Following a recent IWFM Pay & Prospects survey, Peter Forshaw, Managing Director of Maxwell Stephens, recently spoke with facilitate magazine to share his thoughts on young professionals in FM focussing on the potential barriers to joining (and staying in) the profession.
Was there never really a demographic time bomb? Is FM simply naturally one to which people are drawn to having first tried different things?
In our experience, the number of young professionals joining has in fact been increasing over the past decade or so. One of the key points we’d like to make here is that demographic data collected through traditional surveys may not necessarily fully reflect the market. Having undertaken numerous similar surveys ourselves we are acutely aware of how easy it is for certain demographics to be misrepresented in survey results. This is particularly true of Facilities Management when we consider the sheer variety of industries and specialisms in which FM professionals may operate. If we take the example of tech or media industries, we may see that there is a significantly increased representation of young professionals in comparison to say the public sector, so any data trends we see are (sometimes) to be taken with a grain of salt.
Whilst historically many FM professionals simply found themselves drawn into the industry through circumstance, we certainly think that more younger professionals are making a much more conscious and proactive career decision when joining the world of FM. From my perspective, the increased knowledge and awareness around the sector has been one of the key contributing factors to attracting this young talent. When I first started Maxwell Stephens Recruitment 15 years ago, Facilities Management was very much in the “back-office” and for many organisations was an afterthought or box ticking exercise. This lack of knowledge has slowly and surely been overturned when we consider things like the increased importance placed on workplace experience, an ever-increasing focus on energy conservation, not to mention the completely transformative events of the past 18 months and the impact of COVID-19. This increased awareness of FM as a whole, combined with the development of more routes into the industry, has meant that FM is becoming a more viable and attractive career prospect from young professionals.
Do FMs decide to stick with or move away from the profession after six or so years in the role? What are the challenges for workplace and facilities managers at this stage of their career?
Anecdotally, we actually see very few candidates leave the FM profession so early in their career. In the rare cases where this does happen, a lot of the time it’s down to negative experiences gained in the junior end of the FM market, essentially putting them off the industry before they’ve had a chance to fully see what it has to offer.
A lot of this is down to how serious their employer takes FM. Although there are amazing things happening in the industry, there are still many organisations out there that don’t really care about FM, whether this is due to budget constraints, or simply that they don’t need to care. They may not be bothered about having the most technologically advanced and efficient working environments, or developing their FM teams through continuous professional development and training. They just need someone to do the basics. In other cases, it could be that as a junior professional in the market, they have little to no decision making power and may constantly be at the whim of their superiors or other stakeholders, often receiving the backlash of any bad decisions from end users as they’re the ones “on the ground”. If negative experiences like these make up their initial exposure to the world of FM, it’s no surprise to see some young professionals running for the hills.
With Pay & Prospects survey respondents continuing to cite ‘lack of career opportunity’ as a barrier, how much does this, and a natural hunger for complexity of job role, affect the choices that young FMs make?
Although I agree that the FM market is a competitive one, as a Facilities Management recruitment specialist I’d have to disagree that there is a lack of career opportunity, especially for the right professionals. From dealing with thousands of senior FMs over the past several decades, one thing that I’ve noticed is that their career progress is rarely a steady incline. They make the right decisions to take a side, or even backwards, step in order to improve areas of knowledge or experience where they may be lacking. For some professionals, it seems that the attitude is if their next job isn’t a significant increase (whether that’s salary, responsibility, portfolio etc), then it’s not right. The most successful FM’s I’ve met have taken a much longer term view to their career progression, and took the time to critically evaluate themselves at all stages of their career and made decisions to progress personally, as well as professionally.
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