Changing views on facilities management

Facilities management is a huge sector; employing thousands and bringing millions of pounds into the UK economy – but how much do we understand and appreciate its impact and value?
   
Talk to any professional body and they will tell you that the profession they represent is either undervalued or misunderstood. However, that’s to be expected; it’s their job to promote excellence and demonstrate the value of their given community.
   
With this in mind it is little wonder that some facilities managers feel that they are not given the credit they deserve, and when you begin to assess the impact that they have on the economy and society it is not surprising that they feel aggrieved.

The value of facilities management
As part of our Leaders Forum programme we brought together leading minds in the profession to discuss the industry’s impact; it concluded that the challenge is two-fold. On the one hand more needs to be done to raise the profile of FM so that key decision makers understand the impact and the potential it has to enable the organisation to meet its corporate goals. The second is ensuring that, when making the case for the first challenge, the common language of business is being used rather than industry specific jargon which is almost certain to be met with a blank expression.
   
When you take a step back it is clear that, given the vast scope of the industry, FM plays a crucial part in all of our day-to-day lives whether we realise it or not. In fact, our Leaders Forum highlighted that done correctly FM can be taken for granted, only coming into focus when there is an issue that requires attention.
   
Not only can it be a key enabler in organisations to deliver on objectives but it also has a vital role in some of the key areas that affect society as a whole. FM has a vital role to play in the performance of our schools and hospitals, for example. It is when you frame it in this context that you begin to see the profound impact of this profession.

Making the case
How do FM practitioners, with our support, make the case internally to the key decision makers? At BIFM we’re looking at a number of ways in which we can demonstrate FM’s value. Our ThinkFM conference this year, ‘The workplace and beyond’, will focus on the impact on business, the economy and society with a range of speakers from a variety of different sectors, professions and expertise discussing key trends driving change in the workplace, managing energy and the convergence of professional disciplines.
   
We will be launching a number of research projects that will aim to quantify FM’s impact, outline leading edge thinking in the industry and look at the future trends that will take the profession forward. We have also launched a joint project with ITN Productions to create a series of short films on how FM makes a difference. Avoiding the temptation to delve into the technicalities and focusing on the difference it makes through profiling FM’s in a range of organisations and seeing the results of their work.

Alongside this we must help practitioners with their internal conversations. It is always too easy to fall into the trap of using the language and terminology that we’re comfortable with but all this does is perpetuate stigmas that may exist around a given profession. What decision makers want to hear is how you can help them achieve their goals. By putting yourself in their shoes, understanding their challenges and aims, assessing how FM can drive them to overcome the challenges and reach their goals and, finally, communicating that back to them in a way which will resonate with them we will see that awareness and recognition grow.

What next for FM?
FM needs to evidence that it is ‘the enabler’. This has the potential to reposition FM from the unseen servant to a key part of an organisations operation, vital to realising its objectives. It will not be easy as FM crosses over into so many other areas of the business, but rather than see this as a challenge we should view this as an opportunity. FM has the potential to provide a halo effect that brings all the component parts of the workplace together to reach it potential.
   
There are many views on how best to take the profession forward, and there will be many more. What is clear is that the profile and understanding of this unsung hero needs to be elevated.
   
The blurring of lines between FM, design, IT, construction and HR presents our profession with an opportunity to have a key role in an important debate around the future of the workplace. FM can play a significant part in making a positive contribution to our society, through sustainable practices, and to business and economy, through increased productivity and efficiency.

On all fronts we are looking forward to supporting the profession throughout its next stage of its evolution and playing an active part in the debate which will shape its future.

Further information
www.bifm.org.uk

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