Facilities Show: FM talent of the future

(Written by Jackie Bennett Shaw)

The Facilities Show’s 2020 Strategy Summit was the place to be last week for anyone with an interest in how our industry will be led in the future.

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Liz Kentish

On Wednesday 22nd June, a lively panel debate attracting talent, chaired by people development expert Liz Kentish, asked what’s the profile of a talented FM going to be in the 2020s; what can we do to attract the highest level of talent to the industry; and what role does diversity play in this? Also, moving forward, how can we work with schools and colleges to get young people thinking of FM as a career of choice; and what is the next generation of entry-level FMs going to be looking for in an employer?

With an ageing FM population – an IFMA survey at the beginning of 2016 told us that the average FM professional is 49 years old, and 50 per cent of the workforce is expected to retire in the next 5 to 15 years – and compounded by the fact that less than ten per cent of IFMA’s members are under 35 years old, succession planning is key. We need intelligent, critical thinkers and leaders that can manage and inspire in the face of technical and organisational challenges. We need to be able to attract the highest level of new, young talent into the industry. Workplace diversity fosters mutual respect among employees, while employees who acknowledge other people’s differences also often find similarities, leading to a shared desire for common goals.

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CJ Green (Servest) and Oren Gershon (The Challenge)

Panelists, Sajna Rahman, operations manager for Sodexo, CJ Green, group HR director for Servest, Oren Gershon, head of property and facilities for The Challenge, a leading charity for building a more integrated society, and Nasreen Begum, head of EMEA global workplace services at LinkedIn, were all passionate about, and completely agreed upon, how vital it is to get talent right in any business.

For Rahman, the profile of a talented FM in 2020 hinged on a more diverse leadership, while for Green it was about key skills and collaboration. Gershon highlighted the importance of passion, drive and determination and the importance of getting talented, young people to senior level.

The message across the panel was that change is needed in FM to create appeal. Begum said that FM needs to become a “more strategic business partner, rather than an order taker” to support the organisation in a more effective way. Rahman wanted to “change the FM label”, especially when talking to young people outside of the industry so that it is meaningful, but not just to waste time in creating definitions. Gershon wanted to “give it some sparkle and make it huge” to draw in young talent.

Green wanted the FM industry to actively use LinkedIn and social media platforms to draw in talent and Kentish also felt that social media could be used in a very positive way. Young people should be encouraged to network and to make important professional connections, which would prepare them for the world of work, while still at school.

It was generally felt that there were no major diversity issues in FM, with diversity being encouraged and embraced in some prominent businesses. However Rahman felt, while the industry has come a long way in terms of gender balance, more needs to be done to reflect racial equality.

The FM industry was encouraged by the panel to engage with schools, headteachers and pupils, either inviting them in to their business experience FM first-hand, or to reach out to schools by visiting them and giving talks. Begum felt it was vital for entry level FMs to be offered a clear career path.

The debate rounded off with some messages from the panelists about what inspires in FM, including the chance to make a difference to those around you; to add value outside of your FM role; and to transform the workplace.

9JoELZvB_400x400And after the debate, I had the opportunity to chat to two young apprentices from The Challenge. One young woman’s experience had led her to be offered a place with a small digital design company. The other had gained fantastic experience in FM with Mace, working at the head office and on site for a key client. She had gained experience of administrative work, logging jobs through CAFM, helpdesk reporting, liaising with contractors, and dealing with customers face to face. She summed up her experience saying that the culture of FM had given her something meaningful to put on her CV, and that she had been inspired to continue in a career in FM, hopefully in a project management role. She encouraged FM businesses to actively get into schools to let more young people know about the fantastic opportunities open to them in the industry.

Between the amazing talent and passion of the panelists and the drive and enthusiasm of the next generation, I certainly left the event feeling that the future of FM is bright.

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