Workplace and facilities management is one of the fastest-growing professions in the UK and vital to the success of any business. Perhaps it could play an important role in your future too?
Workplace and facilities management is a diverse field with a range of responsibilities, which vary depending on the size and structure of the organisation. Workplace and facilities managers are responsible for the management of the services and processes that support the core business of an organisation. They ensure that best practices are followed, and that the most suitable working environment is maintained for employees and their activities. 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 workplace and facilities management is vital to the success of any organisation and, on a day-to-day basis, provides a safe and efficient working environment. General areas of responsibility for workplace and facilities managers include: building and grounds maintenance, cleaning, catering and vending, health and safety, procurement and contract management, security, space management, and utilities and communications infrastructure.
Workplace and facilities management practitioners require excellent communication and management skills, as well as relevant knowledge, in what has become a vital strategic discipline, which translates the high-level, strategic change required by senior decision makers into day-to-day reality for people in their working and personal lives.
Every organisation has someone responsible for the workplace and facilities management function. They may not actually be called ‘workplace and/or 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.
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
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
Workplace and facilities managers:
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.
Workplace and facilities management has always been an essential aspect of running a business and is recognised as a profession in its own right. Performed well, workplace and facilities management can:
deliver effective management of an organisation’s assets
enable new working styles and processes – vital in our current technology-driven times
enhance and project an organisation’s identity and image
help the integration processes associated with change, post-merger or acquisition
deliver business continuity and workforce protection in an era of heightened security threat
The International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) defines facilities management as the ‘organizational 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 workplace and facilities management in-house, and this has been one of the main reasons for the growth in outsourced workplace and facilities management, 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 W&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?
Workplace and facilities management 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 workplace and 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 workplace and facilities management – many Service people won’t have, despite the fact that they may well have been carrying out many of the functions it involves. You may even be halfway to becoming professionally qualified in the sector without even knowing it! The vast majority of those in the Forces have been involved in the management of facilities or workplaces. Environments from ships to ammunition sites, and from aircraft maintenance hangars to divisional HQs, are complex and demanding, and someone has to run them all.
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 and/or workplaces are likely to be learning valuable skills for future use in the industry. Pre-entry know-how is highly desirable, so work experience can be offer an excellent route to gaining skills and building a network of contacts. Experience in areas such as admin, building, business, construction, engineering and management can be particularly useful.
Note, though, that while many Service leavers find workplace and facilities management a natural next step when leaving the Forces, uniformed 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 W&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.
You will need 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.
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 qualifications ranging from level 2 (entry) to level 7 (postgraduate). Click here to download a brochure with full details.
IWFM qualifications allow you to gain a recognised, accredited qualification to support your career and build your earning potential. The 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. There is no need to start at the bottom and work up – you can start at the right level for you, with qualifications that cover real need-to-know W&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. There are also short courses available 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 IWFM Academy – to suit you. It also has recognised 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 workplace and facilities management skills and expertise, helping you to build your earning potential.
Online study is facilitated via the IWFM Direct learning platform – a very useful tool for those in the Forces in particular as it offers the option to continue your studies wherever you are.
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 ELCAS website and is at level 3 or above. For full details of how to make the most of your ELC, refer to the in-depth features elsewhere on the Quest website
WORKPLACE AND FACILITIES MANAGEMENT APPRENTICESHIPS While the IWFM does not offer apprenticeships itself, its website includes details of relevant apprenticeship training opportunities (e.g. Facilities Management Supervisor at level 3 and Facilities Manager at level 4), as well as links to external websites where you can find out more. Click here to take a look. Alternatively, use your favourite search engine to discover more options. Or browse the government’s apprenticeship website or Find Apprenticeships, both of which allow you to search for apprenticeship opportunities by area of interest and location.
Many, if not most, workplace and facilities management 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 workplace and facilities management. Many run major 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, workplace and facilities management may well be only a part – albeit an important one – of the overall management job.
If you’re planning to move into workplace and facilities management 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 at IWFM Jobs – the jobs board that acts as the online recruitment site for the IWFM’s magazine, Facilitate.
Several other websites are also a valuable source of information when seeking employment in workplace and facilities management: