21 February 2020 | Martin Read
There has been no change in facilities management procurement practices since the collapse of Carillion, a speaker told this week's Workplace Futures conference.
Kath Fontana, managing director, public sector, critical infrastructure and capital projects at Mitie - and president-elect of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors - asked delegates if there had been "significant change in our industry since the fall of Carillion", to which just one attendee raised a hand.
"It sounds basic," said Fontana, " but unless we are willing to recognise, understand and own the consequences of our decisions as they play out, then we are never going to address them.
"I hold my hands up and acknowledge that our industry has not always got things right, our industry is still hugely cost-focused. It is dependent on low-paid workers. The race to the bottom is still fully operational."
"What does it take for our industry to change? We need to ask ourselves that question. That [Carillion] was the biggest crisis in our industry and nothing has changed."
Facilities managers, said Fontana, had a "huge responsibility" as stewards of the real estate industry - which makes up 70 per cent of the world's wealth.
Responding to Fontana's presentation, Mike Cant of Larch Consulting contended that, in fact, FM procurement has advanced enormously.
"What's failing is decision-making," said Cant. "It's not about procurers; they do what they are told. Their techniques and systems are incomparable to those of the late Eighties and Nineties - they are fantastic today. But they are driven by other people - and we've got to influence those other people."
Fontana was the first of 15 speakers at an event focused on the FM service sector's ability to influence the wellbeing of their own employees and those of the clients they serve. Speakers spoke of considerable change in recent years, with service providers having 'woken up' to the importance of the issue.
Facilitate will have more on Workplace Futures in the coming days.