Unlike many other sectors that are under pressure due to market headwinds, facilities management (FM) continues to be in an expansion mode. Despite internal challenges and pressure on margins, its surge is there for a long run. More landlords are opting for it against traditional maintenance, even as more services get added for integrated FM services. A growth in construction activity coupled with an increased real estate footprint and a technological renaissance in the maintenance technology domain are the other significant factors driving the transformation.
The increasing involvement of owners associations (OA) and property owners for quality upkeep and raising a building’s life cycle are also dominant factors. More landlords are moving away from their fixation with traditional “operations and maintenance” (O & M) service model.
As per estimates, there is a 50 per cent increase in the FM footprint from the transformation of legacy operations and maintenance contracts. This trend is more relevant in South Asia and the GCC, and more so in Saudi Arabia wherein O & M was a preferred way for maintenance by most building owners and government establishments.
For instance, in Saudi Arabia and India, we have seen significant change as government organisations make the switch to adopt an FM regime across their real estate portfolios. In Saudi Arabia, there is a paradigm shift towards integrated FM services.
For instance, at one of our recently awarded contracts, the client has made a conscious effort to depart from conventional O & M and adopt facilities management.
Global vs. regional
FM is among the fastest growing sub-sectors globally with an 8 per cent CAGR (compounded annual growth rate). In the Middle East, it is indeed increasing at an even higher rate, at about 15 per cent. The current pipeline of large construction projects and governments’ push on infrastructure will maintain the FM growth trajectory.
However, it does not mean that everything is hunky-dory; the FM industry has challenges that need remedial actions. It has been under pressure from strenuous market conditions. It requires additional investments or “neutral cash contracts” to support this demand.
There remains a void in the context of much-needed capital, skilled resources and service infrastructure. A growing FM footprint is further leading to industry challenges, leading to a scramble for additional capital flows and higher margins.
A plus for job creation
This trend, though, offers a silver lining for the job markets, as there are promising prospects for those seeking careers in FM. Globally, there is a shortage in the FM workforce as its spectacular growth has led to a spike in demand for manpower, especially in the technical workforce where there is a severe shortage.
As per our recent study, there will be a need for more than one million jobs in the FM sector across the Gulf by 2023, It holds excellent employment prospects for job seekers from all facets — especially for engineering and management graduates, skilled and semi-skilled workers — to plug the manpower deficit.
In essence, the industry is in for a big job creation bonanza, and people seeking careers in FM must cash in. At the same time, companies wanting to encash these immense opportunities have to boost investments in terms of their service infrastructure, talent acquisition and management, and above all, expand their scope of learning on the job.
FM is indeed evolving for the better, but strenuous efforts are still needed to bring about change in attitudes and behaviours to derive full benefits.
Tariq Chauhan is Group CEO at EFS Facilities Services.