These should be the worst of times for facility managers. After two decades of steady pressure on resources, the Great Recession brought a whole new level of budget pressure to bear on hard-pressed facility departments. Staff was cut, retirements were delayed, demands rose, the working day often got longer, and raises were deferred and deferred again. But through it all facility managers have been resilient. Perhaps the best indication of how resilient is the job satisfaction ratings in Building Operating Management's annual FM Pulse survey.
From 2008, before the full force of the recession had been felt, through the depths of the recession, to this year, those job satisfaction numbers have remained remarkably constant. (See "Despite Economy, Job Satisfaction Remains High" below.) Those who indicated that they were satisfied ranged from 88 percent to 91 percent. Within that group, those who called themselves very satisfied ranged from 44 percent to 48 percent. The most striking change came in 2009, when the number who said they were very dissatisfied jumped from 1 percent to 8 percent, before falling back to 2 percent in 2010.
But those job satisfaction numbers don't mean that facility departments somehow escaped the Great Recession unscathed. Just the opposite.
"We are operating with less staff," says Stan Peterson, director of operations for the Gilbert Public Schools, Gilbert, Ariz. "That started about four or five years ago. We had budget cuts two years in a row, and this year we had to make small cuts." There were layoffs in the first two years of the recession, but this year reductions have been accomplished through attrition. Cuts have affected general maintenance employees, such as welders or grounds keepers. "You try to do the same job you did before, but you don't have the people," Peterson says. "We've had to extend our rotations, to once every eight working days instead of once per week."
Peterson is not alone. Each year from 2009 to 2011, at least 30 percent of respondents reported they cut staff.
One result of the staffing cuts is that facility managers are working longer hours. It's easy to see why. Consider a property manager who was once responsible for income budgeting, expense budgeting, annual capital planning, and facility cleaning, among other responsibilities, says Jack Althoff, a project manager for Equity Office Properties and owner representative for ProJeX Inc. But nowadays, that same property manager is also responsible for tenant improvements, leasing initiatives, and staff hiring and performance reviews — and even this list is hardly exhaustive. "Property managers have become human resources managers, construction managers, and tax people," he notes.
Information for the survey was gathered through a series of e-mails from FacilitiesNet, the website of Building Operating Management and Facility Maintenance Decisions magazines. Data were submitted during June and July and included 2,591 responses. Salary and raise information is reported as the median amount. The median is a measure used to indicate a middle point of data. Half who responded earned less than the median, while half earned more. Numbers that are extremely high or low do not distort it. Some charts may not add to 100 percent because of rounding.
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