A nice article from Gary at Big Fish in the latest FM Middle East Magazine

A nice article from Gary at Big Fish in the latest FM Middle East Magazine



By Gary Segesdy, Director of Big Fish Recruitment


There is no denying that FM recruitment in the region has been hugely impacted by the recent events relating to the COVID-19 global pandemic. As a company, in Quarter 1 of this year we saw significant activity within the GCC recruiting for positions in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain and Kuwait. While it was a very positive start to the year, nobody could foresee the events that awaited us all around the corner.

Within a matter of weeks offices across the country were closed, and all staff were required to work from home. At Bigfish, our steady flow of work was reduced to a mere trickle, with only a handful of our existing assignments continuing to their conclusions.

Airports and borders were closed overnight, meaning successful candidates were unable to relocate. Months later these individuals are still left in limbo, waiting for the world to open back up so they can make the journey to begin a new chapter in their lives.

Despite the setbacks faced by all of my industry professionals, I am pleased to report that we have navigated our way safely through the choppy waters thrown up by COVID-19. It has not been an easy ride but and I can honestly say the level of effort, commitment and sacrifice shown by all of our staff members, has left me humble and very proud.

Personally speaking, we have been luckier than most and have managed to retain all of our employees during this difficult time, but sadly this has not been the case for many companies and individuals working in recruitment and specifically the FM sector. Salary reductions and redundancies have largely been the norm for the majority of businesses, and many FM service providers and clients have either been asked to reduce headcount due to the reduced workloads, or general cost savings due to the economic slowdown. A recent poll containing over 100 FM professionals, stated that over 30% of people had either been made redundant or suffered a salary reduction due to the pandemic. In response, we have seen a large increase in the number of direct applications as well as a huge response to the various job advertisements placed.

Since the ease of lockdown, we have seen an overall increase in activity, however, companies seem to be very cautious at the moment, preferring to put a hold on recruiting now until they get a better feel for the market and outlook, post COVID-19. Couple that with the summer months ahead and the postponement of EXPO 2020, we are not expecting to see a huge leap in activity any time soon, but it is very important for us all to remain positive and to focus on what can we do to anticipate the ‘new norm’.

So, what exactly will the ‘new norm’ be, and how can we prepare to stay a step ahead of the curve?

An obvious behavioural change is the increased use of web-based technology for group meetings and candidate interviews, where previously these would have all been done on a face-to-face basis. Moving forward we expect to see a shift towards using this form of communication more frequently. In response we are also in the process of updating our website with tips on how to prepare for online interviews. Examples include: making sure you are already of familiar with the software being used, as you don’t want technical issues dominating the interview and ruining the opportunity; being ready ahead of time in a quiet location with a suitable backdrop; and always dressing appropriately as if you were attending a face to face interview.

With less people able to fly to international destinations for relocation, companies have also moved towards hiring locally. As this was born more out of necessity than a desire, it limits the client to a smaller candidate pool and in some cases the availability of specialist skills, however, finding people locally has made our job a little easier by simplifying the overall process. It is also important for the local workforce to use this time constructively to upskill themselves and to make sure they have the right skills desired by potential employees. Organisations such as MEFMA (Middle East Facilities Management Association) also offer excellent training in many areas of FM and are currently promoting deals for their online training packages.

In terms of companies within the FM sector, I recently attended an IWFM (Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management) Webinar. During the discussion a panel of industry experts raised some interesting points relating to future changes expected as a result of COVID-19. Topics discussed included the importance of business continuity planning and infrastructural changes to building and technology, as well as the implementation of new regulations that will see a rise in new technology and the development of the relevant KPI’S. Workspace management, including ‘no touch’ tech for doors and elevators, as well as the emergence of AI platforms to monitor things such as social distancing, temperature scanning, CCTV, BMS and BIMS were also in the spotlight. Examples of how the industry will change were highlighted, specifically in relation to airports, stating that due to airports being less busy, fewer staff are required, and as a result more automation could be introduced. Ultimately technology will replace people in the future, and now is the time for us to prepare ourselves for this shift.

As stated by IWFM, when people return to work, workplace and facilities managers will need to prepare buildings ready for reoccupation within the limits set by new regulations and help their organisations adjust to a new set of operating norms. This kind of change programme requires professional leadership and represents a great opportunity for FMs to demonstrate the added value they offer in bringing together the space, culture and technology aspects of workplace into a workplace strategy which can enable organisations and individuals to remain productive.

Many FM companies are already in the process or have undergone huge diversification in terms of expanding their services, i.e. setting up in-house specialist cleaning divisions such as deep cleaning and disinfection services. As a result, we are seeing an increase in demand for people with skills in this area as well as tech savvy individuals who are knowledgeable in the areas of innovation and technology.

In terms of impact, COVID-19 has affected the entire world and we all need to focus on how we can adapt and improve ourselves to remain relevant during this period. For candidates seeking work at this time it is important to be both positive and proactive but also realistic about the current job market. As well as finding a reliable recruiter to assist you, I would also recommend expanding your network through organisations such as MEFMA and IWFM to ensure you are part of the wider community and maximising your networking ability.

While it is also important to mention that while it may currently be an ‘employer’s market’ with many people happy to take huge salary reductions, this may only be a short-term benefit to companies. What happens when the market starts to pick up again, and those individuals people decide to move on? Does this leave behind a bigger problem further down the line, when they are unable to replace the individual at the same cost and risk compromising their client relationship?

At Bigfish we are actively supporting our clients and candidates in any way we can through these turbulent times, and it is our continued mission to play a pivotal role in introducing the best available talent to the Middle East now, and in the future.