Insight Blog

Desired Traits of Facilities Leaders at Institutions

Desired Traits of Facilities Leaders at Institutions
As facilities management (FM) has evolved over the past decade and is considered a critical component in the overall success of healthcare and higher education institutions, many experienced FM professionals have become recognized as “facilities officers.” With the status often reflected in title, compensation, and function, these leaders play key roles in overall strategic planning as well as capital planning and the oversight of major initiatives.
As part of this evolution “from boiler room to boardroom,” it has become imperative for professionals to effectively communicate to their executive teams and boards how FM concepts and approaches correlate to the achievement of long-term institutional goals. Simultaneously, FM professionals must lead their departments to achieve set objectives.

What are desired traits and proficiencies that hiring institutions should look for in a FM leader?
  • Ability to communicate with a variety of individuals who have technical and non-technical backgrounds.
  • Soft skills necessary to develop and maintain strong relationships with people at all levels as well as interact with a variety of stakeholders, such as the executive team, board members, end users, government entities, and the general public.
  • Strong financial aptitude to contribute to discussions related to cost savings and investment strategies. 
  • An innovative, change-agent mindset.
  • Knowledge of technological advancements and trends to recommend new and improved tools and practices.
  • Empowering leadership style to motivate team members and encourage collaboration.
  • Commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion and their related initiatives.
  • Understanding of strategic thinking and planning.
  • Ability to create a culture of adaptability and accountability.
  • Adeptness at building and leading high-performing teams.
  • Solid understanding of the maintenance of buildings and grounds, as well as campus operations and services.
A senior team member at Helbling shared insight on the ever-important balance of technical expertise and executive leadership ability. He explained that clients seek candidates who have an ideal blend of the two. In describing a candidate who was ultimately selected for a lead role, he said, “Not every engineer or executive has the willingness and/or ability to do both halves of this job, and this candidate was excited and unfazed by the challenge at hand.”
What are some additional qualifications that make a candidate stand out in a facilities leadership role?
The Ability to Oversee Capital Projects
With construction activity increasing as new facilities are built and existing ones renovated or expanded, healthcare and higher education institutions are finding value in securing professionals who understand how to oversee large and complex capital projects. This includes knowledge of management throughout design, planning, and all phases of construction, the benefits and risks associated with alternative delivery methods, and a solid understanding of applications. 

Organizations often seek professionals with experience on projects of comparable size and scope. LEED credentials and advanced certifications and degrees related to capital project building programs and/or general executive leadership are also of interest to institutions.

Knowledge of Sustainability, including Energy Management
Utility costs are significant at most institutions, and those institutions are always looking for ways to reduce expenses. Tremendous opportunities in savings can be realized through optimizing equipment, practices, and efficiencies.
There is also pressure to advance sustainability within many institutions, which often results in setting organizational-wide initiatives. The hiring teams at these institutions find candidates who have experience in sustainability planning, and the implementation of new practices, especially desirable.

The increased responsibilities and expectations of senior- and officer-level facilities professionals makes filling vacant positions more difficult and, at the same, more critical for hospitals, healthcare systems, colleges, and universities. If your organization has a hiring need for a facilities leader, please contact us to connect with a Helbling search consultant.