Successfully delivering the government’s FM strategy

Sean Haley
About the author : Sean Haley

CEO Sodexo UK & Ireland

Published on : 12/13/22
  • It may not have dominated the headlines, but the release of the government’s facilities management strategy is highly significant. Not because it’s the first to be published or that it’s been crafted with care, although both are true. Rather because this clarity and ambition was unimaginable just five years ago, and it highlights how fundamental the sector is to UK plc.

    Proving the value of ‘one team’ FM


    In the heat of Covid-19, FM professionals showcased the very best of the industry. Their agility, creativity and partnership approach were critical, getting spaces fitted out and teams kitted up at unbelievable speeds. They kept front-line services of all kinds up and running when we needed them most.

    FM was already evolving, but I think the pandemic was a tipping point. It materially changed how we think about workplaces and the services within them, because it proved a direct link between wellbeing and productivity. And by forcing new ways of working, it proved there’s untapped value in doing things differently.

    As a major FM partner, we worked closely with government during the pandemic and have played our part in several strands of the strategy. We welcome the long-term direction and particularly its ‘one team’ ethos, because we know that close collaboration is the only way to deliver.

    Enhancing lives in the broadest sense 


    In the last few years, we’ve seen FM pivot from managing assets to enabling people, and the strategy reflects this change in mindset. It’s not just about the planned maintenance, for example, but rather keeping a space at the best working temperature.

    It was heartening to see wider societal issues like climate change take centre-stage, and for the dependencies in other government policies to be so well-considered. One concern, born out of our experience, is that big goals like net zero are easier to say than they are to do.

    Supporting SMEs to deliver big goals


    We’ve been working to reduce our Scope 1, 2 and 3 carbon emissions for five years now. Our Carbon Reduction Plan shows us on track to be carbon neutral in Scopes 1 and 2 by 2025. Decarbonising our entire business – including a 90% reduction in Scope 3 emissions from our supply chain and client sites – will take until 2045. It’s complex stuff.

    SMEs make up 75% of our supply chain and 44% of our spend, but we can’t expect them to navigate net zero overnight. Instead, through a dedicated engagement strategy and inclusion programme, backed up by hands-on advice through skills-based volunteering, we’ll get there together.

    We fully support the strategy’s call for greater SME involvement, as it could increase supply chain resilience, support Levelling Up and cut emissions. We just hope there’ll be enough help to make it happen. Enabling success by getting match fit
    The FM strategy talks about mandating standards, which is hugely welcome, and about continuing to support career development in the sector. This is key to attracting and retaining good people. 

    Every government department (and every company) is competing for talent with the broader market. The workplace experience matters more than ever, and it means improving how people feel. Do they feel safe? Can they get a great meal? Can they see action to tackle climate change? Do they feel like they belong? 

    We actively manage our social and environmental impact and talk candidly about our results, including publishing our Ethnicity Pay Gap. We’re not required to, but our ambition for a diverse workforce means nothing without action. Being transparent and accountable is the best route to success.

    Ensuring value without fixating on cost 


    The strategy states openly that value is not cost. We couldn’t agree more. Investment decisions made today need the strategy’s 2030 vision in mind, balancing workplace and societal benefits with sound financial management. For this, you need insight. And for insight, you need data.

    The government talks openly about how patchy its data has been. If it existed at all, it was limited to the ‘what and where’ of an asset, not the targets they were aiming for or what people needed to excel. To reach their ambitions, they’ll need all three.
    The reshaping of the government’s property portfolio as part of Levelling Up is a great opportunity to put the strategy into action, having the right data to put the workplace experience at the heart of wellbeing, retention, productivity and excellent public services. So the next challenge is the ‘how’. 

    Finding the right ways to deliver


    The FM strategy marks a definite shift in approach, from tactical responses to strategic long-term goals. As a supplier, it provides the clarity we need to make the right investment decisions so we’re ready to play our part. It’s also a statement of intent that will undoubtedly have a ripple effect in the wider market, with government both a huge customer and a key influencer.

    It says all the right things, but we’ll be watching the ‘how’ with interest. In particular how you operationalise the ‘one team’ ethos, because issues like climate change, supply chain disruption and labour shortages are inseparable. Tackling them while providing great workplaces will need a guiding hand and the continued development of new partnership models, both public and private.

    What’s clear is that both this FM strategy, and the property strategy that preceded it, put the government’s focus squarely where it should be: on outcomes, not inputs. They make a direct link between the quality of workplaces and the quality of public services. And they reflect something that we in the FM industry have known for years: it’s about enabling people to do great things.

    Find out more about our journey to net zero, our work on supply chain resilience and our Social Impact Pledge.