IWFM Conference superseded ThinkFM which was the flagship conference from BIFM (the British Institue of Facilities Management).
In 2018 BIFM adapted its name to incorporate the emerging workplace discipline as the Institute saw businesses begin to capitalise on this change by focusing on employee workspace, and recognised the potential for the profession to impact on organisational performance as the tech-redefined work environment rises up the leadership agenda as firms compete for talent.
Here is a summary of how ThinkFM evolved over the past 10 years before making it’s ultimate transformation to IWFM Conference.
When planning 2020, we picked the topic of ‘turbulent times’ and at that point it was more of a reflection of the various megatrends that were influencing workplace and facilities teams: climate change, wellbeing, technology, and the future of work. However, we hadn’t realised how prophetic our title was going to be as the spring of 2020 unfolded with a UK-wide lockdown.
Of course, we’d already taken the decision to move our event to September, but the subsequent fallout of that move brought these megatrends into sharper focus: we saw the immediate impact of traffic-free towns on the local environment; we were worried about the wellbeing of employees suddenly having to balance work, life, parenting, schooling from the confines of their homes; we had to roll out technology to keep us connected at lightening speeds to stay in touch with colleagues; and we had countless conversations about the future of ‘work’ and whether homeworking was the ‘new norm’.
That made it all the more important to hear from our speakers. All experts in their field and who, like all of us, had been navigating these turbulent times in real time. Pen Hadow told us of his mind-blowing story of solo expeditions to the North Pole and broke down the real climate emergency in a way I’ve never heard before. Not only did he speak of the fragility of the northern ice cap, but also showed how this is going to be sped up by commercial activity in the region made possible by the melting ice. He’s on a mission to get that region protected; it’s a big mission but he’s passionate about it. He challenged each and every one of us, all able to make big changes in our organisations given our positions, to do something as well. We have to.
Marjorie Wallace gave an honest reflection on the nation’s mental health during the pandemic and showed us the role that organisations can play going forward. Already seeing success with their Black Dog campaign, which aims to provide environments and opportunities for colleagues to talk openly about their mental health, she highlighted that the pandemic is exacerbating an already difficult situation and urged our audience to take an active role in supporting their employees through this difficult time.
What both of these talks reminded me of - and it’s something that should inspire you all - is the agency we have in this. Lots of professions will rightly claim to have skin in the game because these are wide topics, but these particularly areas are things that we as a community can have a huge role in as we’re already connected to them in some way. As ‘super-connectors’, any positive change we make will touch all corners of our organisations.
We will need to maintain that proactive attitude for the final two megatrends: technology and the future of work.
Dave Coplin joined us again, having spoken at our 2015 conference, to talk us through the latest thinking on the future of technology, but as ever his message was one of human progress going hand-in-hand rather than the ‘loss of jobs’ narrative that seems to dominate. He bemoaned the tendency for people to use technology to make what we did yesterday a bit better today. Instead, we should start our thinking from a fresh perspective and look at the work experience we want to create and how technology can get us there, adopting an experimental, rather than predictive, mindset.
And finally, we were treated to the ideas of Matthew Taylor, CEO of RSA and author of 2017 report, ‘Good Work’, an independent review into modern employment, commissioned by the UK Prime Minister. He explored a number of scenarios and challenges that are heading our way, but rather than taking a binary view of home versus office, he explored how huge changes to market conditions drive new business models. That is actually the starting point because work drives talent and talent drives workplace because, essentially, organisations will be wondering how to use ‘human labour to generate value’. How much of our work is about supporting that and how much is about maintaining the ‘fixed asset’?
I think it is in that last idea that the true message of our conference lies, and something we were treated to earlier in the week by professional pirate Sam Conniff. If we are waiting for people to tell us what they need in their sustainability and wellbeing programme, or what technology is going to do to our profession or what the organisation decides it needs to support work moving forward, we are always going to be a profession that is ‘done to’. If we are going to become the business leaders that we say we want to be, we need to stop waiting for permission. We have to go and grab the opportunities.
The first ever IWFM national conference came at a key point for the facilities management profession. Still relatively young, the function has expanded in 50 years and is now an accepted feature of any organisational structure, putting it among the largest industries in the country. In today’s fast paced environment, where standing still means going backwards, the profession is adapting to unprecedented disruption as we embark on the fourth industrial revolution – a fusing of technologies that is fundamentally changing the way we live, work and relate to one another.
