New Survey Reports on Industry Job Satisfaction, Job Security and FM Pay

By Brandon Lorenz, Senior Editor  

Whether it’s pressure to do more with less in an uncertain economy, manage surging energy costs or curb greenhouse gas emissions because of a mandate from the CEO, facility executives are clearly facing increasing challenges.

But it’s also clear that the pressure isn’t getting to facility executives. Far from it: Facility professionals are overwhelmingly satisfied with their jobs, according to a new survey.

The vast majority of facility professionals — 91 percent — reported being either “very satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied” with their jobs. At the same time, however, 30 percent reported that limited resources was their biggest challenge, while another 19 percent cited increasing workloads.

Still, while facility executives are clearly aware of the challenges they face, they have shown their satisfaction in another way: loyalty. Twenty-three percent of survey respondents reported spending 20 years or more employed with the same company.

Such employees can be considered tree huggers, says Stormy Friday, principal of the Friday Group, a consulting firm, because they stay so long in a company — sometimes even in one position. “They are in facility management more than any other profession we’ve looked at,” Friday says.

Such loyalty comes with a price. Facility professionals who spend decades working within the same organization are likely to report smaller raises and salaries than those who move around.

The median salary of a facility professional with five to nine years in a company is $80,000, the same as those who reported 20 or more years in a company. (See “Pay and Years,” page 46.) But employees who have fewer years with the same organization reported a much higher median raise this year: 3.53 percent versus 2.99 percent for those who had stayed at least two decades.

The message for facility executives: If you want to move up, you’d better be prepared to move out.

“A body at rest tends to stay at rest,” says Paul Lewis, senior managing director at Specialty Consultants in Pittsburgh, Penn.

Facility professionals who reported spending between 10 and 14 years within the same organization appear most at risk for stagnant salaries. Those with 10 to 14 years in a company reported a median salary of $75,000, compared to a median salary of $73,000 for those with four years or less in a company.

“People in FM don’t move around a lot, and it’s a problem not just for individuals, but for the organizations,” says Friday. “They don’t get an infusion of new ideas and new blood. If an organization is accustomed to paying for knowledge, these people don’t bring much to the table after 20 to 25 years.”

For those who are stuck within an organization, the next way to demonstrate value (and boost earning potential) is to focus on networking and attend industry trade shows to bring fresh ideas back to the organization, Friday says.

Poised for Change

Survey results also suggest the industry is poised for a huge shift as older, experienced employees migrate out of the industry. The median age of facility professionals who responded to the survey is 50. Meanwhile, 54 percent of respondents report having at least 20 years of facility experience.

In fact, 8 percent of respondents have 35 or more years of experience. By contrast, new workers (those with no more than 4 years facility experience) only represent 7 percent of respondents. New workers reported earning median salaries of $62,000.

Still, while a wave of workers is preparing to move into retirement, for now the movement is just a trickle. There isn’t a flood of opportunities in the industry. The majority of respondents (82 percent) describe the potential for advancement as either “somewhat slow” or “very slow.”

Paths to Advancement

For those who don’t want to wait for a flood of retirements to provide opportunities for promotions, one possible path is to work for an outsourcing or property management firm. Only 2 percent of respondents described advancement opportunities as rapid. But those who did were much more likely to work for an outsourcing or property management firm.

Those who work for outsourcing and property management firms also report higher salaries and raises than those working for in-house FM departments. In-house employees reported a median salary of $75,000. Employees for property management or outsourcing firms reported a median salary of $82,000.

Choosing the right company to work for can improve one’s prospects for advancement, but that decision isn’t the only factor deciding who gets ahead. Those looking to advance in the workforce need to look beyond technical competencies and demonstrate business skills such as using facilities to improve the company’s bottom line, Lewis says. The longer people stay in a technical role, the less of an upside they will have, he says.

The need for business skills helps explain the premium paid to facility employees who have a college degree. Facility professionals with a bachelor’s degree have a median salary 45 percent higher than those with high school degrees. “Degrees are pretty much a standard requirement,” says Friday.

Survey results bear that out. The majority of respondents (53 percent) reported holding a bachelor’s degree or higher. The number jumps to 72 percent when those who report having some college education are added.

Job Security Outlook

Despite the possibility of a souring economy, facility professionals remain largely optimistic about the state of the industry.

Many of the indicators are strong: The median raise reported by facility professionals this year was 3.23 percent. Bonuses have the potential to be healthy. And many facility professionals have spent decades working for the same organization, a situation they don’t expect to change. Most (83 percent) facility professionals expect to stay with the same company this year. Stability is the rule in many ways: only 13 percent expect a promotion, but even fewer — 4 percent of respondents — are afraid of being downsized.

And just 7 percent of respondents reported being downsized in the last three years from a facility job. Those who reported being downsized were significantly more likely to be working in outsourcing or property management firms.

Very few respondents viewed outsourcing as a competitive threat to their jobs, even though most expected that outsourcing would be slightly more common in their facility organization this year.

“I think 10 or 15 years ago people were panicked about outsourcing,” says Friday. “Everyone saw it as a threat. But I think people today have gotten smart and figure once they know what an organization’s core competencies are, getting help from external providers is probably the way to go.”

Still, while facility professionals may be optimistic, Lewis expects the coming months to put downward pressure on compensation. “You won’t get as many new buildings being built. There will be downward pressure on rent and less dollars available for salaries,” Lewis says.

On the in-house side, many big companies are going from growth mode to belt tightening. “As some of these corporations aren’t generating profitability, they more than likely are going to curtail expenditures in real estate, a non-income producing entity,” he says.

Still, even if the market turns soft, there may be opportunities for facility executives. In a soft market, employees often view changing jobs as more of a risk, so companies often have to offer higher salaries than during good times, Lewis says.

“Some of the biggest pay increases you can get are in a tough market,” he says. “There just aren’t as many opportunities out there.”

About the Survey

Information for the survey was gathered through an e-mail from FacilitiesNet, the Web site of Building Operating Management and Maintenance Solutions magazines. Data was submitted between May and July and included 1,164 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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Survey Graphs/Charts (pdf)

How satisfied are you? / What is your biggest concern?

I expect to advance

I expect the size of my staff to

I expect the use of outsourcing to

Job Prospects: This year I expect

What Shapes Salaries?

Salary by Title:

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  posted on 9/1/2008   Article Use Policy

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