C&W’s Caroline Fitzwater gives her view of FM

by FM Media
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FM magazine speak to Cushman & Wakefield’s general manager, Local & State Government, on the changes in the industry, how she’s adapted and the challenges and opportunities available to her.

Facility Management: What are the key changes you are observing in the FM industry?
Caroline Fitzwater: My general career started in the UK, but became more people-focused once I completed my postgraduate studies in personnel/human resources. For the past 20 years I have been in the service industry where my ‘passion for people’ has remained the focus. Facilities management services are all about people – a facility manager touches nearly everyone, everywhere in some way.

Traditionally, an operational level profession, facility management has now evolved. The key change is the shift in focus from a day-to-day stakeholder need for tactical and operational support to a more strategic requirement, forecasting the future relevance and most cost-effective facility outcomes.

A facility manager must be hands-on, but also needs to prepare operational and financial reports, and capital improvement and investment budgets, while providing leadership and strategic direction to their operational resources. This is because corporations are now focusing on managing their real estate and facilities’ assets to ensure optimum efficiency and return on investment, ensuring life cycle management improves asset performance and facility lifespan, and delivers optimum cost savings back to the business.

All this, in conjunction with the many workplace health and safety compliance, government regulations, industry legislations and corporation policies that need to be adhered to, makes the facility manager a true ‘Jack of all trades’ profession that must ultimately ensure their customers’ satisfaction.

How have you adapted your role to these changes?
If you embrace the change and enjoy a different challenge every day, then a job in the FM industry is the career for you. Our roles change daily in response to specific client needs and the variety of services continually evolves. As the service provider delivering measurable performance-based outcomes, it is critical that we craft tailored solutions that remain flexible in order to continually adapt to changing needs. The ability to be adaptable creates the value that is now a common expectation. Every day there is a need to apply past experience in a nimble fashion and to solve a new problem, ideally as it arises or before the problem even surfaces!

I believe it is this requirement for multi-tasking and softer customer service skills that has seen a gender and age diversity shift within the Australian FM industry in recent years. Originally, a predominantly male-oriented industry, dominated by engineers and trades backgrounds, FM has recently become more successful at attracting women to the workforce – as confirmed by the 2014 Facility Management Association (FMA) Salary Survey. Additionally, the 2013/14 FM Industry Census confirmed rising numbers of ageing workers, with the most significant percentage of FMs currently aged in the 40 to 59 age bracket.

I joined the New South Wales branch of the Association almost three years ago to work with other dedicated and passionate people, to help inspire, shape and influence the FM industry, and promote and represent the interests of facilities managers. As a female general manager with client relationship and business development responsibilities, and in support of the changing diversity within the FM industry, I provide a different focus and mentor support to our future talent as they develop their careers.

What support exists for individuals and organisations to manage the progression in the industry?
FM is a diverse and relatively new and emerging industry that has grown so fast it has not been so adept at providing career pathways. Our younger generations have not had ease of access to industry relevant qualifications and Facilities was not on the curricular until recently. Following the lead from the strong associations forged over recent years with the International Facilities Management Association (IFMA), the British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM) and the FMA, the introduction of an FM diploma and advanced diploma is now being adopted by educational establishments, and this makes FM a more available and interesting career option for aspiring graduates. Professional networks such as the FMA and TEFMA (Tertiary Education Facilities Management Association) continue to provide unhindered access to professional mentors, and training and development opportunities locally. It is important to support these not-for-profit organisations to ensure we have a regular and steady flow of creative and fresh outlooks to deliver new value-add expectations and feed-forward into the FM service industry.

What are the challenges and opportunities?
Professional career paths, and access to experienced mentors, will ensure that our future talent is nurtured as we move into a more technology-reliant work environment. With the speed of take-up of new tablet technology and free software applications, our millennial generations will ensure that technology stays at the forefront, providing efficiencies and new best practices that will translate to stakeholder value and improved efficiencies and process in the future.

What is the single most exciting challenge you see in the future?
I believe this industry is all about people and developing the right relationships and partnerships. With the recent speed of industry expansion and an increase in outsourcing non-core business to professional organisations, there will be further shifts towards healthier and more productive working environments, promoting work, life and health balances for the future workforce. The biggest and most exciting challenge will be channelling talent and new ideas and applications that can keep up with the changing environment and make the world a better place for our next generation.

Caroline Fitzwater is Cushman & Wakefield’s Australia’s general manager, local and state government.

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