programmes. But a lot of employers are still very confused about training.
Richard Beamish I'm not surprised either. Employers remain unaware of BIFM programmes. Without this knowledge they cannot develop a career structure. Many young people and those just leaving school don't know what FM is.
CH Do facilities managers move job because of lack of career development?
Ashley Adams It's a key driver. A facilities manager in the £40-50k bracket and in a small organisation has no clear career path. They probably aren't valued and their organisation doesn't know what FM can do for the business, such as corporate social responsibility and sustainability. Those that have developed their career,
did so themselves.
CH Do facilities managers need a set career path?
Joanne Bell The problem is that entry into FM is so diverse, unlike with, say, surveying where you study it and then enter it.
Jane Bell There's a disconnect in organisations between structured professional development and succession planning. True, the Investors In People programme has raised interest in this. Many people have their own personal plans but these are not in line with their organisation's strategic succession planning and talent management.
RB A very important group is the 14-to-19 year olds that do, actually, take note of what their parents and careers advisors say. We must ensure advisers and parents know what FM is.
CH So must we advise careers advisors who then advise the next generation?
Valerie Everitt The 14-to-19 diploma will be here imminently and hopefully feed through young people who have an understanding of FM. The institute is putting up a structure for levels of qualifications. There is also the qualification and curriculum framework, of which BIFM's qualifications are in the 4, 5, 6 areas. We've been working with the Institute of Leadership and Management to develop a new level 3. This will give those people in the single-silo areas such as cleaning and catering an opportunity to broaden out and understand what FM is. There are also degree-level studies, so I think it is very much "watch this space" for the next four or five years.
Andrew Mawson After setting up this structure, the challenge is to get people to take up FM. This will be a PR effort, giving the career advisers a clear picture of FM.
Iain Lowson Consider how financial people get professional training and development and now sit at board level. When FM gets to the board table, training and career development is bound to be given to individual facilities managers.
IF But on some boards, several senior partners each have a different FM responsibility. Should they recognise a separate FM role and let go of their FM responsibilities?
IL Partnership organisations usually have key roles performed by the partners. It's relatively recent - over the past 10 years - but these partners have recognised they need senior FM people at the board.
Jane B I don't think we have done ourselves any favours by over-emphasising experience when recruiting. There's an ambivalence towards qualifications and professional credentials. »
CH In our annual salary survey we found that people in the 35-40 age range have few qualifications but lots of experience. Might that change as more people now in their late 20s and early 30s strive for qualifications?
AA Senior facilities managers in place now have few academic qualifications because there hasn't been anything as they came through the ranks. The new people may have the academic qualifications but won't have the experience of running a large operation. Recruiting currently is a choice between people with qualifications but little experience or vice versa. We need a mix.
Joanne B What facilities managers don't promote enough is how they enhance cultural change, sustainability and improve working practices.
Paul Wyton Generally, FM departments are good at health and safety stuff but don't encourage academic qualifications. At Sheffield Hallam virtually all our students have asked their department heads if they could take the course. Few received any guidance from their departments on courses and where to take them.
VE I agree. Research among our members and employers found that professional development was led by a proactive person who wanted to get on. Eventually, though, development must be driven by the employer.
RB It isn't just about qualification infrastructure. We need an integrated approach. This includes working on careers information for schools, using the 14 to 19 diploma that's coming in and creating advisers to work with specialised FM companies.
AM The trouble is that the term "facilities management" conjures up few things apart from managing a building. We need to put a consistent FM model into the minds of parents, careers advisers and recruiters.
PW People, for the most part, are not mostly interested in making a lot of money. They want to know if the job leads to a career and, importantly, if is it worthy and worthwhile.
AM Yes, you have to work hard with young people for them to see that FM is worthy. FM impacts hundreds of people daily but describing this needs the PR touch.
IF The purchasing industry some years ago targeted the public sector to get a basic-level career path established. Everyone who wants to get into procurement now needs their entry-level qualifications.
Jane B Do you think we lack high-profile role models and selling in the FM world? Is it about a plumber who moves up the business ladder or about being seen as a dynamic manager?
IL I would expect FM suppliers to promote their own brand more, particularly in the public sector. The likes of Mitie and Interserve contribute hugely to the public good through their FM work in hospitals, schools, etc.
CH People think other professions such as architecture and surveying have a sexier image. Can we compete with this?
RB I don't think they are more sexy. Rics will tell you its problem is that people don't see surveying as attractive.
AM The key is to address young people in their media, in what they are interested in.
CH Is it realistic to think that school leavers will ever say, "Right, I'm going to be a facilities manager"? Or will it be something that people will always fall into or move up to?
RB We need to recruit people into the specialist craft areas who go on to FM. There is also a need to recruit graduates into FM at a supervisory level. So why is the first choice KPMG? Why not specialist FM firms?
PW It might be that young people know that KPMG gives good professional development where if you perform well you become a partner. FM firms tend to recruit rather than retain and develop someone into that role.
CH Does that get back to the PR idea that more needs to be done to bolster the FM image?
Jane B Many FM suppliers have small operating margins while the client wants more and more without paying for the needed resources. Something has had to give and its been cutting learning and development programmes.
VE One summer we took on a bright young graduate from Ashton who was amazed by FM and decided to stay after graduating. But she had never heard of FM at any time during her four-year business degree. Should we encourage some element of FM, perhaps a module, in management courses?
IF Graduate schemes can make young people feel valued so they stay with the organisation. But few FM suppliers have these schemes and that is why graduates go to the KPMGs. I also imagine that the KPMGs don't retain these young people for long.
IL You're right, we don't retain them long. After skilling them up, the world is their oyster. To address this we are also going directly to school leavers who don't want more schooling but want work. After a training programme they appear to have greater loyalty and don't move on as much as a graduates.
CH What's the employer's perspective on how much training to do, and when?
VE When we asked employers what would make them invest in a new recruit it was always about what the return for the business would be. They were cautious about training someone only to see that person leave for a competitor. But there was a great willingness for businesses to work with us to improve training opportunities. I think they are waiting for something from us to make it easier for them.
CH Our FM salary survey found people happy to move on after 18 months or two years if they didn't get professional progress. Is that the case according to recruitment firms?
AA Definitely. For example, a firm will do health and safety training immediately because they need those skills immediately. They spend £2,000 to send a facilities manager on a course to get it done and dusted. But otherwise, facilities managers move because they are not invested in.
VE Yes, the typical FM supplier contract is for two years. A supplier may not want to send someone on a course that lasts beyond that. But some suppliers are bringing in longer schemes because it's cheaper in the long term to train people and keep them rather than recruit more often.
RB It's the big FM firms that are doing longer schemes. But we don't know enough about the schemes. We need better knowledge of them - the results, the qualifications achieved and employee retention rates. Only then can we decide whether or not to support the programme. But if we want to raise the status of FM, we need greater standardisation of qualifications. The potential is all there for this.
Jane B There is a danger of fragmentation. Employers want to tailor FM qualifications to their sector and context. This might hinder standardisation and that would be damaging.
RB At some point, though, we have to talk about what we are going to do about it.
FM quick facts
- More than 80% of those working in FM do not have a formal career development plan in place
- FMs who are not offered career progression after 18-24 months will leave the company
- FMs in the 35-40 age range have few qualifications but lots of experience