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New Chair of EuroFM, Natalie Hofman

June 12, 2023

‘In recent years, the two worlds within facility management, service provision, and providing a well-functioning work environment, have come closer together.’

Natalie Hofman assumed the role of Chair of EuroFM in February of this year. Let’s delve into her background and explore her journey in the field of facility management. Furthermore, we’ll uncover the reasons behind her ascent to the presidency and discuss the challenges that she anticipates for EuroFM over the next five years.

Who is Natalie Hofman
“I have two children and I live happily in The Hague. For the past three decades, I have dedicated my career to the field of facility management. With a background in the hospitality industry, I stumbled into the field of facility management by chance. I made the transition from the “soft” side to the “hard” side of the field, moving from service provision to the building and its technical aspects, everything that involves the interior and exterior of a building. Seven years ago, I became a self-employed entrepreneur. Since then, I have been primarily supporting organisations in addressing various issues, often in the organisational domain of facility management, such as how companies can make their organisations future-proof. Additionally, I support boards of associations and foundations, often in the role of “mediation,” focusing on optimizing collaboration.”

How did you get involved in the EuroFM network?
“Throughout my career, I have been dedicated to advancing the field. It all started with being an editor for the Facility Management International (FMI) magazine. Over time, I became more involved in the network itself. Eventually, I became the President of FMN (Facility Management Nederland), and from that position, I joined the board of EuroFM three years ago.”

Has there been a lot of change due to the pandemic?
“Due to the pandemic, the field of facility management has undergone significant changes, in a positive sense. Previously, I often had to explain what my field of work entailed at social gatherings. But now, thanks to the pandemic, we have collectively started thinking about the actual purpose of the office. When do we go to the office, and what work can or would you rather do from home? Furthermore, the field has started contemplating how to create a healthy and safe working environment within the office. For example, how do we maintain a healthy indoor climate and promote conscious behavior while drastically transforming the function of the building? In recent years, the two worlds of service provision and providing a well-functioning work environment have come closer together.

We are re-evaluating what we used to take for granted and exploring other possibilities. Younger generations also have different needs than the established order, which has a different impact on the work environment. We are already witnessing the first signs of organisations consciously choosing to divest from costly real estate and considering what employees themselves want. What does the employee in question need to perform their work effectively? This has led to the emergence of new approaches, but we are still at the beginning because our field has not been very innovative in the past twenty years. It will take several more years for us to find a form that truly works for everyone.”

What role does EuroFM play within the industry?
“There is a significant need for knowledge sharing and exchanging experiences within and outside the industry. A professional or industry association has an important task of connecting people and sharing knowledge. Facility management is not a recognized industry, but it is a profession in which 88 million people worldwide work. In this field, it is essential to keep track of relevant research being conducted worldwide and ensure that it reaches the members within the network. Reinventing the wheel every time there are significant changes, such as modifying the work environment, is costly and time-consuming. It is beneficial to be able to draw on existing examples.”

Why did you become the Chair?
“EuroFM is a European network organisation. In my daily life, I also work for an international organisation. So it aligns with what I already do, and I find it very interesting to see what is being developed within our field in Europe and to learn from it. But also, compared to other countries, we are advanced in the development of our field. In the Netherlands, there are eight hbo-programs in facility management. That is significantly higher compared to other countries. For example, in Spain, there are only two. Countries around us are definitely interested in how we do things here. As Chair, I am happy to contribute to this.”

What do you see as the biggest challenges for the network in the next five years?
“One of the biggest challenges for the networks and associations is working with volunteers, and EuroFM is no exception. The workload in our field is high. “Don’t forget that facility costs always form an expense without any direct revenue. Budget cuts are often implemented in our area. I always say: Leading a network or being on a board is essentially like having a job; you have to run a company together. At certain times, you depend on a few key players who also volunteer their efforts. The budget is limited, and we do not receive subsidies or other financing. We really rely on members paying their dues. This means we don’t have the ability to incur significant expenses.”

Another challenge is sustainability. It’s high on everyone’s agenda, but the question is how to make it concrete and ensure sufficient attention is given to it. Other topics, such as price increases and labor shortages, are now coming to the forefront.
We need to be careful that these issues don’t overshadow sustainability and push it lower on the priority list. It’s necessary to shape the energy transition and genuinely consider circular usage instead of constantly purchasing new products. The COVID-19 pandemic has helped restructure mobility. We are already driving less, which is good. But how will we sustain this in the coming years? We’re seeing traffic congestion slowly returning, so have we achieved something, or do we need to refocus on this issue?”

What do you hope to achieve during your presidency? When will you be proud?
“After COVID-19, we had to make a sort of fresh start. I would like to see us maintain and further develop the program we started during the pandemic period. This includes organising several informative sessions per year. I would also be proud if we can increase our membership numbers. Despite the current workload, members are willing to participate and see the value of being part of an association. This way, EuroFM can continue to grow as a network within Europe.”

What is the current representation of young professionals in the industry association?
“In terms of effective members, the representation of young professionals is actually low. However, our reach is extensive through social media. We are an association that works with memberships from universities, colleges, and organisations, so we have relatively easy access to many young professionals. Students from these educational institutions can participate in the events we organize through our network. Nevertheless, it’s challenging because today’s students are being pulled in different directions. They also have a different mindset compared to a few years ago. The job market has changed, and there is a greater guarantee of employment after graduation than ten years ago. The need for a strong connection to the job market is less crucial as job opportunities come more easily.

Therefore, we try to address topics that resonate with young professionals, always with a link to our field, such as sustainability. Today’s youth has different principles when it comes to work execution and views organisations differently. It’s no longer enough to claim sustainability on your website; young professionals want to see it in action. They want sustainability to be deeply embedded in every aspect. This means managing supply chains in a certain way, being socially sustainable, and creating a work environment with good health and manageable workload. This is the theme where we need to take steps together in the coming years.”

What does EuroFM look like in ten years?
“I sincerely hope that our membership has doubled, both in numbers and diversity. We are very broad in our scope. We don’t have our own industry classification but draw from other industries. We are closely related to powerful sectors such as the technical or cleaning industry, which have their own collective labor agreements. This makes it easier to share knowledge but more challenging to attract “exclusive” members to our network. A dedicated collective labor agreement for the facility management industry is a significant ambition that cannot be easily achieved. Collaboration with other industry organisations is necessary to initiate such an agreement because our current structure does not support it.”

What does Lejeune Association Management mean for the network?
“The association is essentially a company, and having a back office is essential. It’s reassuring to have an organisation supporting us as volunteers to handle certain matters properly. Lejeune has been fulfilling this role for a few years now. They bring extensive experience, both nationally and internationally. This helps to get certain initiatives off the ground and ensure their sustainability. I find that very gratifying.”

Text and photo: Ria Luitjes

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