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ThisWeekinFM In Conversation – Yash Kapila | Integral

ThisWeekinFM In Conversation – Yash Kapila
02 December 2020 | Updated 12 January 2021
 

ThisWeekinFM spoke to Yash Kapila, who runs JLL’s engineering facility management business, Integral, about his outlook for facilities management for 2021. 

Kapila joined JLL in India in 2008 to grow the firm’s Integrated Facility Management business (IFM) in the country. He relocated back to London with JLL in 2015 to join the firm’s IFM business as Chief Operating Officer. Since 2018, he has led a team of 3,000+ engineering professionals and technicians for JLL’s Integral business.

He trained as a mechanical engineer and during his 30-year career in real estate, has held diverse roles ranging from designer and consultant, to construction manager and now facilities management industry leader.

 

What Will be the Biggest Challenges Facing Facilities Managers in 2021?

 

Facilities managers are always very good at spinning plates, but this year it’s been a whole new set of crockery, and that will continue into 2021. Arguably the biggest challenge is going to be encouraging people back to work - simply because it’s something we’ve never had to do before.

How we create spaces that provide confidence around safety and security, but don’t make people feel too restricted is going to be central. It’s been tough, and a whole new set of skills had to be developed very quickly. I congratulate everyone who’s got it working and has been on the frontline of our industry, keeping the wheels turning in very difficult circumstances.

 

"I think one of the biggest learning curves from this year will be communication. As FMs, we are adept at dealing with operational or building-related issues. But when it comes to our people, health and wellbeing, it is now an essential part of the agenda."

 

What Have FMs Learnt in 2020 That Will Help Them in 2021?

 

Overall, I think we’ve gained a greater resilience and agility to deal with the unknown along with the ability to keep calm and controlled. While there hasn’t been heavy traffic in offices yet, preparing buildings in anticipation of an office return has been challenging. Adjusting building conditions to meet different needs has had to be done rapidly and we’ve been able to adapt.

What I’ve seen in the industry this year is the need to be “on-point” when it comes to dealing with mental health and wellness. Sadly, we’ve seen a higher number of lost days for people being off work due to mental health issues. We have seen this across the board, but we are working hard to find out what parts of the sector are more prone and what we can do about it. While we are not practitioners, we can provide the first line of response and at JLL and Integral we have a team of mental health first aiders in place.

 

Girl on train with mask

Picture: a masked person on board a train looking at their smart phone.

 

I think one of the biggest learning curves from this year will be communication. As FMs, we are adept at dealing with operational or building-related issues. But when it comes to our people, health and wellbeing, it is now an essential part of the agenda.

 

What Technology Will be top of Mind for FMs in 2021?

 

I think we are kidding ourselves that we’ll be delivering FM services the way we are today in five to ten years’ time. Getting up to speed on technology remains a real challenge for the industry.

At Integral, we’ve seen a huge uptick in the number of smart sensors we’ve installed for "less technical" functions, such as monitoring water temperature, air quality or leakages. We want to continue to build these on-demand services into our offering next year.

 

"If our personal banks can allow access to our accounts and transfer money globally from our phones via an app, why can’t we order a tap washer to be changed from our desktop rather than relying on helplines? This type of on-demand function or ‘uberization’ is just around the corner."

If our personal banks can allow access to our accounts and transfer money globally from our phones via an app, why can’t we order a tap washer to be changed from our desktop rather than relying on helplines? This type of on-demand function or ‘uberization’ is just around the corner. 

The technology I’m talking about here is not old, it’s been around for several years, but it hasn’t been prevalent in our sector. And I think there’s a huge opportunity for the industry to grasp this and really transform how we operate.

Another area where technology can have a real impact is sustainability. In my thirty-year career, I used to hit a brick wall if I couldn’t make a return on investment within two years. That said, at the time technology was so expensive. So, now with all the great technology available there is an opportunity for the industry to really lead the charge.

I had a call with a potential client recently, and they feel confident that we can deal with the traditional FM services. But what they really want to hear about net-zero carbon and how we leverage technology to deliver these sustainability goals in the most cost-efficient manner.

 

Where Will FMs be Focusing Their Sustainability Efforts in 2021?

 

It’s dawned on everyone that it’s all our responsibility to make a difference, and that’s great. CSR has helped, and it’s very high on our clients’ agendas. It used to be a value-add or a “nice-to-have”, but it’s now a leading part of their property portfolio strategy.

We must be realistic about sustainability, it’s tough to implement commercially on older portfolios and more difficult to see immediate returns on the investment. However, with some of the new technologies available today, we can better focus on energy housekeeping to help reduce CO2 emissions. There are still many things we can do to make a difference, even if buildings are old.

 

How Have you Noticed Diversity and Inclusion Also Moving to the top of the Agenda This Year?

 

We ran a Black Lives Matter campaign and the response from our ethnically underrepresented employees was amazing. It’s helped us to focus on how we can encourage various communities to take part in our industry and how we can recruit from different backgrounds. How do we encourage more women into FM, for example? 

People often say to me that they see plenty of people from ethnic backgrounds in technical roles, but not enough in management. I come from an ethnic background, and this year has made me realise how critical this topic is to me as an individual. We’ve agreed as a leadership team that we will continue our commitment to diversity and inclusion and that I want to dedicate even more time to this in the new year.

 

In Terms of Attracting the Best Talent to FM - has That Changed?

 

If you look at millennials coming into our space now, they are interested in long and fulfilling careers as opposed to just a job. In addition, they want to know what our values are as an organisation. I’m not sure they’re interested in hearing whether we are the best FM provider in the country or not. They want to know if they can flourish within our company and feel comfortable that they have joined an ethical and accepting organization.

I ask myself, “What can I do in the next ten years to make the next generation of people joining our business want to stay and succeed in the sector?”

People coming into FM also need to know that hybrid working is open to them. Working from home is the new normal, but we still need offices to encourage collaboration, creativity and innovation. I’m not convinced you can do all that from home. 

In terms of health, because of the three hours I gain per day through not commuting, I’m now able to prioritise my health, and I am keen to retain that in the future.  People want to know how their employer is going to help them stay healthy. This year has been a real eye opener, a time to reflect on what’s most important and what we can offer employees to improve and maintain their health and wellbeing.

 

You're from a Technical Engineering Background – Would you Recommend This Route Into FM? 

 

When I was based in India for JLL I was asked this question often. When I graduated, FM didn't exist, it wasn't a sector. FM was not a popular career choice after university, it was perceived as job for those who couldn’t get into IT or engineering and was not seen as a popular career. Today this is not the case.  FM is a fast-paced and exciting career choice for any smart and agile graduate looking for the ultimate challenge. 

Picture: a picture of Yash

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 02 December 2020

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