Building trust was the overarching theme of the RICS and IFMA Integrated Property Services 2019 conference. After the collapse of Carillion and the current woes of Kier, now that facilities management is becoming better understood, it is important that it can be trusted and that leadership can demonstrate transparency, ethics and professionalism.
The conference opened with a global finance snapshot from Colliers' chief economist, Walter Boettcher, who explained why Brexit uncertainty means tighter times ahead for FM as businesses hold on to their capital, awaiting the outcome of the UK leaving the European union.
Derrick Tate of PwC and Nicholas Caton, director of procurement at Barclays, then discussed the upcoming RICS code of practice on procurement, which went into consultation on the day of the conference. Caton emphasised that good procurement was all about innovation and helping businesses run better, requiring input from multiple levels and departments, including IT and HR. Tate reminded delegates that suppliers should be treated as partners for a truly professional procurement strategy. Diversity and inclusion and wellbeing are now big parts of procurement; both clients and suppliers need to think about how they measure outcomes relating to these, such as more diverse recruitment and better staff retention.
Next, a leaders' panel considered the burning issues at the top level of FM. Social inclusion was a vital ingredient for Margot Slattery, President of Sodexho NI and Ireland – buildings host many different people and need to reflect everyone's experience. She highlighted Sodexho's work in adjusting recruitment processes for applicants on the autism spectrum, and FM's particular capability to offer a low barrier to entry with the possibility of progressing to exciting senior roles over one's career. Andrew Schaeffer, managing director of tech firm Accruent, described how technology is enabling planned preventative maintenance to get smarter and take guesswork out of FMs' roles. It is also helping FMs to engage with the workplace experience agenda, suggested moderator Russell Stevens, operations director of facilities at Mace – apps and smart building technology can start the visitor experience even before they enter a building by setting up rooms, work stations and temperature to their preferences for them as they are on their way.
Engaging with the strategic objectives of partners should be a priority for facilities managers, explained Satvir Bungar, managing director at BDO – with Stevens adding that FM leaders should supportively challenge their clients to think differently.
The afternoon began with a keynote speech from RICS senior vice president Kath Fontana who gave a call to action to treat FM as being about communities, and to heed the moral imperative to properly support the many low-income workers in the field.
Terry Hayward of International Workplace gave an important update on legal status of workers and employees – FM can easily stray into grey areas with outsourced workers becoming an integral part of the organisations where they are placed, all of which means taking extra care around employment law.
Focusing on the trust theme next was Annabel Turbutt-Day, a specialist in corporate reputation at Edelman. Organisations should examine how the public perceives them and establish whether these perceptions are a real problem they need to address, or stem from a communication issue that they can solve. Social media means that the public is engaged with news more than ever, so organisations must try to stay in charge of their own stories and manage behaviour to earn trust.
What role could blockchain play in facilities management? Karl Redmond, strategic estates advisor for NHS North East Region and Paul Redmond of SRO Innovations explained how distributed ledgers could create a secure record of building maintenance to help ensure compliance and give reliable information to insurers – a technological angle on trust in FM.
Finally, Rory Murphy of VINCI gave an insight into his firm's events and FM contract with the London Stadium, a multi-use venue presenting a massive array of challenges including moving seating, ensuring security, liaising with multiple stakeholders around the stadium and tidying up around nine tonnes of rubbish after each event.
The conclusion from chair Lucy Jeynes of Larch Consulting was that FM's place in society, supporting people from across the globe in their daily activities, makes trust a must, starting with doing right by employees, up to being engaged with wider communities wherever it can.