by C-J Green — This article originally appeared in the November/December 2017 issue of FMJ Magazine.
At IFMA’s World Workplace in 2016, speakers surprised the delegates with a bombardment of shocking statistics concerning the widening talent gap in facility management. Despite the fact it’s now 2017, this message is just as relevant. As the demands of this mission-critical industry continue to grow, the numbers of those delivering the solutions are diminishing.
According to information provided at that event, there are around thirty programs that teach FM in the United States and less than 800 students graduate from those programs each year. That’s simply not enough skilled professionals entering the industry in the U.S. To give you an example of the skills shortage, in Los Angeles alone, there were 24,000 jobs in FM up for grabs as of this writing. If that wasn’t bad enough, 70 percent of FM professionals are over the age of 47. That’s a problem because it means it won’t be long until half the workforce retires. By most estimates, there are 25 million people around the world working in facility management, soon to reduce to 7.5 million. As it stands, there won’t be enough people to take over and plug the gap.
We in FM sort of have a code of secrecy working against us. It’s the same code that makes it so hard to explain to others outside the industry what we do all day. Even though, as IFMA CEO Tony Keane has pointed out in the past, we’ve come a long way over the years, there’s still more work to do to convince universities to adopt qualified FM courses.
FM is an exciting industry; it’s about the unsung heroes who work behind-the-scenes. In every pocket of the world, there’s a need for facility management. So, it’s down to those in the industry to get better at communicating that fact. We have started to explore exciting new frontiers of FM and it’s great that there’s now a deeper appreciation of what our industry offers, however, we need to continue thinking about the ways and means we can lure and entice people into the profession.
Enticing the next generation
Every business is responsible for its people. This is especially true for those joining the FM industry or a specific organization for the first time, and even more so for those who are in the early stages of their careers. There are many documented ways to support early career development: apprenticeship, internship and learning and development programs are some of the most popular options for employers.
Organizations should be willing and excited about opening their doors to the next generation if they’re going to attract the best available talent. Businesses have a responsibility to offer young people and entry-level candidates a progression path – not only because doing so will help the overall employment landscape, but also because an influx of new people means an influx of new ideas. The name of the game is innovation, and it’s crucial to the continuing success of any organization.
One way to do this is to start leadership programs within organizations. When designing a “Future Leaders” program, spend a lot of time reviewing the organization’s leadership gene pool in order to identify any gaps that can be filled by the next generation of managers. Traditionally, senior decision makers tend to specialize in a single area, but it’s beneficial to create a program that encourages future leaders to learn about and understand the opportunities and challenges of every area of the business.
As a case in point for one of these programs, in 2016, the UK’s Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) accredited the Servest Future Leader program. This means the individuals in the program begin their career in facility management while they study towards a bachelor’s degree-level qualification. Put simply, they get the best of both worlds – an academic and vocational training course that pays them a generous salary while they prepare for a career in FM.
The business benefits
The future leaders of this industry never stop surprising the organizations they support. The Servest program, as a business, reaps numerous benefits too. The program has been designed to open young professionals’ eyes to all areas of the company, and they become very well-rounded individuals. After just a few months of starting the program, these individuals contributed towards a significant return on investment. Between them, they run procurement and resource planning projects that actively save the business money. What’s more, the company’s well-being approach has been designed by these Future Leaders. In short, they’ve made a difference to the business and the company has seen a real return.
This year, the company celebrated the graduation of the first cohort of Future Leaders. These talented individuals have spent the last two years preparing to take on a management role in the company. Having worked in various support functions, and having gained hands-on experience in every operational division, the next generation of leaders have acquired the skills necessary to excel in their chosen careers in the multifaceted realm of FM. Because the company invested in its people, they are passionate about giving whatever they can back. In many ways, the graduates of these future leader programs are the window into the rest of the business – they’re the shining stars.
Since Servest implemented Future Leaders, in addition to an array of other learning and development (L&D) initiatives, the business has seen an increase in internal promotions and movement – up by 20 percent. This increase shows that nurturing internal talent can improve both turnover rates and business performance. Employees are more likely to be engaged if employers are invested in their development. This goes back to the basic principal of making sure people feel valued and that their ideas are listened to and taken seriously. Offering people an opportunity to carve out a career for themselves is the best way to inspire and motivate the lifeblood of a business.
Staying ahead of the game
In the bid to attract and retain talent, focusing on internal learning and development is essential to help the business flourish. Such L&D provisions also ensure that people have a proper sense of what it means to belong to a company.
Business leaders and human resources professionals in FM who are keen to attract and nurture talent should not only offer a clear progression path and a variety of L&D programs to support the early stages of career development, but they should also give choice to individuals about what, when and how they learn. Creating a learning culture driven by the individuals will turbocharge the business. In a world where young people are faced with many options and different paths, it is important to offer guidance and opportunity. Encouraging young people to try out different roles through leadership programs can no doubt help with this endeavor.
At every level of an organization, people must be ready to step into other people’s shoes, otherwise business will come to a grinding halt. Succession planning is extremely important in this quest. If you don’t pay attention to this area, there will be an inevitable void when people leave.
Organizations spend a lot of time talking about talent management – debating how they can find, nurture and retain the individuals that will essentially better their business. For forward-thinking companies it’s not about ticking boxes or “processes for processes sake.” It’s about identifying the people that will make a positive difference to the business – ultimately, it’s about “seeing” who’s out there and who’s already on board.
Managerial success is often quantified by the quality of the people coming up from underneath the managers in question. Successful senior managers, and the supervisors across various divisions and central functions, actively question how they can give their staff more access to development. In the UK, Servest has grown from 2,000 to 23,000 employees in 7 years, and globally, there are now 50,000 “Servestians” working towards a common goal. Many people at the top of the organization have grown up through the business – proof that nurturing internal FM talent can better a business.
FM is all about people. If companies are to attract and retain talent, they need to give their employees something to get excited about – especially those who are hungry to develop their skills and excel in their career of choice. People need a proper sense of what it means to belong to a company if they’re to offer longevity. That can only be achieved if the company offers an attractive progression path.
As the industry moves forward into this time of greater need and dwindling qualified workforce, it’s important that there is an influx of fresh blood and structured leadership programs to avoid creating an unintentional homogenous culture. If a company only recruits from within, then they’re inadvertently restricting themselves in the war for talent, and they may miss out on the wild cards that exist on the outside. To grow as an organization, look both inside and outside for new ways of thinking, working and generating inspiration.
C-J Green originally joined Servest’s HR team in August 2009 and has been key in the HR strategy within the business, which has grown from 2,000 to 23,000 employees in the UK in 7 years, and 50,000 employees globally. C-J was promoted to the main board in May 2013 to lead the company’s HR function and ensure HR is both accessible and manageable for everyone. In October 2017, she was promoted to CEO in recognition of her achievements to date and to support the FM company’s expansion into global markets.