It is now unquestionable that Facility Management is directly related to people, particularly since the publication of international standard 41011. Not simply because this is the only word that is repeated twice in the definition, but because it really must be so. The point of applying models and strategies for the professionalisation of support operations is to make users the focal point. As professionals, most of us are aware of this. Yet outside our industry, the truth is that there is widespread ignorance as to what we do, added to complete unawareness that people should be our focal point.
World FM Day was held recently, an ideal occasion for us to gain visibility, and for other sectors to become acquainted with what we do. The poster has appeared extensively on social networks, in different languages and with different backgrounds. Most associations have taken the opportunity to upload messages on their profiles and schedule various events. In some countries, the activities took place over several days. After having participated in some of these happenings, I have paused to consider who might be listening and what conclusions they would draw about what we do.
What it looks like from the outside
The image of World FM Day denotes joy and celebration, in a range of colours and what appears to be fireworks above a set of buildings. Even a small factory can be made out… but… where are the people? We could imagine we are playing Where’s Wally, yet the difference this time is that we immediately realise he is nowhere to be seen. There are no people in the image. Therefore, the way we are explaining FM is not coming across. Our message is not being delivered effectively. Someone outside the industry who sees the poster might think that we are in the building sector or real estate, as has been put to me on more than one occasion.
You might think that all Facility Management logos are similar, but they are not. I encourage you to visit the website of BELFA, the Belgian association, and take a look at their image. Although it was established more recently than most, which is an advantage, they deserve gratitude for their gesture towards people, including the image of a person in their logo. Although this may go unnoticed, I believe it sends a very strong message about what we do and the correlation which should exist between buildings and individuals. I feel we need to think a little more about those who are not familiar with FM, and strive to create followers. This will improve the perception of the department within companies, boost recognition of its professionals and make university degrees more popular, resulting in the name not having to be changed due to too few enrolments.
I would like us to reflect on the image we convey outside the bubble in which we FM professionals live, and consider what the layman’s perception of what we do might be.