Facility Manager, Facilities Management. We use these terms all the time. We know what an FM is what an FM company does and yes sometimes maybe an FM has an unusual remit or a company say they do FM and actually they do something really obscure within FM (we supply and install bird scarers – for example).
However in the wider world generally speaking, facilities management (and some related terminology such as outsourcing) is either not recognised at all or is at the very least misunderstood.
Recently BIFM has started to make an effort to reach out to schoolchildren and careers advisors with the message that a career in FM is worth considering. However until FM is recognised and understood in the same way that other sectors are then I would suggest that this initiative could still be an uphill struggle.
Let us picture the scene following a school careers day. ‘Mum I spoke to the careers advisor today and I think that I might like to have a career in FM’. ‘Financial management? after what the bankers did to this country why would you want to go into finance?. ‘No Mum, facilities management, sort of like caretaker Willy in the Simpsons’ ‘so you are going to spend your life unblocking toilets and changing lightbulbs?’ There we have it. Plenty of people who have never heard of FM and plenty of people who think it is only about changing toilet rolls, mopping floors and swopping lightbulbs.
The Confederation of British Industry (CBI). You would assume that they might understand what FM is, after all the UK has some leading international FM companies and has also attracted significant inward investment with companies from France, Germany and the USA in particular being keen to establish themselves in the UK and also to ensure that they have a presence in London and are then able to bid for the EMEA bids that are often run from the UK. However the CBI has a tendency to only use the term ‘Facilities Management’ as a heading and then typically in relation to large public sector contracts, indicating that perhaps no one at the CBI knows what FM actually is.
This problem is probably worse in the mainstream media. When the Interserve – Rentokil Initial takeover was announced one of the broadsheets led with, Caretaker company Interserve buys cleaning company Rentokil Initial, interestingly the article then went on to describe at some length the services that Interserve provides, which clearly indicated that there was more to Interserve than just caretaking or cleaning, what was the journalist thinking? I suppose if you have never heard of facilities management then you would assume that the word caretaking was an entirely adequate description. There are many similar media stories throughout the year, however one of the more annoying ones was how two companies, Serco & G4S were heavily slated by the media for failings last year, but with no connection made to FM. As far as I am aware there was no comment from any of the FM bodies to explain, defend or perhaps to start a dialogue about how this type of occurrence might be avoided in the future.
Meanwhile we have the compilation of statistics. Apparently FM is enjoying significant growth and it is evident lately that FM service providers in particular are witnessing an increased number of bids and potentially more business. But what about evidence to support tales of growth and to substantiate comments on the size of FM in the UK? If the terms Facilities Manager/Facilities Management/FM are generally not recognised then how are we to ascertain the number of people employed and the level of growth?
An ‘Office Manager’ who is currently about to move 300 staff to a new building in London, described her responsibilities to me. There was no doubt that she was actually an FM and probably her title was a hangover from when her company only employed ten people.
Schools tend to prefer to use the term Building Manager although again this is now more like an FM role.
Hospitals and Universities generally have an estates department with facilities forming part of the FM team.
Twenty years after facilities management started to gain some recognition in the UK you would think that any new standards introduced by the British Standards Institute would recognise FM. But no, when BS 5839 was recently revised one of the changes was from ‘responsible person’ to ‘premises management’
BIFM has recently announced that it intends to become the ‘voice of FM’ in the UK (and beyond) taking into account all of the above let’s hope that this initiative is a success and that there won’t be any articles like this one in the future!