I was talking to a contact in a different industry about the Facilities Management department at their company and the general lack of balance between the technical or functional skills and other general business skills within the facilities industry.
Interestingly, my contact shifted the discussion to their own profession and the fact that they have the same problem we have in Facility Management. Their point was that many people get the specific training they need in the field, do the job really well and then are promoted to management or administrative roles but haven’t received the training they should have to manage people, budgets and other business responsibilities, including, in some cases, facilities issues.
This is the same issue we face in the Facilities Management profession, with many of us finding ourselves in the profession with a very focused technical background and then needing more and more general business skills and soft skills to make the best of our evolving role or expanding responsibilities as we progress in the profession - to areas not within our original expertise. And at the same time, organizations are not supporting employees as much as they used to with training we need for subsequent roles, whether it’s paying for the training or providing time off to get training in management, leadership and other general business skills.
It also reminded me of a discussion with the manager of a portfolio of residential retirement facilities. While he was a corporate resource with Facilities background, he told me that the real day-to-day management of the facilities was under the responsibility of the local Director of each residence. These Directors were primarily healthcare professionals who ended up with senior administration and management responsibilities, including areas where they didn’t have any training or background, such as facilities. And in most cases, there wasn’t a dedicated facility manager so either the Director or another administrative position at the facility took on the direct responsibilities. Given the complexity, legislative requirements and risks associated with facilities, this approach can leave them open to high costs, inefficiency and even personal and corporate risks because they don't know the industry.
This is one example, but there are many other businesses, usually small or midsized, where a professional, experienced, trained Facilities resource simply isn’t considered a necessity and someone else in the organization is given the responsibility for managing by default. They may not be aware of the broader FM community where they can learn more about how to manage their responsibilities.
Why does this matter?
Well, aside from the fact that we need to expand our own knowledge and training to more general business skills and training in the Facilities profession, this issue is an opportunity. There are many businesses that own or occupy facilities yet haven’t realized the value or the need for an experienced Facilities resource.
These companies and the employee they put in charge probably don’t understand the risk they have around costs and liability and don’t understand that there are professionals who can help get better services at the right price while managing risk. They also don't understand that it includes more than just technical knowledge and skills.
So there are lots of places where we can grow and develop our industry even further. The Facilities industry, and in particular the Facility Management associations around the world, have an opportunity to improve the leadership, management and strategic skills of Facility Managers. They also need to communicate and indeed promote the benefits of dedicated, professional management of facilities to these companies and elevate the importance of the profession within the business world.
This will eventually mean better run buildings and more career opportunities for professionals within the Facilities industry while also elevating the importance of the profession within the organizations we serve.
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