WF 2008

Workplace Futures 2008: The Future of FM

Specialists in FM, property and ICT must learn to view the workplace as an integrated whole. And facilities managers, in particular, must learn to speak the language of the boardroom. ?

These critical messages emerged clearly from the 2008 Workplace Futures conference. The event – which played to a full house at the London Stock Exchange – was organised by the Facilities Management Association, i-FM and PFM magazine specifically to look at emerging issues in the industry over the next five years and actions needed now to prepare effectively.??

Speaker presentations and delegate discussions revealed three key themes:
    •    First, the need to understand and approach the workplace as a whole rather than as a set of components, whether the context is project work, ongoing management or future strategy. This implies much closer cooperation between property, ICT and facilities services, whether working in-house or on behalf of a shared client. It is also a pointer towards the skill sets that many client organisations will expect their providers to offer in future.
    •    Second, the needs at most client organisations fall into the category of change management. Moving towards greater operational efficiency or a streamlined property portfolio is not about one or more individual projects. Success here hinges on a process of change, which again means any service provider requires a view of the 'big picture' and the ability to deliver the range of skills called for.
    •    Third, the fundamental driver behind much of the change moving through the industry is people. The need to attract and retain good staff (or 'the war for talent' as it is accurately called in some sectors) is increasingly shaping business management and workplace decisions. FM – and each allied discipline – is expected to make a contribution to winning this war.?

There is no doubt that more change and challenge is on the horizon. Conference chairman Nigel Hambly asked delegates to give their opinions on a series of issues, using electronic voting technology. ??

When asked if they expect current economic concerns to have an effect on their organisation's property/facilities needs, 85% said yes. And when asked about current environmental concerns, 94% said these will have an effect on their organisation.??

But only a third believe their organisation currently has a suitable strategy in place to respond to these new needs.??

Almost three-quarters of delegates said that property and facilities issues are not sufficiently well understood at board level. The most likely explanations for this situation were 'we're not speaking the same language' and the probably related view that 'directors are not interested in support issues'.

57% of delegates believed that professional status, equivalent to architects and surveyors, is essential to FM's future. But many were not confident that even this will be sufficient: the group was split right down the middle on the question of whether FM will have achieved the status of a key management discipline, recognised at board level, in five years' time.