closed for Christmas

How to manage the office Christmas closedown

Right now, there are FM professionals up and down the country wondering where Santa's Little Helper is when you need him to help with those extra festive jobs. Not only do they have to ensure the workplace is looking lovely and cheerful, they often have to manage social activities in the building. Then when the last worker has left, they're the ones who have to restore order and make sure the building is securely closed down for the holiday.

Cleaning 

Evening functions in the premises play havoc with the cleaning routines. The functions often require extra cleaning to take place, but employees turn up the next day expecting the building to look as well serviced as ever. Many organisations now have a two-drink limit for any functions at their premises which has limited the worst - let's say messes - that have to be cleaned up. Still, it's a case of asking the cleaning company to be as flexible as possible, and that's best done some time in advance.

The quiet period over the holidays can be a good time for deep cleaning - again, something you need to arrange in advance.

Heating and ventilation

Heating needs to be adjusted so that it runs as economically as possible. If there are staff on site, such as cleaners or security staff, they need reasonable temperatures to work in. But there is little point in heating an entire multi-storey building for one security guard, and so they're usually provided with spot heating for the room they're in. After the holiday, it's a question of getting the building nicely warm, so that employees returning to work, dejected and probably broke, aren't freezing cold into the bargain. OK, they'll still be depressed and penniless, and spending their morning browsing recruitment sites, but at least they'll be warm.

Security

That lonely security guard with his turkey sandwich and oil filled radiator may be quite busy. Christmas is a key time for break-ins, and one of the facilities management jobs is to ensure that in the rush to get away, other managers haven't forgotten to secure their areas. So the last check is essential and alarms need to be primed for areas that won't be used.

It's also important too, to ensure that no one is sleeping off the after effects of the office party in one of the meeting rooms. Home alone is one thing, at work alone and locked in over Christmas, is quite another. For the same reason, toilets have to be checked, to ensure that taps aren't running.

Fire

A faulty light fitting setting fire to a paper lantern, or some tinsel draped over an overheating electrical device, are all it takes for a fire to start. So it's worth checking the decorations to make sure that none are interfering with any electrical fitting, or likely to fall onto radiators.

Finally, the FM manager gets to turn off the last light, lock the last door, eject the last party straggler and head off home for their own celebration. Silent night. Until the alarm goes off at 3 am and someone wants the key holder!


cleaning service

What do you need to consider when outsourcing your cleaning contract?

One of the key issues to consider when outsourcing a cleaning contract is to ensure that the new contract doesn't compromise the organisation's security arrangements.

Staff and contractors need to work in a safe and secure environment, and an organisation can suffer severe reputational damage if a failure in this area leads to a major security breach. As businesses focus on the threat of data breaches and cyber attacks, many fail to realise that physical security is an important part of data and online security. Robust access control ensures that unauthorised people cannot make their way into controlled areas such as server rooms and data centres.

It often falls to the facilities manager to remind the organisation of the steps that need to be taken to maintain security when a new cleaning company is brought on board. Hopefully, the cleaning company's attitude to security and the ability to prove that they are supplying vetted staff, will have been checked during the procurement process. However, given the inevitable turnover in cleaning staff, the checks need to be ongoing, with a process for ensuring that new cleaners are vetted thoroughly before they are allowed access to a building.

It isn't just the threats of cyber attack and terrorism that need to be taken into account. The security of staff working in the building, particularly if they are working late, and alone, is also a concern.

Checks on the legality of the contractor's staff

During any pre-contract checks, facilities management professionals need to ensure that their contractor's procedures are thorough and robust. Many firms rely on Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks. However, someone with a false ID, or who is using someone else's ID, can pass these.

The immigration status of new workers also needs to be checked and there's a potential fine of up to £5,600 for every worker who is working illegally. There are even higher fines if the illegal workers are being exploited since the Modern Slavery Act would apply in these circumstances.

So, thorough identity checks are essential if services such as cleaning are to be contracted out. Because outsourcing and contracting-out are now such a large part of facilities management, it's not uncommon for advertised jobs to stipulate management of contractors as a requirement. Recruitment of temporary or contract workers or management of a supply company are now required skills for facilities managers.

Continuing checks for contractors

Many FM professionals are considering introducing biometric checks. This is because, as with the DBS checks, ID passes are only useful if they are used honestly. The ID is frequently not checked if a worker is wearing the uniform of a contractor known to supply cleaners to the organisation. So it's easy for someone to impersonate a contract cleaner, for whatever reason.

