Most FMs believe their influence is growing - but are we building on this position? The BIFM asked 10 professionals to share their views in the first of a series of industry roundtables arranged in association with BDO Stoy Hayward
FM World magazine: 14 December 2007
Cathy Hayward (chair) is editor of FM World
Ian Broadbent is director of group property services, Hallmark, chair of the BIFM North region and BIFM FM of the year 2006
Richard Byatt is BIFM director of communications and external affairs
Mike Cant is director of Larch Consulting and deputy chair of the Rics FM Faculty
Fred Child is research and development manager at Nationwide and chair of the BIFM's Knowledge Committee
Ian R Fielder is chief executive of BIFM
Oliver Jones is chief executive of The Asset Factor
Iain Lowson is a partner at BDO Stoy Hayward
Daryl May is senior research fellow at Sheffield Hallam University
Graham Riche is co-managing director of Concourse Network
Mark Rogers is business development manager at Johnson Facilities Management
Andrew Mawson is managing director of Advanced Workplace Associates
Cathy Hayward (CH): The BIFM research, carried out in association with BDO Stoy Hayward, showed 60 per cent of FMs believe their influence would grow. Is this your experience?
Graham Riche (GR): Without a doubt. Even small and medium-size firms are advertising for FMs in a way they didn't 15 years ago. But there is a skills problem at a senior level. And clients have overexpectations about what they wish to achieve. On the supply side, there is an overexpectation on what can be delivered, particularly in innovation and added value of FM. But without an institute we wouldn't be here today.
Ian Broadbent (IB): Being involved in environment issues and corporate social responsibility (CSR) has helped FM grow. But more general people management skills are needed.
Oliver Jones (OJ): Unlike consulting engineers, FMs are becoming more the voice of the workplace. You see more high-profile media commentary by FMs after disasters. But unless we better understand finance and property issues, we end up playing with 10 to 20 per cent of the cost and not 100 per cent of the opportunity.
Mike Cant (MC): It is not difficult to get to the board now. Our problem is justifying the position and this is where we suffer from a lack of skills. In most corporate environments the property element leads decisions on infrastructure.
Mark Rogers (MR): From a service-provider perspective, we are increasingly working with a procurement function that little understands what we do and is most concerned with driving down costs. So more and more suppliers work together, which makes it a challenge to manage these astute FMs who are professionals in their own field. Good FMs that can do this are rare and so our costs rise trying to keep them because they are always getting poached.
Richard Byatt (RB): People are now much more interested in who is running things when they go wrong. Like at Buncefield, it is the FM by another name who is on the frontline. Regarding energy, we are pushing on an open door because FMs know about it.
MC: We have influence, but what do we do in the future? The question for an FM is whether they hold a custodian role or a commercial opportunism role? But this is hard because the commercial drivers are quite imprecise. If FM is a genuine sector, and I am not entirely sure it is, are we professional managers dealing with minority interests or specialist technical people in custodian roles?
Iain Lowson (IL): Yes, FM is a mission-critical service. But even if it exceeds a required standard, it doesn't make that much difference. It is a difficult position if you are trying to get your voice heard at the board.
GR: The challenge is how do we, who have made it to the board after 20 or 30 years of hard work, reach down to the bulk of FMs and take them on the same journey.
Fred Child (FC): The triple bottom line is economic, environment and social responsibility. An FM can make these support the core business. But have you ever seen someone leave school and go straight into FM? For an FM to influence people, you need people at an early age understanding what FM is all about. That is where you get people who can then become influential.
CH: Unlike in other professions such as accounting, FM lacks a clear career path. What can we provide to make an obvious career path?
OJ: The industry has done very well in providing opportunities for people in administrative roles to move into management. Some of the industry's senior people have their roots in a very different environment. This is an attribute, enabling people to move upwards.
Ian Fielder (IF): Yes, FM is not a licensed profession and still a young one. But we undersell the strides we have made in providing a career roadmap for young people.
Daryl May (DM): Educational opportunities for FMs exist through BIFM and universities. We haven't in the past, but we do now offer a traditional undergraduate degree course in FM because we know that sixth-form leavers are not attracted to FM. So we recruit to our full-time undergraduate and MBA from people who are already working in FM. I question whether FMs have the appetite for a lot of training and education.
IF: Opportunities are coming with development of Asset Skills, the 14-to-19 diploma, entry-level BIFM and NVQs. It is early days. Yet at career fairs it is easy to hook highly educated people with degrees in diverse subjects such as psychology into FM. But at what level do they enter the profession and pick up their training?
