Finding Your Fit in Facilities Management
Recruitment is a difficult job in any field, but when it comes to an industry as nuanced and specialized as facilities management — there are multiple layers of complexity to consider.
Nicola Robinson, Director of RobinsonsFM, has made a career of simplifying those complexities and connecting FMs with clients who need them. As the profession continues to grow in size and demand, Robinson’s recruitment firm has also seen a new surge of businesses seeking out facilities management services.
As an organized profession, facilities management is still relatively young compared to other occupations out there. How do you think the demand for reliable FMs has changed in recent years?
Robinson: From experience, I’ve seen that most companies are now starting to recognize the need for facilities within their business and how important this function is when looking to achieve more measurable targets such as profitability.
Over the years, the concept of facilities management has grown and developed from a time when the different areas of this now centralized profession would be considered to be separate or individual functions. The industry is also known to owe its origin to the growth of office administration, which involved bringing together large groups of people into buildings.
You will find that companies now rely on their facilities management team to ensure that they can offer a safe and suitable working environment to anyone they need. This is heavily affected by external factors such as legislation, inflation, and if you follow the news, you will see that there is also a massive emphasis on recycling and putting measures in place to combat climate change — all of which affect the duties of facilities management teams.
As a recruiter, are most organizations seeking out permanent or fixed-term FMs for projects?
Robinson: The way companies hire is very much determined by market conditions and the hierarchy of the roles. Since the demise of Carillion, one of the largest facilities management service providers in the U.K., there has been a lot of movement on outsourced contracts with some companies choosing to bring their facilities teams in-house to avoid risk.
Small-to-medium service providers have been given opportunities to take parts of the contract which Carillion held, forcing a lot of staff movement in this sector. More recently, I have found more that my clients are looking to take staff on permanently and offer them benefits including bonuses and overtime to stay in hopes that this will lead them into a position where they can take on new contracts.
Opposed to this, I have seen larger blue-chip companies and even public sector entities such as hospitals and universities take on consultants on a fixed-term basis to analyze their compliance, costings, and overall operations now that there has been a breach of trust formed from the Carillion incident.
Are you seeing any recent trends towards facilities management being outsourced more? If so, are there any patterns?
Robinson: I feel the change in trend towards outsourcing facilities management runs alongside the recognition it’s starting to receive for its important to the functionality of a business and all their premises.
With any business function, you would always check the differences between the cost of outsourcing something versus the cost of keeping it in-house. More specifically relatable to the facilities management industry, you would work out whether it’s more cost effective to employ a workforce that can carry out duties to maintain the buildings while ensuring they are all compliant or if it’s easier to pay a company to do it, most moving towards the latter.
Until businesses understand the need for the facilities management functionality, I think some will choose to operate in a more sporadic manner where they use ad hoc contractors to carry out the work needed. However, I think the overall norm is moving towards a more centralized view.
With outsourcing, I think there are small factors which will affect which companies are chosen for these services since the Carillion saga clients seem to be more trusting of smaller providers which can offer them a closer and more personalized service as opposed to the larger, more well-known providers.
Based on your interactions with different companies, what skills do you think FMs should focus on in order to make themselves more desirable candidates?
Robinson: Given the diversity in facilities management roles and how they encompass so many areas of a business, it’s important for any person working in this industry to become as well-rounded as possible in terms of experience and skills.
They need to have the knowledge to not only understand the technical aspects of a building, but also be up-to-date with health and safety, compliance, legislation, and the cost management aspect should put you in stead for being a successful FM. The long and short of it is, whatever kind of building it is, you need to understand every aspect of how, why, and what could go wrong with it — and what to do if it does.
An additional point I would add to anyone in facilities management who is looking to develop their career over the next few years, particularly in a management role, is that it’s likely companies in the future will be determined by environmental, social, and governance metrics. If you are hoping to find yourself in a position where you would work with a company on their operational strategy, I would start researching and understanding these three key areas now.
You’ve also had experience with helping FMs build their resumes. What are some of the most common errors they make?
Robinson: The most common error is not putting enough information on your CV or, worse yet, putting the wrong information on there. You need to create a picture in the reader's head of you and your capabilities and give them enough information to not only place you into the right job role but, more importantly, the right company.
Due to the diversity of the industry, there’s so much interesting information you can put on your CV in terms of services, contracts, building types, and budget sizes, which I think is missed because people are so set on using throwaway terms such as “hard working,” “team player,” and “own initiative.” When I read a CV, I want to know the candidate’s story: what route they took to get into facilities, what their strengths are, and where their passion is.
If you’ve looked after an annual budget of $1.2 million, for example, you need to be able to say $700,000 relates to labor costs, $300,000 relates to building products or equipment, and where the rest of it goes. With facilities management, you need to get as much detail as possible across in your resume.
How do you think FM recruitment process will continue to evolve over the next few years, particularly with new ways of working coming into play?
Robinson: The most talked about scenario which could affect my company and any facilities management team is flexible working, but I don’t personally feel that we are culturally adept to push this forward and if we do, stick with it.
As human beings, we are put into the schooling system from a young age where we are forced to become social beings and are therefore used to this level of communication. This continues until adulthood when you are put into a working environment.
I know changes are being talked about, but from my personal experience working from home and from trying to create a remote workforce, people say they want it until they have it. Saying that, technology is improving all of the time, so I will adapt my business and self to ensure I am competent as the industry evolves in any way necessary.