In 2018 BIFM changed its name to incorporate the emerging workplace discipline as it saw businesses beginning to capitalise on this change by focusing on employee experience as the tech-redefined work environment rose up the leadership agenda in the competition for talent. This is an opportunity for the profession to demonstrate its impact on organisational performance.
The 2019 conference was curated to provide professionals with the key insights, skills and inspiration to embrace this opportunity and cement its role as core component of a successful business. Leading international speakers, award winning authors, disrupters disrupting and even a hostage negotiator took attendees through a programme that explores the macro environment, the changing nature of work, the skills required in this new world and the motivational push we need to go and make a difference in our organisations.
The 2018 conference theme was ‘Think (beyond) FM: Adapt or Disappear’; exploring the major disrupters in facilities management and how businesses and individuals can turn them to their advantage.
The conference featured debate by the industry’s leaders on contracts, profitability and the macro economic shocks which will impact FM professionals. Using exciting and interesting case studies from other sectors, the conference will also explore the opportunities of automation and big data for facilities management – and the potential pitfalls. Delegates to the conference came away with an understanding of the major cross-winds buffeting the sector and what strategies might be available to secure a stable future.
Although the conference is essential for those concerned with FM strategy, it was also designed to provide real take away learnings for operational FMs who need to be able to implement key parts of the resulting FM development plans.
- Think (beyond) FM: Adapt or Disappear
The 2017 conference theme was ‘FM in a Connected World’; exploring how technological advances are transforming the way the world works and how facilities and workplaces can be created, managed and developed, all of which is impacting on FM’s ability to deliver more productive workplaces, energy efficient and sustainable environments and healthier workforces through smarter, more flexible and responsive solutions.
With new technology rapidly changing the way people interact with each other and the world around them, technology and its application is fast becoming the most important resource for FM professionals. The conference explored how the influence of new technology is impacting on the facilities management sector and the latest innovations helping prepare FMs for the challenges of the future.
- ThinkFM 2017: FM in a Connected World
Evolving from the 2015 theme on competitive advantage, the 2016 conference theme was ‘ThinkFM: Think Productivity’; exploring facilities management and the workplace’s role in enabling organisational productivity. Organisational performance and efficiency comes from the maximisation and alignment of all resources and systems towards the organisational goals and shared cultural commitment. Facilities and workplace management is part of that and a fundamental facet in enabling business performance.
- ThinkFM 2016: Think Productivity
‘The Competitive Edge: Gaining competitive advantage through the workplace’ was the theme in 2015, which attracted more than 300 delegates. Speakers from global brand leaders such as BMW Group, Marks & Spencer, Three and Microsoft covered topics ranging from collaboration to motivation, sustainability to exploiting the power of buildings and facilities. ITN Productions were once again in attendance covering highlights of the day.
- ThinkFM 2015 – The Competitive Edge: Gaining competitive advantage through the workplace
2014 signalled a radical change to ThinkFM – the format was redeveloped, which resulted in a sell-out conference within a new venue. ‘The Workplace and Beyond: Facilities management’s impact on business, the economy and society’ was debated on stage by Government, HR and business leaders. Its impact was so immense that #ThinkFM trended in the UK Twitter top ten. ITN Productions attended the event and closed the day by premiering their new TV programme, which addressed the importance of FM to society and the UK economy. Furthermore, the 2014 event was awarded a Mark of Excellence win for ‘Best London Conference’ at the 2015 Association Excellence Awards.
- ThinkFM 2014 – The Workplace and Beyond: Facilities management’s impact on business, the economy and society
ThinkFM has evolved massively since the inaugural conference, which was held over two days at Nottingham University in 2011. Between 2011-2013 the conference worked on a ‘shape your own agenda’ format whereby across up to four streams of content, delegates created their own agenda based on their objectives or interests; becoming a one-day event from 2012.
- ThinkFM 2013 – The Leadership Challenge: Raising our game, making our case – realising our value
- ThinkFM 2012 – Ideas for Change: How great facilities management makes the difference
- ThinkFM 2011 – Delivering value in facilities management: Innovation and adaption for today’s economics