There are regular debates in the Thorn Baker EFM office about the differences between recruiting and hiring hard and soft services staff – especially seeing as we have specialist consultants for both sectors!
What are the key differences between hiring someone in hard services compared to soft services? What are the key demographics? Are perks and benefits miles apart? How do qualifications and tools impact on daily working life? Is one perceived to be more important than the other? In this blog, my team and I will discuss these points and more to explore from a recruitment perspective what are the differences between hard and soft services.
Whilst qualifications and courses can enhance your chances of a job in both hard and soft services, the key difference between the two is legislation and regulation.
For certain tasks in hard services such as boiler maintenance, re-gassing air-conditioning units and signing off electrical installations - legislation dictates that you MUST have the relevant qualification to be legally compliant and, of course, safe. Qualifications include 2391 for electrical testing and inspection sign off, F-Gas for air-conditioning maintenance and re-gassing of units, and a CCN1 or COCN1 Gas ticket (depending on whether you are working on commercial and domestic) as well as inclusion on the Gas Safe Register.
Within soft services, there certainly are qualifications that look great on your CV and increase your credibility within the industry. However, these are not prerequisites - more an indicator of experience and knowledge level. Relevant qualifications include gaining an NVQ in Cleaning and courses such as COSHH, plus there are also various levels of qualification via BICs. Is it a requirement for the soft services industry? No. Will it help you progress through soft services into a more senior career? Absolutely.
The perception of hard services is one of male dominance, however, the soft services sector is very different - this is especially highlighted within the cleaning industry. According to the British Cleaning Council in its 2017 Industry Trend survey 73% of people employed in the general cleaning of buildings are female and 63% of people employed in other cleaning activities are female. In my experience of recruiting within the cleaning industry, I can reinforce these findings.
A lot of my clients would prefer BiCS qualifications but more as a 'desirable' - experience and reliability is key especially at higher-level positions. When looking at the balance of gender within the industry I have found that the scales in managerial, supervisory and cleaning operative positions across the UK are starting the level with 43% being female and 57% male. Is this a changing trend?
Tools Vs. Equipment:
More often than not the vast majority of Engineers are required to take hand tools as a minimum with them to site - which have been purchased themselves and often very expensive and special to them! They also have the added issue of rising incidences of tool theft to contend with - Napit Insurance recently reporting that a van is broken into every 23 minutes in the UK – this is something that goes largely unreported in the soft services industry, if it happens much at all.
An Engineer throughout his career can spend £10,000+ on tools, equipment as well as maintenance and recalibration. Soft services operatives and managers, however, have the majority of their equipment purchased for them that enables them to do their job – a soft services company will typically spend around £100 per month per Cleaner on consumables and renting / ownership of larger cleaning machines such as floor buffers.
Perception of Importance:
It would appear on the surface that the perception of hard services as more important in the Facilities Management industry is based on the specific qualifications needed in hard services to enable them to carry out their role, for example, if an AC or Gas unit breaks down only a certified Engineer can fix it – as well as the cost involved. Providing adequate, safe temperatures to work in is a legal requirement in the UK, hence the importance.
However if an workplace isn’t cleaned for one day, it tends to be one of the first things that staff and customers will complain about – leading to a potential loss of business and customer satisfaction (especially if they are unable to open due to health and safety concerns). Employees and customers value clean, tidy workplaces – especially when it comes to toilets; there is even now a World Toilet Day!
So for different reasons each both are equally as important as each other.
Take the industry as a whole - Facilities Management in a building is highly important. I’d go as far as to say to operate efficiently day to day, FM is more important than if your Directors or Senior Management decided to take a few days out of business.
Perks and Benefits
Work in soft services has a much lower barrier to entry than working in hard services, as a result of this, it is easier to find a job within soft services with little to no previous experience or qualifications. Jobs within hard services having a higher basic salary, as more of the roles require specific qualifications and often requires specific experience.
Another factor in the higher salaries is that hard services are experiencing a skill shortage, meaning that there is always work available for a candidate in hard services. Soft services is a rapidly growing industry, growing at a quicker rate than the national average. Coupled with the fact that a lot of soft services roles have good training and progression opportunities, means it is a sustainable long term career path.
Due to the nature of work within soft services, there is often more of an opportunity for flexible working hours to be had, whereas within hard services this is much less likely (although both hard and soft services also have roles available working split shift patterns).
Do you agree with the above? If you'd like to let the team know your thoughts - maybe you hire for both hard and soft services and you'd like to offer a different viewpoint or maybe you'd like to discuss your current recruitment needs you can contact the team here.