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FM careers: The need for a portfolio career, showing as comprehensively trained and communications-savvy; results from BIFM 2016 Pay & Prospects survey

Originally published in the July 19, 2016 issue of FMWorld

Each year since 2004 the BIFM has surveyed the profession to assess how levels of pay and prospects are shifting. And for 2016, in terms of raw salary data, it’s primarily good news.

The number of FMs reporting earnings in the £46,000 to £60,000 pay bracket is up 5 percentage points on this time last year, with smaller yet still notable increases in higher pay bands. And all too slowly, but surely, the balance of men to women in these brackets is also changing (towards the latter).

But while money remains important – more people are also taking home bonuses compared with 2015 – FMs are less concerned about pay than in previous years. Up to 70 per cent of respondents cited salary as the most important reason for choosing a job in past surveys; that figure is just 59 per cent this year.

Year on year, the picture is of gradual change. Slightly fewer FMs report transferring across from building engineering into the FM profession, while slightly more report FM as their first job out of full-time education. In many regards, the picture is one of steady, positive progress.

There’s a slight increase in those who expect to leave their current employer over the next year, some 21 per cent of those who responded, although a further 17 per cent are planning for the long term and expect to remain with their current organisation over the next seven years or more. (up 3 per cent on last year). Why do they leave? Concerns about pay, benefits and career prospects in the main. Fourteen per cent of respondents are staying with their organisations because of prospects of an internal promotion (up 3 per cent on last year). The other good news for ‘remainers’ is that more are opting to stay because they enjoy their role, up 9 percentage points on 2015.

More people are moving to secure more senior positions or to take on fresh challenges than was the case in 2015.

Those leaving their employers (more will leave service providers than in-house positions) are likely to do it because of a lack of career opportunities, again suggestive of a sector benefiting from an injection of dynamism.

What does all this say about the facilities management professional of 2016? That word ‘dynamism’ is often overused, yet seems perfectly appropriate here. FMs are increasingly dynamic; educated in their chosen profession, younger, more adept at workplace relationships and hungrier for personal professional development.

What’s happening, as confirmed by recruitment industry professionals such as Michael Hewlett of The Management Recruitment Group, is that FMs must have a track record in leading change and transformation in their current posts, or evidence the ability to ‘make a difference’, if they’re to progress. Strong stakeholder engagement skills are of increasing relevance and, says Hewlett, “the ability to mentor, motivate and lead a team, through an in-house or outsourced model, is vital”.

“I think qualifications are used as a sifting process for HR but the person who gets the job is the individual with the personal traits. Many organisations are now, for instance, placing NEBOSH as a prerequisite, and BIFM Level 4 is also becoming more prevalent as it shows employers that the candidate is serious about their profession.”

Whatever their pay grade, our Pay & Prospects survey paints a picture of a profession whose practitioners are increasingly displaying their credentials to others in their own sector and beyond. 

Over the next few pages we ask both FMs and other professionals to tell us how they see things changing.

FM’s changing gender demographics

If you had walked into any FM networking event just a few years ago you’d have struggled to find a woman among a sea of men in suits. Is the influx of women changing the nature of FM?

“Yes”, says Louise Kiely, associate director of facilities, Birmingham Children’s Hospital NHS Foundation Trust – and one of BIFM’s youngest fellows.

“I see FM becoming more consultative. Where previously an engineer would dictate what you could do, now we’re working more collaboratively to make the building work.”

Jasmine Rosten-Edwards, an FM at Cineworld Cinemas, echoes this thought.

“Overall, FM is more accessible, and there’s also the recent consensus that FM is about an ability to manage human relationships successfully within the working environment – though cultural and support systems need to be in place to help facilitate this.”

Fiona Bowman has worked in FM for 30 years. The change? “I don’t think a lot has changed actually, but women themselves are taking the initiative, more empowered, more confident and ready to rise in their careers.”

Tanya Horscroft, FM with Capita Property & Infrastructure and BIFM Women in FM SIG chair, is also the second recipient of the BIFM’s Rising Talent award. 

“When I’m networking it’s especially great to meet colleagues of a similar age, and we form a sort of mini-network which helps us navigate our way through.” But more needs to be done to encourage women to climb the ladder.

“Some larger outsourced companies are addressing the issue,” says Horscroft, “but not a lot is being done elsewhere to make sure women are getting into leadership positions… sometimes I don’t think we get the respect we are due.”

Barbara O’Sullivan, senior manager, EMEA real estate and project management at EMC, welcomes her own organisation’s efforts.

“Sixty-nine per cent of our EMEA FM team are female and 33 per cent of senior management are female; and they are at the forefront of our communications, creativity, innovation and service delivery.”

She believes the global push for young women to be more involved in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) topics will encourage more women to enter FM via engineering.

Not that women are necessarily being stymied by their tendency to enter FM via a soft service (catering, administration, hospitality) rather than engineering background. Indeed,Cheryl Anne Sanderson, regional manager at G4S and winner of a Rising Star ‘WeAreTheCity’ Award, thinks an understanding of the basics of customer service is the new bedrock upon which further FM skills can be added, with building service engineering as an ‘extra’.

Sanderson thinks schools should do more to sell FM to younger women as a principally customer service-related discipline, while Rosten-Edwards says there are now “a myriad opportunities for younger women. Whether they are leaving formal and/or higher education or are currently employed. Their career choice can be carefully targeted towards entering FM irrespective of whether they specialise in soft or hard services”.

But, says O’Sullivan: “Gender equality is a lot to do with the leadership and if employers are more progressive regarding the ability of a person to do the job, it will ensure success is reliant on the person, not their gender.”

Launched in 2004, FM World aims to keep the profession – and others interested in facilities management – up to date with workplace and property issues, providing a forum for topical debate. The magazine, published every month in print and sent automatically to members of the British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM), is also available to others through an annual subscription.

FM World is home to the latest daily news about the FM sector, as well as analysis of research and legislation, mergers and acquisitions, FM contract wins, the latest financial results, event reports and opinion pieces. Visit the  British Institute of Facilities Management to find out more about BIFM.

Copyright for this article resides with Redactive Media Group, publishers of FM World, the official magazine of BIFM. Founded in 1993, BIFM provides information, education, training, and networking services for nearly 17,000 members comprising individual professionals and organizations.