Facilities management is one of the fastest-growing professions in the UK and vital to the success of any business. Perhaps it’s vital to your future success too?
Facilities managers are responsible for the management of the services and processes that support the core business of an organisation. In pursuit of maximum efficiency, they ensure that best practices are followed, and that the most suitable working environment is maintained for employees and their activities. Facilities management (FM) is a diverse field with a range of responsibilities, which vary depending on the size and structure of the organisation. Facilities managers have a dual focus, being involved in both strategic planning and daily operations, particularly in relation to buildings and premises. They arrange provision of, maintain and develop services ranging from property strategy, space management and communications infrastructure, to building maintenance, administration and contract management. Effective FM is vital to the success of any organisation and, on a day-to-day basis, provides a safe and efficient working environment – something that is essential to the performance of any business, whatever its size and scope.
Every organisation has someone responsible for the FM function. They may not actually be called ‘facilities manager’ but they will deal with this area. The smartest of front offices will have people behind the scenes to make sure the lavatories work, the photocopier has paper, and the internet server is up and running. A good facilities manager will work well under pressure, and will enjoy coordinating and planning, so if you are highly organised, the role could be a perfect fit for you.
Although varying according to industry, general areas of responsibility for facilities managers include:
- building and grounds maintenance
- catering and vending
- health and safety
- procurement and contract management
- space management
- utilities and communications infrastructure.
For more on the range of responsibilities that are likely to fall within the remit of the facilities manager, take a look at the accompanying box, ‘The day job’.
THE DAY JOB
- prepare documents to put out tenders for contractors
- project manage, supervise and coordinate the work of contractors
- investigate the availability and suitability of options for new premises
- calculate and compare costs for required goods or services, to achieve maximum value for money
- plan for future development in line with strategic business objectives
- manage and lead change to ensure minimum disruption to core activities
- direct, coordinate and plan essential services such as reception, security, maintenance, mail, archiving, cleaning, catering, waste disposal and recycling
- ensure buildings meet health and safety requirements, and that facilities comply with legislation
- keep staff safe
- plan best allocation and utilisation of space and resources for new buildings, or reorganisation of current premises
- check that agreed work by staff or contractors has been completed satisfactorily, and follow up on any deficiencies
- coordinate and lead one or more teams to cover various areas of responsibility
- use performance-management techniques to monitor and demonstrate achievement of agreed service levels, and to lead on improvement
- respond appropriately to emergencies or urgent issues as they arise, and deal with any consequences.
Facilities management has always been an essential aspect of running a business and is recognised as a profession in its own right, defined by the Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management (IWFM) (formerly the British Institute of Facilities Management, BIFM) as an ‘organisational function which integrates people, place and process within the built environment with the purpose of improving the quality of life of people and the productivity of the core business’.
Few companies or businesses have the manpower or resources to deal with all aspects of FM, and this has been one of the main reasons for the growth in outsourced FM, which now accounts for well over half of the total market. Functions can either be outsourced on an individual basis, or everything can be outsourced to a ‘total FM’ company.
Legislation has a considerable impact on the industry, with laws and regulations covering many different functions, such as access for people with disabilities. Health and safety at work covers a number of procedures, such as fire and other emergencies, which have to be considered and implemented.
Have you got what it takes?
FM practitioners require excellent communication and management skills, as well as relevant knowledge, in what has become a vital strategic discipline that translates the high-level, strategic change required by senior decision makers into day-to-day reality for employees.
A successful facilities manager will have good interpersonal, relationship-building and networking skills, complemented by procurement and negotiation skills. The ability to multitask and prioritise is invaluable, as is confident decision making. Good time- and project-management skills are a must too, as are teamworking skills, and the ability to lead and motivate others. As in many other professions these days, IT skills are a necessity, as is a practical and innovative approach to work. Finally, a full driving licence may be required if the role calls for travel between locations.
Skill up while serving
You may never have heard of facilities management – many Service people won’t have, despite the fact that they may well have been carrying out many of its functions. You may even be halfway to becoming professionally qualified in FM without even knowing it. Read on to find out!