Facilities managers need to ensure that processes and checks are in place to pick up this kind of risk to the organisation. Otherwise, the cleaning contract can become a weak point in an organisation's security arrangements.


artificial intelligence

Ensure your CV gets past the AI recruitment robots with these tips

If you’re looking for a job these days, you need to know what an ATS is. It’s an applicant tracking system. Despite its very dull name, it’s a bot you need to know about so that you can stop it from filtering out your CV before it ever gets in front of a human being.

These artificial intelligence (AI) bots are working at a slightly more sophisticated level than simply scanning for keywords. They’re able to consider context as well (a bit like a Google search). But they can still be led in the right direction by applicants who know what they’re doing. The important thing is to ensure that the CV still makes sense to the human who reviews it, once it’s got past the bot.

Five hints for bot-proof CVs

1. Make the title big and bold
It should either state the position you want, or make a powerful statement about who you are and what you offer. Limit the text to about 20 words and use a larger font.

2. There’s still a place for keywords
Add a couple of bullet points near the beginning about your expertise. These should contain your most significant keywords. For a facilities management job, you could use those two words, followed by FM in brackets afterwards.

Next, use a “Skills and Attributes” or similar section, to cluster all the keywords that you want the bot to pick up, and the recruiter to focus on later. But remember that you may need to explain why you have included them - so don’t be random. Put your strongest words first, followed by any secondaries.

You can give the keywords some context by providing a couple of concise examples of projects or work achievements that demonstrate how you embody the keyword or have applied it to achieve success.

3. Ensure that you unpack acronyms
For example, if you’ve helped the organisation to redefine its KPIs, write “Key Performance Objectives (KPIs). Note - don’t use a comma before the final s!

4. Don’t overestimate the bot’s cleverness
For example, to a human it’s obvious that a cool graphic box with some focused text looks great. To a bot, this looks like a picture and it may just ignore the entire box. So don’t confuse the poor bot with one-off graphics or original layouts. It’s not that bright.

5. Beat the bot by networking with a recruiter
Recruiters know where the jobs are, when they’re coming up, who’s running the recruitment campaign and so on. It’s their job to gather this business intelligence, and if you’re canny, you’ll make sure that you exploit that by talking to a recruiter. It can save you an awful lot of time and help you focus your CV writing efforts so that you get the best results.

Not only that, but the recruiters know how the bots work, and can advise you if there are items on your CV that are causing it to get thrown out early on, in the automatic sifting.

That’s not something that any bot is going to do for you!


Business statistics bar graph

What's driving growth in the FM industry

There are four big trends currently driving growth in the facilities management market worldwide. They are providing strong growth and all of them seem set to continue into the 2020s, affecting jobs and recruitment. Let’s take a look at them.

1. Increasing FM integration and demand for outsourced services
In the Asia Pacific region, there is a rapid increase in the demand for outsourced services. At the same time, there’s a worldwide growth in demand for integrated provision. How are these two things linked?

The link is that clients see them both as twin solutions which will allow them to bundle up all their facilities tasks, and pass them to a provider who will provide an integrated, end-to-end solution, replacing a hotchpotch of maintenance contracts, in-house staff and other arrangements. As huge markets such as China open up to the possible efficiency savings of integrated and outsourced facilities supervision, this market will see significant growth.

2. Growing demand for services that assist corporate aims
These value-added services involve the provider having an in-depth knowledge of what the business is trying to achieve, and understanding how they can help. For example, this might be in the area of environmental issues, where a client might wish to achieve a more sustainable workplace through the use of the latest energy management technologies.

Similarly, a facilities manager might be able to bring about significant economies through more efficient use of energy, space, and infrastructure, thus increasing shareholder value. Again, an active provider could be engaged in helping a company to show its staff and customers that they are good employers, by promoting a “well building” approach and showing an active interest in issues such as indoor air quality.

3. International trade
Despite some problems in trade relations, the number of contracts is growing globally. Integrated management of facilities has broad international appeal because it can deliver on some universal business requirements. These are the need to cut costs, the desire to provide great workspaces to help recruitment of talented staff, and a feeling across the world that simpler, more standardised services are easier to manage and more likely to deliver.

As companies aggregate their regional and national operations, they are seeking contracts that can deliver integrated management of facilities to wider geographic areas and business sectors.

4. Increasing economic pressures on companies
Disruption from the internet, increased regulation and greater competition, are all putting pressures on companies to cut costs, and find partners to deliver key services at more economical rates.

All companies want to protect their current facility assets, but many are seeking a partner to take over the whole of the FM function, leaving the company free to concentrate on its core business. Companies are well aware that if they don’t deliver shareholder value, they could be targets for takeover, and so they are intent on divesting non-core activities.

Increased regulation concerning environmental, employment and health and safety issues means that it now makes sense to hand the whole facilities management function over to specialised companies.

