For Young FMs, Opportunities, Challenges Abound
The facilities management profession is changing rapidly, and it's up to young FMs to shape the future.
Coming into facility management at a time of significant changes, young facility managers are well aware of the challenges and opportunities before them. With the pending wave of retirements in the industry, there’s no better time than now for young facility managers to break into the field, says Mewengkang. In addition, as the industry continues to adopt new technologies, such as tablets and apps, the Millennial (and younger) native comfort with technology is a perceived strength.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, standardization of the industry is another expected development, says Scholnick. For example, the first two International Standards on facilities management (ISO 41011 and 41012) are due to come out. “There are programs that are recognizing FM, giving definition to what it is, what the terms are, what you can do for procedures, making it a much more structured and defined discipline,” she says. “That will help. People won’t be asking so much what it is. They’ll have a general awareness of FM and what is involved.”
Young facility managers also expect that the customer service component of the field will continue to grow in importance in their jobs. “Stakeholders are demanding a higher level of service, a faster level of service” says Lackner. “Everything moves at lighting speed now.”
Horton expects that the “user experience” of facilities will become a critical performance metric for facility managers, as it ties into the retention of the company’s workforce. “Another thing we’re going to see is not only the heavy use of technology in facility management, but also the UX, the user experience,” she says. As companies shift focus purely from profit to retaining talent, the facility manager is an important player in setting that strategy. “How do you do that? Maybe it’s a happy hour, maybe it’s a game room, maybe it’s a closed or open floor plan,” says Horton. “Maybe it’s thinking ok they need white walls for collaboration, but they also need beer. It’s just the soft service is all. This way it’s geared to that user experience.”
Selling the facility manager’s impact on the user experience, the day to day quality of life of hundreds of people, is a way to tap into a younger generation’s desire to have meaningful work with real-world impact.
“The truth is that there isn’t any glamour in this field,” says Mewengkang. “But what we can do to attract young professionals to this field is to showcase how exciting and rewarding it can be to be a part of the decisions and discussions of working on a building renovation project. To see how you can be part of the improvement of the environment and comfort of the occupants in the building that you work for.”
And though facility management doesn’t currently have the wow factor of other fields enjoyed by starchitects, celebrity chefs, and crime scene investigators, Horton sees no reason why it should not. After all, until very recently chefs were just cooks with tall hats working invisibly in hot kitchens outside of which nobody knew their name. All it took was properly branding the industry.
Horton suggests the FM industry tap into the strategies of the tech industry around growing their workforce with initiatives like Girls Who Code. “This is a hip, kick-ass industry,” she says. Why not start facility management clubs in schools? Why not go to an engineering class in a high school and present facility management as a career option? “It’s about making it more attractive to the younger generation. We need middle schoolers to be passionate about it too.”
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