The UK 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 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% describe the facilities management business environment as 'positive' or 'very positive' and over half (54%) expect it to improve over the next 12 months, while only 4% believe it will deteriorate.
With the FM sector employing roughly 10% 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%) anticipating increased turnover in their business and 65% planning to increase their workforce this year. The findings also point to greater business investment in the sector, with 54% of respondents saying they will increase capital investment, compared to just 3% 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% of respondents stating they are currently hiring apprentices. However, this broadly upbeat assessment is tempered by concerns about skills shortages, with 47% citing this as a worry over the coming year, which is significant given that 62% 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% 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% 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.”