Made for the future - Inside the judging process for the FM Young Manager - By David Strydom (PFM Magazine)
It’s one of life’s small ironies that the two most significant features in this edition of PFM appear, at first glance, to be diametrically opposed. On one end is our cover story which focuses on the belief among some that in 10 years the FM as we know him or her will be rendered obsolete by building management software. On the other end is this article, outlining the judging process involved in the selection of the sector’s most dynamic young manager. The Young Managers award – intended for under-35s – has been part of the PFM Awards since before the millennium, but this year was the first time I was involved in judging it, along with previous winners Andrew Hulbert (now MD of Pareto FM) and Antony Law (operations director for Mitie technical services), and Barclays’ relationship directors Andrea Delay and Terry Myatt. “The Young Manager of the Year Award has done more than most to highlight FM as an excellent career option for young, aspiring and effective managers,” says Jane Fenwick, previous PFM editor and now consulting editor for the awards. “Over the years this award has demonstrated talented young people can take on high levels of responsibility in FM and aspire to senior management roles early in their careers.”
The first phase of active judging for 2014 saw five of the seven finalists appear before the panel in August, three months before the awards. The venue was the Barclays office building in Canary Wharf and the criteria included quality of written submission, quality and delivery of presentation, demonstration of journey, commitment to continuous professional development (CPD) for themselves and others, contribution to furthering the industry and networking, and commitment to corporate social responsibility. “We’re not here to give these guys a hard time,” Hulbert explains. “We want to identify who most deserves it, who has had a great journey in FM and what each candidate can demonstrate in terms of furthering the industry. This award is about forwarding those young people you won’t come across that often because they’re hidden behind older teams. It’s amazing when you meet somebody and think ‘Wow – you’re under 30, how come I haven’t met you, despite the prolific networking in the industry?’ And that discovery excites me because it makes me wonder who else we haven’t met yet.”
Hulbert says there’s usually only one or two young people on a team, unlike in real estate or in the property sector, where there are significant numbers of graduates coming in, all on the same schemes. “We generally find only one or two stars in each organisation who are trailblazers in their roles but often lack recognition.” The judging process, he adds, is about identifying stars, listening to their stories, then evaluating them accordingly. “I’m a big one for the romance of the journey – how they started, what they got into, what they did in that time,” says Hulbert. “Antony Law is a great example – he worked his way up from being an engineering apprentice to operations director in 13 years. The reason he won the award in 2012 was that he’d worked on huge projects such as the Olympic Park – he was only 28 at the time, with all that responsibility. That’s what the award is about, finding young people with enormous responsibility and leading some of the most exciting projects in the UK FM industry”. Hulbert is a walking repository of details and anecdotes surrounding past candidates, recalling facts and figures from the years in which he’s been involved. There’s been a preponderance of people in operations winning over the past few years, he says, because ‘big accounts, big staff and big profit-and-loss statements (P&L)’ make it easier to evaluate them. “I love the candidates who go really big. We had a guy a few years ago who didn’t win, but his responsibility was for the army base in Cyprus – at only 30, he was looking after £60m of portfolio.” The award changes the winner’s profile in the industry, Hulbert says, and is therefore an opportunity for somebody who has hitherto not been heard of to come into the frame. The final three are invited to join the Young Managers Forum committee, currently chaired by Hulbert. “We run events at which each of the three finalists has the opportunity to speak – something Antony, for instance, has taken advantage of. Hulbert cautions against judging the candidates on the size of their employers or accounts. “Success is relative. Just because somebody has the biggest account or team doesn’t mean they’re necessarily better than somebody with a smaller one. It’s what they’ve overcome and achieved in their own journey.” The candidates are as refreshing as they are different from one another, and provide a classic example of the fact that FMs come from all walks of life, and don’t necessarily always ‘fall into’ the sector. There are selfstarters whose outstanding competence quickly distinguishes them from their peers. Others may not be confident presenters but arrive armed with an arsenal of formidable qualifications, and a comprehensive understanding of their role.
To give an indication of the breadth of individuality among the finalists: there’s an ambitious Irishman who moved to London to further himself, and rose rapidly from butler to catering manager and is now a general manager at ISS; a dynamic candidate from Mitie who specialised in HR before deciding to use those managerial skills in FM; a self-starter who built a formidable academic record while working and raising a young family, and who now helps maintain Tower 42; a fiercely intelligent troubleshooter from Vinci Facilities who was once a yo-yo champion; and a 23-year-old Cofely employee who set out from the north-east to find success in London, and who now finds himself one of a highly select group of young FMs.
Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of the judging process is the fact that it’s clear there’s a wealth of talent waiting to be discovered – or at least illuminated – in the FM sector. This news is particularly pertinent in view of the continuing UK skills crisis. Two days after the judging at Barclays building in Canary Wharf, a press release arrived in my Inbox. It postulated on a worrying but alltoo-familiar scenario, albeit it this time in the construction industry. “As several major pieces of industry research identify skills shortages as posing a serious threat to the on-going growth of the construction industry, the Build Show is warning more must be done to support skills development,” it read. “In a worrying statistic, the National Specialist Contractors Council revealed 19% of specialist firms have reported being unable to bid for work because of a lack of skilled staff. The figure, which was released as part of the NSCC’s second quarter State of Trade Survey, is a significant increase on the yearly average of 6%.” Paul Godwin, MD of the Build Show, said: “The message is really coming across loud and clear from all sides: as an industry, developing a well-trained and highly skilled workforce must be our biggest priority if we are to sustain the growth we all wish to see. It’s particularly relevant over the coming weeks as young people receive exam results and start thinking about future employment options.”This concern casts a shadow over the results of a survey conducted by the Construction Enquirer which indicated morethan 80% of respondents had a positive outlook for their business over the next 18 months. Nonetheless, when asked what challenges they envisioned facing, the respondents noted that the availability of skilled workers was identified as the biggest threat, with 44% of respondents highlighting this as an issue. There’s no doubt ‘Britain’s got talent’ – and plenty of it – but unless there’s more encouragement for young people via avenues such as the Young Managers Forum and the Young Managers Award, some of that talent may never be realised.
Full article can be found in PFM September 2014 edition or online at http://edition.pagesuite-professional.co.uk/Launch.aspx?EID=f94a466d-5cda-45b2-8271-122e2110162a