It’s not surprising then, that many facilities management jobs now include a compliance component, which requires FM managers to have an up to date understanding of all current legislation and guidance.


problem

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.


cool office

Why more employers are investing in 'cool' offices

cool officeIf you think “cool” offices are confined to slightly off the wall startups in the trendier bits of London and Manchester, think again. A study reported in the Facilities Management Journal found that a third of employers had added a “cool” element to their workplaces, in order to increase productivity and bolster staff morale.

Cycle storage, showers, bean bags and quiet spaces are all being added, in an attempt to improve employee wellbeing. As contented staff are not combing LinkedIn for a new position every Monday morning, there are plenty of benefits for the employer.

In fact, the study also revealed that 20% of workers have left a job because they didn’t like the surroundings they had to work in. Given the expense of recruiting staff, employers see the cost-benefit of any investment that will boost staff retention. Another bonus is that these kinds of facilities can be used to attract new talent into the organisation.

More than bike racks and bean bags

Facilities managers now need to be able to provide a wide range of cool features when they furnish workspaces, with the main emphasis very much on health and wellbeing. An impressive 40% of employers believe that reducing stress and improving employee well-being pays off with increased productivity and better attendance.

So lunchtime yoga and fitness sessions, gyms, games rooms, and even indoor play equipment such as slides, are all now becoming more common. One of the developments that are interesting for facilities management professionals is to see the way in which physical furnishings, such as sofas and relaxation pods, are part of an integrated approach to wellbeing that may also include lunchtime talks or bringing pets to work. One can’t help wondering whether some staff may not find the office manager’s pet tarantula a little less than relaxing, however.

What’s holding back this movement?

Those employers who aren’t intending to give their staff any new wellbeing facilities are not necessarily present day Scrooges. Although 17% think that the cool office trend is a fad that will pass, for nearly half, the overwhelming problem is lack of space. Where this rules out space-hungry features such as quiet rooms and relaxation pods, employers are still able to offer employees many of the facilities they now want. For example, where there isn’t enough room for a gym and shower, employers are offering discounts on local gyms and healthy eating restaurants. They’re arranging for motivational speakers to come in during the lunch hour or giving staff free access to fitness classes and local swimming pools.

One thing is certain - the trend for remote working, with employees paying only occasional visits to the office, will increase the pressure on facilities management companies to provide an environment that is welcoming and that aids productivity. The office will need to justify its cost, by providing more than a desk, a PC and a phone. The extra perks will change over time, but the days of lateral desking in tones of beige, and a dingy coffee area may have gone - much to the relief of many staff.


Checklist

Tips on switching careers into FM

ChecklistIf you're thinking about switching to a career in facilities management, try the self-assessment questions below, to give yourself the best chance of success. 

1. What interests you, what can you do, and what do you value? 
Try to answer these questions as honestly as you can, because they are key to building insight into what motivates you and makes you tick. You can also try the questions in reverse - what bores you, what are you bad at, and what do you think is not worthwhile? But focus more strongly on the positive versions because you’ll need to keep positive for your job search and career change. 

2. Why are you dissatisfied with your current job?
Again, you’re developing insights which will help you to decide on your future direction. It can help to keep a work diary (not on a work PC!). Use the diary entries to figure out whether it's the company’s culture, your particular role, or the people you work with that are making you want to seek new opportunities. 

3. Which FM job would be right for you?
Facilities management covers a range of activities, in a very diverse set of environments and companies. Try looking at a recruitment site, and checking the job descriptions for FM jobs, noting down the kind of role that appeals to you. 

4. Start building your network
Try and make contact with people in your chosen slice of facilities management. Read the trade press, go to trade shows, or respond to blogs written by specialists in the industry. 

5. You probably have access to an FM professional already
You could start by talking to the facilities people in the building you currently work in. It’s amazing how much useful business intelligence on opportunities and companies you can gather through casual conversations. 

6. Explore online 
Use job networking sites such as LinkedIn, and social media such as Instagram and Facebook, to identify anyone working in the industry that you may be able to contact discreetly. Don’t say that you’re looking to change career unless you are ready to move job, because your current employer may see the post. 

7. Start thinking about your CV
When you read online job descriptions, start thinking about aspects of your experience that would be relevant, even though you’ve been in a different industry. For example, team leading, working with people and planning are widely applicable.

8. Get qualified
At the very least, find out what qualifications you would need. Many employers will send staff on courses - take a look at the qualifications most often requested in job ads that interest you and gain any pre-entry certificates that you need.

9. Start to move in the new direction
If you’re offered training in your current job, try and make it something that would be relevant to your potential FM career - a project management qualification is always a good option. 

