The talent challenge
Why does the FM industry find it so difficult to recruit candidates?
Redundancies in the Middle East’s real estate sector fell by 3% from 2009-2010, demonstrating that the region is slowly crawling out of the economic crisis.
With more buildings being handed over, more contracts for FMs are up for grabs. Why then are FM companies struggling to find suitable candidates?
Macdonald and Company has been recruiting for the real estate sector in the Middle East since 2006. Since operating, it has noticed significant changes in recruitment patterns.
Issues from the recession to the political crisis have all had some form of an impact. The company recently carried out a presentation at a CoreNet Global Middle East Chapter event and addressed the challenges faced in recruitment by the FM industry.
Danielle Le Faucheur, senior associate, FM division, Macdonald and Company, explained that there were a number of factors affecting the FM industry, primarily, FM is an emerging concept in the Middle East and as a result, there is no rigid definition for what it actually is.
“We offer a consultative approach, thus in some cases we have sat with our clients and discussed at length the type of FM they require,” said Le Faucheur.
“Many large scale service providers have defined FM according to this market and its ever changing expectations. Specifically, smaller companies are keen to invest in efficient operational procedures but the intricacies and importance of FM still need to be defined.”
A survey by FM World revealed FMs are longing for a definition to be put in place. 60% of respondents thought this was one measure, that if put in place, would boost the profile of the industry.
But how easy would this be considering the number of disciplines FM covers?
Emcor Facilities Services’ senior recruitment executive, Leonie Yates said: “because there is no chartership or specific standards, FMs vary considerably depending on their training, the environments they have worked in and their education.
“Here in the Middle East we always prefer “total facilities managers” - those who have a BA in Mechanical and Electrical Engineering, an MSC in Facilities Management and the ability to both be hands on with hard services as well as put on a suit and be able to cope with challenging clients and all manners of soft services.
“These candidates are hard to come by as each global region has facilities professionals with some of these elements, but few have them all.”
Le Faucheur supported this, noting that there had already been significant improvements in the education of FM in the region, but more so, that understanding would develop as the market grew.
“I have recruited FM’s since 2006 and the requirements here are constantly changing,” she said.
“FM is a multi-faceted industry. Some companies feel an engineering background is important, others require someone with a strategic background – each case is very unique and specific to the status of their FM team and structure.
“The client defines what FM is. Originally, companies were trying to define FM according to a mature market’s standard. However, this is changing and the industry is now forming a definition as it develops.”
Ben Waddilove, director, Macdonald and Company presented a timeline of what recruitment in the property industry looked like from 2005 to the present day, explaining many early placements made were to British, European and South Africans.
Since this time, and particularly with regards to FM, there has been a push to recruit nationals with the same level of experience as FMs from a mature market.
Le Faucheur said: “FM is a new industry here. The term came about in 2005-2006 and UAE nationals started joining the industry in 2008, in roles that were traditionally carried out by mature market FMs.Being a new market, it is near impossible to find UAE nationals with over seven years experience.”
This demand is a knock-on effect of nationalisation, believes Le Faucheur.
“It’s certainly been more prevalent in the last year and it’s great that employers want to offer more employment opportunities to UAE nationals.
But how can a market that has just developed have people with that extent of experience?”
Money too tight to mention
Gary Segesdy, principal consultant at recruitment firm Engage Selection, finds that it’s not a lack of experience in FM professionals that is posing a problem, more the demands being made on the FM service provider from the client.
“One of the major challenges I face, is not finding the right person for my client, but actually finding the right person for their client.
“It would appear that the end user has a bigger influence here as to who is managing their facilities, even if they are working for the selected consultancy or contractor.
“Often my client will be happy with a candidate that I have provided for a specific role, only to then find them rejected by their client,” he said.
Cost appears to be the biggest issue.
“If a client is limited to a certain budget to fill a position, only so much can be done when it comes to the level of candidate that can be provided.
In this instance we have to manage our client’s expectations and more often than not a compromise on experience or qualifications has to be made to meet their budget. If they are unwilling to compromise then a vacancy can be almost impossible to fill,” said Segesdy.
Money is an issue again when it comes to salary expectation from FM candidates.
“When we set up the office here in 2006, the original expatriate mentality still existed. Candidates had to be encouraged to move over to the Middle East, and salaries were higher as they needed an incentive to move over,” said Le Faucheur.
“The large number of redundancies the recession brought meant candidates were willing to accept lower salaries to continue living and working in the UAE.”
Le Faucheur advises that this is changing and employers need to start matching salaries accordingly.
“There are fewer candidates available on the market. We now have to head-hunt to find them.”
She also said more of an incentive was required for candidates to join an industry in which he/she knew his/her career success relied on the service provider winning contracts; an industry that is now very focussed upon value-driven FM.
“The industry is heavily focussed on cost; the contract will go to the one [service provider] offering the best value for money,” she said.
Future of FM recruitment
On reflection of the ME political crisis and its effect on salaries and recruitment, Macdonald’s presentation suggested Dubai, a politically stable emirate, was in a “transitional phase” and predicted its future in real estate recruitment, at least for the rest of the year, would remain stable.
But how could professionals be sold a career in FM; a relatively new industry with no clear direction of its future? Once again, there are calls for an FM education.
Segesdy believes this is the duty of all FM companies and that MEFMA should be supported in its efforts to do this.
Yates agrees, suggesting formal, industry related qualifications are needed.
“Most [FMs] take their job and their career within FM seriously, and have a passion for delivering a good service to clients. Yet many are unable to back up their vast work experience and hands on skills with the relevant industry specific qualifications,” she said.
“My advice to anyone wanting to get on in their career within FM is to invest in themselves and their career, by taking courses in Engineering, HSE or customer services. Do a Masters Degree no matter how far you are along with your career, it is never too late,” she added.
FM’s growth in the region is bringing with it greater understanding, and people within the industry are in the ideal position to shape its future, which is why it is believed that now is the ideal time to join the industry.
Segesdy said: “It’s in its relative infancy and FM is beginning to boom just like the construction industry did. Now many of the construction projects are finished the buildings become operational and need to be managed so the requirement for FM personnel is continually growing.”
Le Faucheur feels that over time, development of the market and property life cycles will indicate what is required in terms of FM.
“There is no historical pattern of a property’s life cycle in terms of recent construction standards. FMs are basing theories on international markets.
“The market is still in its youthful stage and it is difficult for companies to define what they want as it’s hard to say what direction the property market will take.
“However, FM has come a long way. Companies are far more flexible in terms of roles within FM and I do believe that as the industry becomes more mature, FM will be recognised as a vital element of the local property market.”
Five reasons to become an FM
• Versatility of responsibilities - Facility managers have the responsibility of overseeing facility maintenance staff, and for the structures, grounds, equipment and supplies that are part of the facility as well. Additional responsibilities might include budgeting, lease management, planning and designing renovations and improving work space. The various job duties mean that no two days will ever be alike.
• Career progression - Many FMs are able to find advancement in their careers by moving to other management or supervisory positions or to other businesses. Some managers move between departments within a business while others advance through a succession of management positions that have other responsibilities.
• Bright future for FM - Demand is fairly strong for facility managers and it is expected that the career field will continue to grow steadily within the next ten years.
• Personable person - As a manager, you’ll find yourself working with a diverse population so if you enjoy working with people and have good people skills this could be a very good job fit for you.
• You have creative problem-solving skills - You might be surprised at how many problems can arise at a facility on a daily basis. Skills that allow you to think outside of the box will help you overcome these.