The vast majority of those in the Forces have been involved in the management of facilities. Environments from ships to ammunition sites, and from aircraft maintenance hangars to divisional HQs, are complex and demanding, and someone has to run them. It is not just the job of the administrative or logistic specialist – often it is a person with a very different job title and other priorities who actually manages the environment in which Service people work.
Although many Service leavers find facilities management a natural next step when leaving the Forces, Service environments are likely to differ from their civilian equivalents. Nonetheless, the principles are the same: modern threats such as fire, electronic attack and mechanical breakdown may be very similar, and contingency plans for equipment redundancy, relocation and physical security translate easily to the outside world.
KNOW YOUR FM TERMINOLOGY
The IWFM provides a useful tool that will help you learn more about the world of facilities management. It publishes an official glossary for the workplace and facilities management profession, which includes standard terms that don’t change much, as well as new ones that emerge and evolve based on what’s happening within the FM industry.
TRANSLATE YOUR SKILLS
It will be necessary to explain the skills and experience you have gained in the Forces environment to a civilian employer who may not immediately appreciate the similarities between a nuclear submarine and an office block, and how the skills you have acquired in the Services may translate to the civilian workplace.
There is resettlement advice and training available in this field, should you either wish to specialise in it, or perhaps are looking to move in to a more general management role, part of which will involve being responsible for premises or facilities.
There are several websites that are a valuable source of information when seeking employment in FM:
While you can enter the industry with an HND or foundation degree, particularly in subjects such as facilities management, business studies or management – entry without these qualifications is also possible for those with the right combination of skills and experience. This could have been gained in a similar role, such as management or administration – including in a Forces environment.
The IWFM offers facilities management qualifications ranging from level 2 (entry) to level 7 (postgraduate). To find out about all the different types of training and qualifications it offers, click here
IWFM qualifications allow you to gain a recognised, accredited qualification to support your career and build your earning potential. All of its FM qualifications are designed to be flexible and meet your needs. You can choose a level and depth to suit you, and then select optional units to match your development needs. You can also study online, wherever you are, using its Direct learning platform. There is no need to work up through the levels – you can start at the right level for you with qualifications that cover real need-to-know FM knowledge and skills. The qualifications are aligned with IWFM membership grades so you can enter at the appropriate grade and gain extra recognition in the job market. It also offers short courses at all levels, which are the perfect way to learn or top up your professional knowledge.
The IWFM offers a variety of ways of learning – face-to-face, evening class, distance learning, online with the IWFM Academy – to suit you. It has course providers across the UK, many of which are ELC approved. Indeed, the IWFM offers a number of opportunities for Service leavers to develop their FM skills and expertise, helping you to build your earning potential.
Use your ELC
Under the ELC scheme, a wide range of learning can be taken, provided it is offered by an approved provider listed on the ELC website and is at level 3 or above. For full details of how to make the most of your ELC, refer to our in-depth features elsewhere on our website.
Many, if not most, FM jobs are with specialist companies in this field, often contracted out to a client organisation. These companies employ, permanently or on contract, people who are competent in all the disciplines associated with FM. Many run huge contracts with military organisations, providing the infrastructure for bases throughout the UK and wherever the Armed Forces are serving in the world. In smaller organisations, including schools and partnership practices, FM may well be only a part – albeit an important one – of the overall management job.
If you’re planning to move into FM after leaving the Forces, you can find various job vacancies and support via the IWFM, to help you make your career transition. Search for the latest jobs on IWFM Jobs – the facilities management jobs board that is the online recruitment site for the IWFM’s magazine, Facilitate
There are few professions that are as well suited to a transfer from Services to civilian life. Those in the Forces currently looking after facilities are likely to be learning valuable skills for use in industry. Pre-entry know-how is highly desirable, so work experience in the industry can be particularly useful for gaining skills and building a network of contacts. Experience in areas such as admin, building, business, construction, engineering and management can be particularly useful.