By Brandon Lorenz, Senior Editor - September 2006 - Facilities Management
It’s a natural question for anyone, including facility executives: What can I do to improve my pay?
One way to start is to examine the factors that influence facility executive pay. The size and type of the space managed, number of employees overseen and size of the facility department’s budget all will impact pay.
Consider the salary range of facility/building managers, for example. The SalaryBase online salary survey shows the median salary for facility/building managers is $60,000, though the salaries included a low of $24,000 and topped out at $138,000.
Salary data were gathered through SalaryBase, an online survey on FacilitiesNet, the Web site of Building Operating Management and Maintenance Solutions magazines. Data analyzed for this article was submitted between August 2005 and July 2006 and included 1,167 responses.
With a $114,000 spread between the high and low points for facility/building managers — and similarly large salary ranges throughout the industry — there is clearly room for many facility professionals to increase their salary. But how?
While market factors such as building size and type have an impact on salary, there are things facility executives can do to make themselves more marketable. SalaryBase data show that the type and years of experience a facility executive has, along with a facility executive’s certifications and education, can sway salary numbers.
Seeking Soft Skills
Facility executives who develop the ability to communicate with a variety of people, from engineers and CFOs to business unit heads and tenants, and learn the ability to make business decisions, put themselves in a position to increase their earning power.
“A pure whiz-bang technician just isn’t going to cut it anymore, because if that is all a company is looking for, an outsourcing company will take it on for probably half or three quarters of what you would cost them,” says Wesley Easly, director at Specialty Consultants in Pittsburgh, Penn., and former chairman of CoreNet Global’s Compensation Committee.
Companies are increasingly looking for facility executives with solid business skills who can help manage the expectations of demanding tenants or business units, says Easly.
“This is a customer service business. You have to have people skills,” says Larry Morgan, who recently left his position as operations manager for the Westfield San Francisco Centre to become a operations and training consultant for corporate, commercial and hospitality facilities.
Developing the ability to plan strategically is also important, Easly says. Facility executives who can establish ties and communicate with tenants and business units will find themselves better able to plan for future needs.
And facility executives who can communicate with business units to find out what their needs will be in two or three years will be in a better position to develop alternate approaches if the business units make unrealistic requests.
“As business units have grown and become more and more demanding, they almost expect the impossible from a real estate provider,” Easly says. “You almost have to talk them into reality.”
A technical background is also important for many facility executives. But for successful facility executives, the technical background is a foundation that supports the soft skills.
“As you get into larger organizations the skill sets change,” says John Harrod, physical plant director for the University of Wisconsin - Madison. “It becomes not only what you bring as a technician, but also what you have in your professional toolbox when it comes to leadership and problem solving.”
It’s no surprise that facility executives with more experience will earn more than those who are just entering the job market. A candidate with experience is likely to contribute more quickly to the organization.
“Employers recognize they need to have someone who can get on board and get up to speed quickly,” says Morgan. “The training curve is really shallow.”
The median salary for facility professionals with 8 years or less experience is $50,000, while the median salary for those with 16 years of experience or more is $70,000, an increase of 40 percent, according to SalaryBase.
For facility executives looking to move up, not just any experience will do. Spending decades in the same position, for example, could harm a candidate, Easly says.
“When it comes to positions outside the public sector, in the executive recruiting world it is seen as a negative to spend more than ten years in one place because it means you cling to security as opposed to being entrepreneurial,” he says.
Nor should facility executives who have spent years on the job take their positions for granted. Easly says several facility executives have approached him after having their positions eliminated because of outsourcing.
And facility executives who have long tenure may find themselves dusting off an outdated resume and feeling rusty when it comes to job interviews, placing them at a disadvantage.
“If you go ten or more years without an interview you might find you can’t carry on a conversation with the interviewer because you don’t open yourself up to that kind of dialog,” Easly says.
Harrod says candidates who have varied experience on their resumes stand a better chance to advance. “The real key is applying previous knowledge and experience in real life situations. That’s why diversity of experience is important,” he says.
No Pain, No Gain
Sometimes facility executives need to take on some short-term pain to develop the experience that will lead to salary gain. That means being willing to move to second-tier cities or consider working for companies that may not have a headline-grabbing name.
But for younger facility executives, or those looking for a salary boost, the move can pay off because established facility executives often ignore such opportunities, Easly says. Taking such a position allows a candidate to build experience that might otherwise have taken years to gain.
