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News & opinion

6 MAR 2019

Transforming FM for diverse new talent

Sarah Cranke AssocRICS is Senior Strategic Asset Management Consultant at SNC-Lavalin's Faithful+Gould business, specialising in FM transformation, procurement, asset management and sustainability.

Sarah also heads up Faithful+Gould's Strategic Asset Management graduate recruitment programme, which enables her to encourage much-needed new talent into the industry.

Sarah explains how she found FM as her chosen vocation, and how she wishes to help others discover it too.

How did you start your career in FM?

My route into FM was a little unusual. I did an undergraduate degree in Geography at Nottingham University and then went on to study a master's in Environmental Management. When I finished my masters in 2010 the economic downturn made the job market extremely tough but there were opportunities to work on the 2012 Olympics.

I worked as a freelance environmental consultant providing all the tents and the stadium seating. That really got me hooked on being a consultant and from there I branched out into management consultancy.

Initially, I worked mainly with IT systems, but I missed the physical side of working in the built environment. I quickly realised that consulting within a more tangible environment was much more me, which led to FM.

As a woman, has the FM industry proved a challenging environment in which to work?

Fortunately, I have never felt that being female has impacted my career in FM. My Regional Director is a very strong woman, and my role within a company that promotes diversity and inclusion very actively.

Frankly, working onsite at the Olympics was different, it was definitely a male dominated workplace. In consultancy it's hugely important that you have strong interpersonal skills, that you can listen to people and you can demonstrate a measure of intelligence. These are things that women tend to be good at, so we excel.

The issue I have with the diversity and inclusion movement is that in this day and age it is disappointing that it still has to exist at all. We shouldn't be striving to employ more women, more men, more older people or more younger people. Instead, we just need to employ the best people available.

The more professional the industry becomes, the easier it will be to attract new talent, so RICS qualifications have a vital role to play.

What do you love about your current role?

What really appeals to me is the huge range of projects that I work on. Everything from international strategy for large pharmaceutical companies, to best practice for smaller domestic clients. Every project is completely different, which I love because each day reveals its own unique challenges. This improves my knowledge and broadens my skillset, which makes it easier to deliver for the next client.

What achievement are you most proud of?

Getting our FM graduate programme off the ground. To a great extent I developed the programme for myself. I was the first graduate on the programme, and since then we have spent the past five years shaping it. We are a small team, but we've already enrolled eight graduates, more than half of which are women – which is great.

How can you help to shape the future of FM through your role?

Firstly, at Faithful+Gould we work with clients on holistic solutions that drive innovation, and we support them through implementation too. Our client care is on a different level, supporting them to realise change and increase effectiveness of their assets.

Secondly, I am evangelical about FM – going to professional development events, attending graduate fairs, guest lecturing at universities. The more we interact with people at all levels the more we can share knowledge and inspire them. Visiting schools and universities is effective because we can inform young people before they become fixed in their choice of career path.

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What challenges is the FM industry facing? And how can these challenges be addressed?

The biggest challenge is the industry's inability to attract top talent. It is a largely silent industry because if it is working well you shouldn't know it is there. So, it needs to better engage with schools and universities to inspire and encourage. Currently, it is difficult to complete the FM APC because so few RICS accredited university degrees are FM related. This needs to change.

Find courses accredited by RICS

Another challenge is the trend towards flexible working and 24-hour offices. Yes, it's important for our clients that we can demonstrate more efficient occupancy. But we must also fully consider the health and well-being of the employees too.

Just because you can work a 12-hour day doesn't mean you should, but it's more likely if you work predominately from home. Similarly, can remote teams really exist healthily in a virtual world with few real social interactions? How do we stop team members from feeling disconnected? For those frequently working irregular hours from 24-hour offices shouldn't we provide more domestic services – doctors, post offices etc – onsite?

Much of this falls to facilities managers to get right and we shouldn't underestimate the challenge.

Why is training so important?

RICS Chartered FM accreditation immediately conveys competence in what has been a very unregulated landscape.

It is almost impossible to find well-trained FMs, so we tend to recruit talented individuals and accept that we are going to have to train them ourselves and support them while they work towards becoming Chartered. The more professional the industry becomes, the easier it will be to attract new talent, so RICS qualifications have a vital role to play.