10. If necessary, use a stepping stone
You may not be able to get to the job you want in one step. You may need to move sideways or to take a role in FM that will give you the experience you need to qualify for the job you really want.


business-strategy-success

Top tips for successful career planning

Career planning puts you in charge - it enables you to set your own goals and take steps to achieve them. What you want from your facilities management career will probably change radically over the course of your working life, so it’s a good idea to take some time once or twice a year, to review what you really want from your career, and start taking steps to achieve it.

Follow these five steps to make career planning a reality for you.

1. Give yourself some space and time
The best way to review what’s happened so far, and where you want to go now, is in peace and quiet, without distractions. That’s difficult if you have a noisy family or flatmates around - so maybe drive or walk to a quiet place with your notebook, and give yourself an hour or two of reflection time. Pay attention to how you feel about things, as well as what you think about them.

2. Reflection first
Look back at what has happened since the last time you did this - or since you entered the profession if this is the first time you’ve reviewed your career. Many people find it helpful to draw a diagram or a map to sum up what’s happened so far. Maybe a job that you wanted turned out to be a wrong turning. Or maybe a dreaded redundancy has turned into a great turning point. Write it all down.

3. Assess yourself
Write down what satisfies and what frustrates you about your current job. What do you like and dislike? What would you keep and what would you change? Try and separate needs from wants, so that you can look at each dispassionately. Are you doing things to please someone else? If you could please yourself, what would you do? What is your real motivation - be honest.

4. Set your goals
Remember, your goals don’t have to be more money, or promotion, or a better car, if that’s not what you really want. If you want a shorter commute, more time for your personal life, or to take a degree, these are also goals to concentrate on.

Then decide on any compromises you’re willing to make. If you want more money, are you prepared to travel further? If you want more time, are you prepared to earn less, or move sideways? Gradually, you’ll be drawing up a framework that you can use as a guide to achieving the career you want.

5. Write down the steps that will get you there
Do you need to explain it to your partner? Get a new qualification? Update your CV?

If you want to move into facilities management in a new sector, research this. Take a look at the jobs being advertised that you’d like to do, and figure out how to get the qualifications or experience they’re asking for. Getting your CV up to date is a great first start.

Unemployment in the UK is at an all-time low - so there couldn’t be a better time to change job or go for a promotion!


5 of the biggest FM technology developments to know

5 of the biggest FM technology developments to know

Facilities management is being transformed by technology, and that is both enhancing and disrupting the traditional business models that have dominated the industry until now. These are the five key technology trends that facilities management professionals must know about.

1. The Internet of Things (IoT)

One key development is the Internet of Things - the ability to add intelligence to physical items, to network them together and to have them communicate into central control points. This is revolutionising the way that buildings are managed. Physical information collected by thermostats, actuators or sensors can be pushed into a processing system which can then take decisions on how well the system is running, and what aspects of it need to be adjusted, in order to reach peak performance. The information collected can confirm humidity, temperature, light levels, sound, vibration, occupancy levels and all kinds of other data.

The facilities manager is able to view the building system as a whole and to manage it much more effectively.

2. Building Information Modelling (BIM)

When a building is being designed, architects need to be able to model the way that the finished construction will work when it is in use. Contractors and others need to use these models to estimate quantities and costs, and to draw up their own plans for how systems such as cabling, heating and so on will be installed.

BIM used to be a specialised tool, used primarily before the building was constructed. But the facilities management profession realised how useful these models would be in planning how buildings would work, and in modelling the building system as a whole. When linked to working documentation, such as floor plans, BIM can be a powerful management tool.

3. Developments in heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC)

HVAC systems are some of the most expensive facilities to run, and this area has been the target both for cost reduction and for efforts to reduce the carbon output of buildings. New building automation systems can make these targets easier to achieve, through lower use of energy for heating and cooling the building.

Facilities managers can get advance warning of system elements that are about to fail, and can also pinpoint elements that are not working efficiently - for example, using more energy, or producing less output, than they should.

4. Maintenance streamlining through software

Managers are beginning to realise the benefits of adding maintenance schedules for systems or parts of systems, to an automated facility maintenance package. The software can create work orders and link them to the required documentation, in order to produce full instructions for contractors, and others working in the building. After the job is finished, the status can be updated in the software, and calendar reminders can be set for the next scheduled maintenance. This enables managers to plan workflow more evenly through the year.

5. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)

That's the official name for drones. Until now, these have mainly been used for filming inaccessible parts of buildings. However, in the future, we can expect to see the development of drones that can carry out jobs such as redecoration and repair. It will be a while before scaffolding isn’t needed anymore - but the sight of drones buzzing about buildings is going to become a common one.