• Neil McDiarmid
  • 12 March 2012

Assessing competency

The question about competency – and evidencing it through reliance on qualifications – has been a moot point in the FM sector for years.

The BIFM has committed a great deal of energy to developing a recognised qualifications programme, regulated by Ofqual, spanning levels 4-6 in the national Qualifications and Credits Framework (QCF). Take up is growing, but the qualifications are by no means widespread: their scarcity on CVs provides little help for assessing the mainstream of candidates.

And BIFM recently announced it was again reviewing whether to consider adopting chartered status – something that might provide benefit to a relatively smaller number of more highly qualified FMs, but which could lock out those whose expertise is based on experience rather than academic achievement or professional qualifications.

Against such a backdrop – and in an industry that includes such a wide range of skills – it’s hard to argue against the CEO’s assertion that quality candidates are hard to unearth using traditional recruitment methods. Much work has been done by the BIFM and FMA to bring young people into the sector. Pay levels are attractive, and career progression is attainable in a sector whose purpose is to manage and foment change. We can’t blame individual facilities managers when they take advantages of the opportunities that arise.

Without qualifications to rely on, a candidate’s current position and past experience are almost all you have to go on. However the difficulties in relying on traditional interview techniques are manifold.  Stating the obvious: interviews favour good interviewees, not necessarily good candidates. It’s also very difficult in interview to separate out an individual’s achievements from those of their team. Were they really personally responsible for that success?

We are beginning to work with FM service providers in a more sophisticated way, running assessment centres to help them identify the specific talent they are looking for. These typically take place off site – we use the Workplace Law Executive Centre in Clerkenwell – and can involve a variety of assessments including psychometric testing, peer interviewing, and even client interaction – allowing your customers to interview your prospective employees. Such assessment centres are common in other sectors, but less so in FM.

Through our HR expertise within Workplace Law – and our 16 year presence in the FM sector – we are finding this approach works much better than traditional interviews recruitment agencies. The process is streamlined, proves more cost-effective, and typically delivers greater levels of satisfaction among recruiting employers.