How Facilities Management companies can deal with skills shortages

As the economy looks to bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic, one thing which is causing businesses in many sectors a headache is the skills shortage. This is undoubtedly true within Facilities Management, both in Hard and Soft services.

Recent research by The Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management (IWFM) saw over a third of respondents say that a lack of skills had a negative impact on their business in the previous year and expect it to continue.

At the same time, the profile of the FM industry has increased somewhat. Although it was already a key contributor to the economy – accounting for over 7% of UK GDP - the focus on having COVID secure environments has shone a light on the role FM companies play. In addition, the continued push towards a better and cleaner environment means these companies will inevitably be on the frontline in the fight against climate change.

An increased profile is all well and good, but you need the talent to help fill the various needs. At Carbon60, we have over 2,000 workers in the field on a daily basis, so regularly deal with businesses across the FM industry. But in recent months, there’s been a real increase in the number of companies who are approaching us and looking for ways to mitigate the skills shortage. It’s no exaggeration to say this has become an area of real concern. At times like this, analysing and refining your labour supply chain is crucial. 

With that in mind, I thought I’d provide some top tips which will hopefully help you in this process.


Select strategic partners over suppliers

The big trend I’m noticing is a preference for genuine recruitment partnerships. Companies now want strategic partners rather than just suppliers. 

There’s a big difference between the two. 

A supplier will help you access talent and increase headcount – but that’s where their remit normally ends.

A partner on the other hand, will look at what your strategic objectives are and align their offering to it. This will help you gain a competitive advantage, because hiring isn’t just about sourcing talent – it needs to be the right talent for your needs. By choosing a smaller list of strategic partners you can be a more important client to them getting a better service and ultimately the right talent.  

Another reason FM companies are now looking for partners is because of the candidate short market we’re in. In times when supply is high and hiring managers have more options, you’ll find your recruitment suppliers giving you the same level of service as their other clients. 

But now, many recruitment companies have 3-5 vacancies to offer every available candidate. If you opt for the supplier approach, will you get the bespoke service that you need? There’s no guarantee, whereas a long-term partnership ensures you’re a priority. 

 

Choose sector specialists

Taking a ‘spray and pray’ approach and using generalists might work when the labour market isn’t so tight – and even then, it’s a very inefficient way of working – but now more than ever, it’s important to go for recruitment partners who are specialists in your area. They should have a wealth of experience and a proven track record of dealing with candidates in that market.

I’ve spoken to HR Directors who’ve previously worked with generalist agencies and missed out on valuable market information. A classic example is salary and benefits benchmarking. They were convinced that their package was in line with the rest of the market, and only after missing out on good candidates did they realise this wasn’t the case. Had they been working with specialists, this would have been flagged up ahead of time.


Think broad

It’s crucial that your recruitment partners have a proper national presence.  If you have multiple locations, then this should almost be a non-negotiable when deciding which recruitment company should fill your role. But even if you have just a handful of locations, it’s still worth picking an agency that has a wider presence, as they’ll be able to draw on a broader range of talent. 

For example, in conjuction with Blue Arrow (our sister company who specilise in soft services), we have over 60 offices across the UK and a database of over half a million candidates. While a lot of our clients require us to serve them nationally, even those who have smaller requirements appreciate our ability to give them more options.

One question to ask any recruitment company is their average time-to-hire in your market. In times like this you’ll have to cast your net wide and act quickly to get the best talent. The recruitment companies who already have an extensive network across the country are best placed to help you do this.


Simplify the admin experience

Something which isn’t always thought about during the selection process is how easy the administrative side of things will be. The last thing you want is to be bogged down with unnecessary paperwork or have to jump through several hoops to get what you need.

Do a deep dive of your recruitment partner’s back office. Do they have enough resource to meet your needs, and do you know exactly who needs to be contacted for different issues? Sometimes you may want an even simpler experience – we have some clients who want just a single point of contact for all their needs.

Simplicity is especially important if you’re dealing with temporary or contract staff, as legislation in this area is constantly changing. Meanwhile many areas within Soft FM services are dealing with the red tape around Brexit. A good recruitment partner will have a handle on all this and ensure that precious HR hours aren’t being taken up by bureaucracy. 

You won’t be able to fully mitigate the skills shortage – that's the unfortunate truth of the market. However, you can give yourself the best possible chance by making smart recruitment decisions. Now is actually the time to become selective with your supply chain. Engaging a specialist partner, with a wide reach and the ability to prioritise your needs, should be at the top of your list. 

It may be a cliché, but less is more. 

 
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