The importance of people to FM

by FM Media
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Facility Management interviews Michael Coates, national client manager at ISS Integrated Facility Services.

How and why did you get into facility management? Where have you worked in the past and what are your responsibilities at present?
I started my career in construction as a site engineer and have gradually moved into facilities management and estate management over the last 15 years. My first experience of the facility management industry was through a construction company in the UK that had a hard facility management contract at an agrochemical research facility. The work was extremely varied, covering all stages of a facility’s life cycle from new build to demolition and everything in between. The variety of the work on this contract captured my interest and introduced me to the facility management world. I’ve since worked on a variety of contracts in the government, defence, banking and information technology sectors.
I’m currently working for ISS Integrated Facility Services on a global integrated facility management (IFM) contract, covering the Australia and New Zealand region. The contract is a true IFM model, covering offices and data centres throughout the region.

How do you ensure that these responsibilities are met?
We are responsible for the delivery of a wide range of services across the contract, including catering, critical environment management, project management and planned maintenance. The only way to meet these responsibilities and the varied needs of the contract is to rely upon a great multi-skilled team that has the flexibility to adapt and change with the needs of clients.

Do you advocate using in-house or outsourced service providers? Why?
Working for a large outsourced service provider has shown me the benefits of outsourced service providers. Direct control of a labour resource supports the IFM model. The ability to call upon an extensive pool of skills and resources across a business is a great strength of outsourcing and the IFM model. The ability to request this support when required is invaluable.

What are the challenges that the Australian facility management industry is currently facing, in your opinion?
The looming skills shortage is a challenge that both the facility management and construction industries will need to actively manage. Facility management is a people business, so it’s important that people with the appropriate skills are made available across the industry.

How do you feel these challenges can be overcome?
Training and apprenticeships will play a key part in mitigating any impact of a skills shortage. Companies will also need to supplement current working conditions and practices in order to retain staff and thereby offer a desirable place to work.

What opportunities are arising for facility managers in Australia? Why should facility managers take advantage of these opportunities and how can they take advantage of them?
Sustainability continues to be an opportunity for facility managers. Sustainability programs can help drive energy efficiency across portfolios and deliver project works to the industry. The adoption of Green Star and NABERS rating principles can deliver substantial benefits for corporate occupiers and landlords. These principles help reduce operational costs, enhance assets and promote environmental awareness.

What is the best decision you ever made in terms of facility management? Why?
Completing a master’s degree in facility management was certainly the best decision I’ve made. It provided me with a great overview of the facility management field, introduced me to a number of experienced professionals and challenged my views on property and service delivery.

What piece of technology or equipment do you find indispensable in performing your role?
My BlackBerry is indispensable.

What advice or thought would you like to share with the Australian facility management community?
Although we are the managers of assets and services, we should really be focused on people – whether it be the people that work for us or the staff in the facilities that we clean and maintain. We are, after all, in the people business. What we do and how we do it can have a significant impact on productivity and well-being.

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