FM - unveiling its secrets to young people
This article appeared in 'This Week in FM' magazine.
Facilities management (FM) firms have in some ways been the unsung heroes of the covid-19 pandemic. Since the beginning of the outbreak, FM businesses have played a vital role in the nation’s efforts to suppress the virus and will continue to do so going forward. And as always, this is a sector that in many ways operates in ‘secret’. It goes on behind the scenes and is most likely to get noticed only when things go wrong.
But given its crucial role in keeping people safe and businesses moving, now is the time to double down on efforts to preserve the future of FM and encourage the best into our sector. We must embrace this chance to encourage more young people into the industry by showcasing both the value of FM to wider society and the incredible career opportunities on offer.
According to the Office of National Statistics, there were an estimated 763,000 young people (aged 16 to 24 years) in the UK who were not in education, employment or training (NEET) in December 2019. Many of these young people can be our FMs of tomorrow. However, they need to be aware of what we do and the positive impacts we can have.
FM companies can start by making sure they are communicating these and other positive messages to the wider world. Good FM goes far beyond managing and maintaining the buildings, people and assets of a business. Within its own sphere of activities, FM encompasses cost-effective working processes, improved efficiency, adhering to industry sanctioned health and safety regulations and increasing the lifespan of a business’s assets. FM impacts everything.
But this impact stretches far beyond the buildings in which companies operate. FM not only keeps us safe, FM keeps businesses open, FM also aids productivity. The significance of FM activities are often understated and these benefits are what we are need to be communicating more to you young people.
There are well documented examples of how FM can directly impact success, such as the study at Cornell University where it was found that raising the temperature in an office from 20oC to 25oC resulted in employees making 44% less typing errors. These are real impacts.
The generations are changing, there is plenty of evidence to support the argument that young people want to make impact. A salary isn’t good enough anymore. We all need to ensure that we demonstrate the value young people can add to the sector, and wider society. The breadth of roles is often forgotten too. FM isn’t just maintenance people. FM can encapsulate front-of-house hosts in a building, it can be chefs, it can also be senior management within an organisation.
Few industries provide career progression that is as meritocratic as FM. Ours is a sector that thrives on and rewards the ambition, can-do attitudes and proactive contributions of its workforce. Today’s young people will be tomorrow’s leaders because good FM companies help their people to develop and reach their potential by investing both time and money in their futures.
By taking advantage of these opportunities, which exist from entry level to graduate, young people can look forward to a long and fulfilling career. But first they new to know about them. So how do we as a sector go about getting these messages across?
Let’s start by maintaining the momentum of collaboration that has been a positive consequence of the pandemic. The FM industry came together as a community to maximise its resources in combatting covid-19 and it should continue to work together to attract the next generation of workers to the sector.
And it must do this at grass roots level. FM companies must work with schools to help young people know about the exciting opportunities that exist within our industry before decisions about future careers have started to settle in their minds.
The ageing workforce and impending skills gap may be less of an immediate concern than something like Covid-19, but it remains a massive issue for our sector and it will cause real problems if action is not taken now.