Automation impacting jobs in FM regionally

Employees of an FM company are the face of the service provider as they often interact with the end-user. Hiring the right personnel to represent the company is hence extremely important

Training programmes and certification programmes are key to employee retention.
Training programmes and certification programmes are key to employee retention.

Facilities management service providers hire large number of employees, making aspects relating to recruitment pivotal. An FM service provider has to find the right personnel to represent the company, not just skilful enough to carry out tasks with astute brilliance but ensuring they have the right mind set as well.

FM companies usually outsource their hiring needs to a recruitment agency, as is the case with most verticals in the construction industry. Recruitment experts say FM companies need to detail the job description down to every specific they are looking for. Big Fish Recruitment director Gary Segesdy says: “Most critical in this case is receiving the right amount of information from the client [the FM company] as early as possible in the recruitment process. Comprehensive job descriptions from clients are imperative to finding the most efficient route to filling a vacancy. Once we have received this information we can then start to collate a list of potential candidates.”

Dubai-based Taskgate also specialises in FM recruitment. Its general manager Steve Currie puts the onus on the FM provider to provide the exact qualities and skills they seek. “This sounds obvious, but it’s not always a practice seen in the UAE.”

Staff retention is another issue that FM companies grapple with, hence keeping hold of staff and reducing turnover becomes important. This puts focus on training, learning and development programmes, a facet FM companies are investing in by developing robust and innovative initiatives.

Adeeb Group, an FM service provider which was shortlisted in the FM Middle East Awards 2017, runs regular weekly sessions that are conducted by training consultants AlChemy. Adeeb Group CEO Eng. Ansari tells fmME: “This has developed new skills among our employees and has motivated them towards creating a safe environment culture.”

The firm also conducts training on topics ranging from CSR, sustainability, best practices and safe practices every week throughout the year. Adeeb also send its leaders to various networking events and workshops to learn FM best practices to apply the same at their post of duty.

“We designed a special FM course which led to implementing best practices at all our FM sites in terms of pre-planned preventative maintenance, reactive and corrective maintenances services. As the industry embraces technological advancements, our staff need to be equipped to cope with those developments. Along with encouraging its employees to attend international workshops, the management has reportedly adopted new techniques of learning by encouraging its staff to take other courses such as NEBOSH, OHS Practitioner (ADVETI) and Facilities Management (Ta’aseesy — Foundation in FM Course.

High quality and internationally recognised training programmes are a growing trend among IFM service providers in the region as well.

The British Institute of Cleaning Science (BICSc) is globally recognised for its FM training programme and has more than 15,000 registered members in the UK and globally. UAE-based Farnek has continued its accreditation programme with the body after it became a member in 2012. The company was also approved as an accredited training organisation the same year.

Farnek CEO Markus Oberlin outlines the reasoning behind the efforts: “We have enjoyed an excellent relationship with the British Institute of Cleaning Science… and we are delighted this will continue. Our customers benefit from our accreditation with BICSc, secure in the knowledge that we are delivering safe and sustainable cleaning services, to the highest standards, that will protect our clients’ assets.”

Farnek selected a few of its managers to train for assessor status and since then the company has more than doubled the number of employees that have received intense training to qualify as assessors in compliance with BICSs standards, Farnek claimed in a press statement.

In addition, the company established its own dedicated training facility in Dubai, to train employees to clean different areas and surfaces effectively, efficiently and safely.  Its assessors are licensed to conduct training and assessments to their cleaning operatives on 22 of the individual cleaning skills in the BICSc Cleaning Professionals Skills Suite. This number of skills is more than any other accredited company in the region.

“Our training academy allows us to conduct practical sessions in one location and address specific issues that may be encountered during a day-to-day routine, which empowers our staff to become both confident and competent,” Oberlin remarks.

Contrary to popular belief, Currie claims there is no dearth of talent. He says: “One of the biggest complaints we hear from clients is that they struggle to find people with the right skills. This could be because they don’t have the time to spend searching for them or they have a defined requirement and finding someone available that ticks all the boxes seems impossible.

“We feel the issue is not necessarily a shortage of skills but more an issue in the way in which companies currently look to engage talent. If they were able to take a more flexible approach there are many people out there who have the skills and the desire but just don’t want to be locked into a permanent full-time position. Flexible working can open many doors for businesses here [MENA region],” Currie suggests.

Meanwhile, Segesdy says that FM companies are working on a tighter budget than before but the emphasis on hunting quality talent remains. He adds: “Individuals are also being more selective of late, when it comes to choosing their next move. So company culture is very important and ones that promote staff welfare and development will be a much more favourable option to candidates seeking work. Companies that are less focused on these areas may struggle to attract the best available candidates.”

The FM industry has seen its share of redundancies as the industry has embraced automation and technological advancements. Currie says: “From the automation of invoices and job status notifications to the introduction of CRM software, there is no doubt the implementation of various technologies has resulted in redundancies in some areas of business within the FM sector.

“However, the advancement of technology and the ability to utilise it effectively means processes can be streamlined, cost savings can be made and ultimately the customer experience should be improved. Companies are also finding they no longer need full time members of staff for all positions. So this also results in either job losses or reassignment of staff to meet work demand. Sometimes outsourcing particular roles gives clients that flexibility and scalability they need to manage their workload effectively. Companies need to look at new ways of working if they want to remain competitive,” Currie reiterates.

Meanwhile, Segesdy adds: “Automation and technology were discussed during a recent networking event and the general view was that there is a place for new technology. Especially at larger sites like a mall or airport, where for example, you can see an added number of automated cleaning machines deployed.

“However, the FM industry hasn’t witnessed a lot redundancies regionally. This is mainly due to high cost of technology verses the competitive cost of manpower available. This may differ in other countries or regions where the cost of labour is considerably higher, making it more cost effective to reduce head count and invest in new technology and automated solutions,” Segesdy concludes.

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