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FM survey – surge in confidence in economic outlook

The UK facilities management (FM) sector is increasingly optimistic about prospects for both the UK economy and growth in FM over the coming year, according to research conducted by the British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM) in partnership with i-FM.net and Barclays. 

The FM Business Confidence Monitor, a survey of professionals from the facilities management sector in the UK, found that 70 per cent describe the facilities management business environment as ‘positive’ or ‘very positive’ and over half (54 per cent) expect it to improve over the next 12 months, while only 4 per cent believe it will deteriorate. With the facilities management sector employing roughly 10 per cent of the UK working population and estimated to be worth £111 billion a year to the UK economy, it is an important bellwether for business performance as a whole.

This sector confidence is translating into job creation and headcount, with an overwhelming majority of FM service providers (87 per cent) anticipating increased turnover in their business and 65 per cent planning to increase their workforce this year. The findings also point to greater business investment in the sector, with 54 per cent of respondents saying they will increase capital investment, compared to just 3 per cent that expects a decrease. The research also highlighted the role of the sector in promoting social mobility and offering training and routes into employment for young people, with 47 per cent of respondents stating they are currently hiring apprentices.

However, this broadly upbeat assessment is tempered by concerns about skills shortages, with 47 per cent citing this as a worry over the coming year, which is significant given that 62 per cent of service providers cited competition in the marketplace as the biggest barrier to growth in the next 12 months. These concerns are further supported by 43 per cent of respondents who said challenges in recruiting and retaining staff are obstacles to prosperity. Gareth Tancred, Chief Executive of BIFM, said, “This research indicates an encouraging positive sentiment in the facilities management sector which is good news, not just for our industry, but for the economy as a whole given the important contribution facilities management makes to the UK economy and wider society.

“The creation of apprenticeship opportunities is as high on our agenda as it is for the Government and our ambition is for the FM sector to be an exemplar of how business can aid social mobility. It’s therefore promising to see almost half of our respondents already actively hiring apprentices. However, with 70 per cent stating no clear intention to do so in 2015, there is clearly more work to be done. “In what is set to be a very competitive landscape, points of differentiation among FM services will be crucial if we are to build on this optimism and sustain the clear appetite for business growth among FMs in the coming year.” David Emanuel, Managing Director of i-FM, said: “It is hugely encouraging to see the FM sector brimming with confidence, and the outlook for business performance in the year ahead looks very positive.

“FM is a major contributor to the UK economy, accounting for around 7% of overall GDP, and should be a greater barometer of confidence and success for the wider business world. Across industry and the public sector, there are many examples of facilities management delivering genuine strategic value. Facilities management professionals at the top of their profession provide a critical contribution to areas such as organisational efficiency, staff productivity and wellbeing. However, it is not necessarily the norm for FM to be regarded in this way and that is clearly the challenge. Therefore, what this report does is provide the FM industry with a perfect opportunity to promote the discipline to the wider business community, as well as influential groups such as government.”

Nicki Thomson, Managing Director and Head of Business Services, Barclays, said “Confidence is infectious and it is, therefore, encouraging that this report finds the sector in such a buoyant mood given its influence on the health and prosperity of the wider UK economy. As the first bank to have a dedicated facilities management team, we have provided support, funding and guidance to the industry for over 15 years, and much of our time is spent working closely with the service providers who define the industry. This exuberance and energy has certainly been borne out in our recent conversations with these firms – and long may it continue.”    

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