Written by: Jim Lord, Managing Director (As published in PRSM Magazine's May / June 2013 issue)
As an executive recruiter who specializes in the facilities management sector, I am often asked by clients to summarize market conditions and available talent pool. In addressing their questions, I frequently refer to the generational dynamics currently in the U.S., which are creating a shortage of mid-management level talent in all professions, including facilities management.
Sandwiched between 80 million Baby Boomers and 78 million Millennials, are only 46 million members of Generation X. This generation was the first to have computer science and software engineering as real, viable options for their college education. Therefore, those individuals with a technical bent were presented with a different career path instead of the standard civil, mechanical or electrical engineering. Additionally, due to perceived limited opportunities as the result of the de-industrialization of the U. S. and manufacturing jobs being shifted overseas, Generation Xers were pushed toward continuing their educations versus pursuing careers in the trades. As a result of all of these factors, fewer members of this smaller generation are in facilities management roles. Therefore, to find the quantity of talent necessary in the growing facilities management sector, it is necessary to pursue the Millennial generation.
As with every generation, Millennials have their own unique characteristics that include a heavy technological focus and familiarity with/reliance upon smart phones and tablet computers – traits that are very attractive in today’s facilities management industry. With advances in technology with BIM, Building Automation Systems, PLC controls, and CMMS programs, the hand-held computer is being implemented as a tool with great success. It is not abnormal to see maintenance technicians armed with smart devices to manage and track their work orders and progress. Additionally, among multiple site locations, tracking workforce deployment and efficiency is increasingly computerized and automated, including the ability to track actual locations of technicians via GPS technology.
With facilities management evolving to have a strong technological component, more concerted efforts should be initiated to educate college students on facilities careers. In an environment where computer software and Fortune 500 companies are viewed as highly attractive to the top technical minds within colleges and universities, facilities management is often overlooked because it is lacking in the “sexy” factor. But, there are ways to overcome this such as appealing to Millennials’ interest in environmental issues. Educating them on the utilities and energy component of facilities management could capture their enthusiasm for these issues and their want of a higher purpose.
Additionally, there is a recession-proof component of facilities management careers primarily due to efficiency always being a primary objective of organizations. When economic times are good, companies grow and expand. For the technologically-oriented facilities professional, these circumstances are viewed as opportunities to increase efficiency without headcount. In contrast, when the economy slows down, efficiency in facilities operations comes to the forefront. This is because, after salaries, facilities and, more specifically, utilities, is the largest line item in most organizations’ budgets. Similarly, a progressive-minded facilities professional sees these circumstances as a time to evaluate and improve the efficiency of maintenance operations and utilities utilization.
Simply put, energy management capabilities are always in high demand to increase the bottom lines of organizations. The highly skilled facilities professional who understands this can return a multiple of their salary back to their organization in savings.
In summary, facilities management is an engaging and stable career track for those with the interest and strong technical capability. The industry just needs to put more effort forth in “getting the message out” to students and others who could be valuable additions to the field.
Jim Lord is a Managing Director with Helbling & Associates.
PRSM Magazine provides expert insights from today's thought leaders as well as best practices and interviews with retail facilities executives. Topics covered include: sustainability, disaster planning, asset management, procurement, global facilities, and store maintenance.