On 15th November I attended the IWFM London Region conference. The theme was ‘Back to the future’ and included plenty of references to the film. From an FM perspective, the idea was to look back at what the industry was like 30 years ago in 1992, the trends over the years and what we can learn to prepare for the next 30.
Social value in FM
The event was expertly hosted by Ian Ellison, and after the initial introductions and welcomes, the Living Wage Foundation took the stage. Sebastian Bachelier spoke about the importance of paying the Real Living Wage, as well as the numerous benefits it can bring to employees and businesses. He also gave us a preview of upcoming initiatives the Foundation is planning, such as working with cities to elevate wages across the public and private sectors.
The nature of our industry means it’s not always easy to implement the Living Wage. That’s why the Foundation has a designated accreditation for service providers. Accredited companies have committed to paying all direct staff the Living Wage, as well as including a Living Wage bid in every tender proposal.
It was a meaningful start to the day considering the current economic climate and financial pressures faced by low earners. FM is in a great position to address social value, and this was a timely reminder of one such method.
Special Interest Groups
The IWFM has a number of Special Interest Groups (SIGs), and we were lucky to have the chairs from four of them speak. They were:
- Ian Baker, EMCOR UK (Workspace SIG)
- Greg Davies, Assurity Consulting (Sustainability SIG)
- Tim Axe, Genuine Dining Co. (Catering & Hospitality SIG)
- Anne Kinder, Nodus Solutions Ltd (Procurements & Contract Management SIG)
I can’t begin to do justice to the insight they shared. Here’s a paragraph overview of each talk.
Ian reflected on three areas of the workplace – boundaries, furniture and fittings, and internal environment. He offered an entertaining tour through the years to show how these had changed, from people crammed into designated desks in smoke-filled offices to the current open-plan spaces designed for employee wellness. As for what to expect in the future, well, that’s anyone’s guess, but we can at least be sure that smoking will not be making a return!
Greg Davies (not the comedian, which he did apologise for) used surveys carried out by his SIG over the years to highlight changing trends and priorities. Despite the complex graphs, he picked out the key nuggets of information as well as providing insight into the reasons behind certain trends. The data backs up the widely-held assumption or hope that the top trend in FM is reducing carbon emissions and the road to net zero.
Catering & Hospitality SIG
Tim spoke passionately about the challenges faced in the hospitality industry, which was decimated during the pandemic. It’s his belief that food brings people together and can be used as a force to entice people back to the workplace. He also spoke about the unknown impacts of plant-based products. For example, alternative milks (such as almond milk) are popular as the amount of space and feed needed for cows is not sustainable. However, it takes about 9 pints of water to produce a single almond. California grows nearly 100 per cent of commercial almonds, and the trees need water all year round. For a state that is often subject to drought conditions, that may soon not be sustainable either.
Procurement and Contract Management SIG
Anne shared a story from early in her career where she was asked to get two quotes in order to buy a company car. With no experience of buying a car before, she gave the dealers her budget and received two identical quotes – both happening to perfectly match her budget. This was an early example she learned about the value of procurement professionals, and she went from there to lead us through the types of questions that are important to ask during the process. The approach to procurement can and has been proven to support the ESG agenda, and has been known to even drive it forward, although the ‘procurement and ethics’ conversation is still a sticky debate if the audience response was anything to go by.
The post-lunch session can be a sleepy one, so kudos to the organisers for arranging a hackathon led by Perry Timms. We spent the best part of two hours in groups developing ideas to tackle a particular workplace problem, such as culture or technology. It was a great exercise to get our creative juices flowing and share ideas that we may well bring back to our own workplaces.
Keynote: the fifth industrial revolution
Sarah Armstrong Smith, chief security advisor at Microsoft, wrapped up the day with a talk about the fifth industrial revolution. She talked about a range of topics including the metaverse, cybersecurity, online privacy and VR. Technology is evolving at breakneck speed and our industry must stay on top of these trends in order to continue providing the best workplace experience.
The IWFM London Region conference was a fantastic event, packed full of expert insight. I have plenty to consider and I hope this recap has given a taste of what was covered.