“There are less desirable companies that have suffered financially or in terms of reputation where you can get a chance to prove yourself,” Easly says. “You can always leave after the fact, but the experience you get in the meantime of turning something around can be really valuable.”
Some facility executives may find there is no substitute for a college degree, whether it is an undergraduate or a master’s degree.
The average facility professional with a Bachelor’s degree or higher earned $65,000 according to SalaryBase, an increase of 26 percent compared to those without a degree. The gap was even higher for the title of vice president or director of facilities — having a degree brought directors a salary 34 percent higher.
Like many facility executives, Morgan, who recently turned 50, entered the job market when it wasn’t expected that facility executives earn college degrees. “When I got into the business, I missed the opportunity to get a formal degree. There weren’t any degrees in the system for facilities management or building management.”
That doesn’t mean facility executives without degrees haven’t found their way to the top of organizations. But for some candidates, not having a degree will close doors. “It’s always advisable to either finish a degree or obtain it in the first place,” says Easly.
For example, Easly says one recent candidate found himself out of the running because he lacked a degree. The reason? If hired, the candidate would have found himself supervising a number of young staff-level engineers, all of whom had degrees. Not having a degree would have made it challenging to establish authority given the corporate culture, he says.
Attaining relevant certifications or designations demonstrates a facility executive’s commitment to staying engaged with the industry, says Morgan. Examples include the International Facility Management Associations’ (IFMA) Certified Facility Manager (CFM) certification or Building Owners and Managers Institute’s Facility Management Administrator designation.
Attaining a certification or designation can also help earn a pay raise. Last year, those with an industry certification earned an average of 24 percent more than those without it, according to SalaryBase.
Facility executives who earn IFMA’s CFM credential have salaries 13 percent higher than those without it, says Mary Reynolds, IFMA’s director of professional development.
Other Certification Benefits
For facility executives who enter the industry with a general business background, a certification or designation can add confidence that they won’t be overwhelmed, even though they are entering from outside the industry.
“The certification becomes a kind of guarantee to a company that a person has a certain level of expertise,” Reynolds says.
IFMA’s Facility Management Professional designation, for example, is aimed at those who enter facilities management from outside the field, or who have less than five years experience in facilities management.
In addition, some companies have been willing to help pay for the cost of certification because the program is more substantial than a single certificate course, Reynolds says.
Certification and designation programs also offer an opportunity for networking and mentoring that facility executives may not find within their own company, she says.
Surging energy prices have put facility executives with energy management skills in demand, Easly says. Facility executives who earn the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED AP accreditation make themselves especially marketable, he says.
Facility executives who are considering a move up should have their resumes up to date and their network of contacts active, and should be prepared for job interviews.
Some of the most successful candidates pay attention to those details throughout their employment. Doing so keeps facility executives positioned for change. Being prepared can also reduce uncertainty if the unexpected occurs.
Easly recommends that facility executives ask themselves periodically: “Am I in my comfort zone?”
“If you are in your comfort zone, chances are you should probably move out of it,” he says. “The comfort zone is one step from being cycled out of the industry.”
Impact of Certification, Education Varies by Building Type
A breakdown of SalaryBase responses shows that facility professionals with certification or higher levels of education — a Bachelor’s degree or higher — earn significantly more than their peers without certification or with lower levels of education. But these breakdowns include salaries for a range of job titles, and they reflect the effects of more than just certification or education. For example, facility professionals with a higher title are more often certified, and a higher title generally brings a pay increase.
The SalaryBase median salary for facility professionals without certification is $54,000. The SalaryBase median salary with certification is $67,000 — a certification premium of 24 percent.
PREMIUM FOR HIGHER EDUCATION
The SalaryBase median salary for facility professionals without a bachelor’s degree is $51,650. The median salary with a bachelor’s degree or higher is $65,000 — a premium of 26 percent.
This report is based on responses to the online SalaryBase survey on FacilitiesNet, the Web site of Building Operating Management and Maintenance Solutions magazines. This report is based on data submitted between Aug. 1, 2005 and July 31, 2006.
|Want to see how much your colleagues earn? Want to contribute to the growing body of data that is helping facility executives see how they stack up against others in the industry? Visit www.facilitiesnet.com/salarybase to participate in the online survey of salaries paid to facility professionals. The SalaryBase survey takes less than two minutes to complete. You can also search SalaryBase to find out how much a wide range of job titles are paid. The search can also be customized by such factors as region, certification, education level, or building type, size and budget.|