5 key FM issues for managers to know in 2018

Here are some of the key issues that our industry needs to engage within 2018.

1. The industry needs to think the unthinkable 
Scenario planning is a key activity for modern FM managers, and this may include thinking the unthinkable, such as: suppose there are no offices in the future? As unlikely as this may be, it can get people thinking radically about how building use may change in the future. After all, if someone had said 20 years ago that High Street shops would struggle to survive in the future, no one would have believed them.

The radical change in the pattern of building occupation and use can happen more quickly than we like to imagine, and can catch managers unaware if they’re not thinking in radical “what if” terms.

2. Get fresh talent to join the profession
Young graduates don’t seem to be aware of facilities management as a profession, even though many have exactly the mix of analytic and pragmatic skills that can ensure success in these jobs. As discussed previously, we need to think about future patterns of work and leisure. The recruitment of recent graduates means a fresh supply of ideas and the presence of people who will challenge the status quo. This is an interesting, varied industry, but to survive, it will have to take that message to the pool of young achievers and get them interested in joining.

3. Engage with people in the business
It’s important to find the areas in which facilities management is helping deliver the company’s mission and to use internal communications, newsletters, blogs and web pages to make sure people know about them. For example, nearly every business is keen to show that it’s shrinking its carbon footprint. The facilities function can almost certainly help them punch above their weight in this respect because it’s leading the way in reducing energy use. So make sure the company knows this.

4. Connect with senior executives
Industry professionals should be trying to secure a place in the discussion about where the company is headed - in terms of workforce numbers, locations, type of working environments and so on. One way to do this is a positive and thoughtful response to a blog or article written by the CEO, or other senior executives. It will make them aware that their facilities managers have ideas - and can make a quality contribution to future planning for the business, including discussions about cost reduction.

5. Understand changed work arrangements
Facilities professionals need to adapt itself to the changing nature of work. First of all, we had occasional home working, then full-blown hot desking. Now we have hotelling - where office space is provided short term to temporary workers on a project or is even let out temporarily to another company, if the building operator has spare capacity. Suddenly, the facilities management function is running reservation systems for spare desks, or reconfiguring whole floors of accommodation at short notice.

The pace of change is very unlikely to slow - so facilities professionals have to be aware of these issues, and develop creative but robust responses to them.

Security guard

How Facilities managers can keep their estates more secure

Facilities management (FM) is in danger of turning into a branch of the crime-fighting profession, as the number of crimes rises, with both buildings and land being increasingly targeted. This is no longer a threat that can be addressed in a piecemeal way - beefing up the locks here, adding CCTV there. It needs a strategic response.

Security roles need to be identified 

The strategic security plan needs to address the entire estate, and involve the whole organisation, including senior management. Roles and responsibilities will need to be clarified, and a rapid escalation path for security issues must be identified. A security assessment of all the premises and land in the estate will enable the FM professional to rank those where the threat is greatest and prioritise remediation action if their security isn’t strong enough.

That personnel who are identified as having specific safeguarding and security responsibilities will need training and must have the new duties added to their job descriptions so that no one is in any doubt about their responsibility. This has the benefit that if recruitment needs to take place, the jobs described will have the security role already embedded within them.

Equally, security action must only be taken by those qualified to do so - otherwise, staff may carry out potentially disastrous steps such as padlocking fire exits.

Simple measures can be surprisingly effective

Some of the most effective measures are also the simplest - for example, ensuring that doors are properly closed. Electronic door closers and push button openers can make a significant difference, without costing a great deal. Similarly, keypad access control is effective because the entry codes can be changed frequently at no cost.

However, for a determined intruder, keypad access is not much of a deterrent - they will look at the strength of the physical access system and determine how easy it will be to break it. Many keypad systems are not designed to prevent attempts at physical entry, only to ensure that certain groups of people can pass through and others cannot. So don’t use a keypad system when what you really need is protective security.

Is smart access the answer?

There are now access systems that use facial recognition, smartphone codes, swipe cards, fingerprints and other biometrics. These systems can be integrated with alarm and CCTV systems and used to log data such as entry and exit times. The weakness of these systems is the biometric aspect. In the US, a group of hackers have hacked a facial recognition system by identifying employees, then using their images from Facebook to fool the recognition system. Meanwhile, the theft of vehicles with “smart” keys, by gangs equipped with scanners, is rising hugely.

It’s no surprise then, that the old standby, the physical lock, is enjoying something of a resurgence - but in a smarter form. Smart locks can combine the best of the physical and digital worlds, especially now we have the Internet of Things. They can store and transmit data about when they were activated, and by whom. And of course, their key can be changed immediately, without any costs.

In the battle against smarter thieves, smarter locks are certainly helping - as are smarter and more security conscious FM managers.