MC: To get people into our sector we have to inspire them. To inspire we need awareness, presence and personality. Once that person is engaged, at any age, they ask themselves, do they want to do things that are good and do they want to do them well? As an FM you can do both.
OJ: At some stage in your life you want to give something back and CSR is hugely powerful for this. I know a senior HR director who is bored of the administrative side of her job not making a difference. She wants to take a 40 per cent salary cut to be an assistant FM, to do good.
CH: Should FMs concentrate on sustainability, CSR,
risk management and business continuity to increase
Andrew Mawson (AM): Yes, if an FM can draw things such as sustainability together in a cross-functional way. But FM needs people who speak the language of different internal disciplines.
IL: Especially at senior level FM needs that cross-functional communication skill. But lower down I wonder if FMs are trying to be all things to all men. Is there not a need for a
sub-specialisation within FM and a bringing together of these people?
AM: When people talk of FM they don't get the bigger strategic infrastructure view of the world. Rather they get the operational view. The way to promote the profession is to show its strategic side, then FM has a bit of excitement, some 'sex' about it.
MC: We haven't a profession but a sector that has the opportunity to create itself, and has done this well. But it doesn't have a soul. Architecture has a soul. What is that special thing that happens inside your business that really makes an FM excited, makes them get up in the morning? You have to inspire to create this.
RB: The understanding is that FM is not just there to stop things falling over, but to help other people do their
IF: Many of us involved in awards see the passion in FM. Maybe we are not very good at promoting that passion.
MC: But when you go into the majority of buildings you don't see that passion.
OJ: When I hire people I want to see a spark in their eye,
like at London's Tower 42. They are proud of it. I once was
on my way out of the building and a concierge got me a taxi. He was thrilled at the shock on my face. These people transform our industry.
AM: Apart from managing a steady-state situation, FM is about managing change, pro-actively creating a change to get a better deal for the people and shareholders.
IF: If you need an inspirational leader you need someone who can transform. But you also need many transactional people to support that. Some of these people will go on to be transformational people, and many won't.
MC: There has to be an internal commitment to make a difference. But it takes energy to see things through. FM won't get the right people unless they see that energy.
CH: Should FMs do more integrating with property people?
OJ: FMs should not become quantity surveyors, but they must understand the need for QS and then work with them. That's akin to project management, where you understand the value of other professionals.
GR: The bigger picture is we are living through a time of greater mobility, different office shapes and ways of working. How will the office layout and furniture change? FM can point the way in this and that is what fires me. FM must speak to the board about this bigger picture, of which sustainability and social responsibility are only a part.
IB: Perhaps the brief that some businesses give FMs
makes it hard for them to manage other people with the necessary skills.
IF: If the internal client is unaware of the business objectives, then the external supplier can't succeed.
CH: Is this how we measure the success of FM, how well it is aligned to the business?
IF: I'm starting to see some firms who say FM is their core business. This is radical, such as in BAe. One of their 10 core competencies is FM. For example, they don't sell an aircraft carrier. It is part of a package where they service the carrier as well, fuel it and maintain it globally. This is the wow-factor of FM.
GR: So within FM there are going to be specialist
services. FMs must therefore align themselves with
the business objectives.
DM: Aligning with business objectives is difficult and
FMs can be poor at it. A lot of the research work I do is
about FM in healthcare. How do you measure the contribution of cleaning or catering in health? You can't
serve bad food to one ward and good food to another and then measure the responses.
IL: FMs manage the experiences that people have through adjusting things such as heating, lighting, cleaning and catering. Importantly, we must deliver that experience in the most efficient way. The holy grail is to do everything at the same time. What excites me is that FM helps organisations to move on by operating better. FM is where nobody else is - at the centre drawing together people from many disciplines - and this is what enables organisational transformation.
MR: Yes, but the majority of FMs operate at grassroots level and struggle to be heard.
IL: It comes down to the value of innovation. There is limited value when innovating in some operational areas. But at a strategic level it's more bang for the buck. But you won't enter the strategic debate unless you can do the operational stuff pretty well.
GR: The average chief executive is very interested if you
can improve the environment and reduce the amount of
real estate and exposure to fixed costs. Telling the chief executive that you will cut an extra per cent off cleaning won't light his fire. And if you see the finance director,
talk money first, not ergonomics.