Professional Development: A Step Above The Rest

By Jim Lord and Joe Wargo
Published in the November 2012 issue of Today’s Facility Manager

The facilities management (FM) profession has evolved over the past several years to become a critical component in the overall success of healthcare and higher education institutions. FM executives now work strategically with administration teams in those sectors on progressive initiatives such as technology integration, sustainability, energy efficiency, green building, and alternative project delivery methods. These changes, along with an aging FM workforce, have prompted these institutions to focus on attracting and securing specific types of facility professionals who can assist them in achieving their objectives. These roles include: facilities officers, energy management professionals, and capital projects professionals as well as individuals with diverse competencies and advanced certifications and degrees.

Most senior FM professionals are playing key roles in their institutions’ overall strategies, capital programs, and major initiatives. And it has become imperative for these individuals to be able to communicate their thoughts and ideas effectively to directors and boards to illustrate how these concepts directly correlate to the long-term goals and success of the organization.

To accomplish these objectives, senior FM professionals need to have traits and skills that go well beyond traditional FM. These include:

  • Strong financial aptitude
  • Innovative, change agent mindset
  • Technological savvy to lead by example
  • Inclusive and empowering leadership style
  • Understanding of strategies and execution leadership
  • Comprehension of technological advancements and trends
  • Ability to create a culture of adaptability and accountability
  • Adeptness at building and leading high performance teams
  • Capability to foster a collaborative work environment that empowers employees
  • Solid understanding of energy management, systems reliability, life cycle operating costs, and deferred maintenance
  • Soft skills necessary to develop and maintain strong relationships with the public, boards, analysts, shareholder groups, senior administration, government entities, and end users

Competencies In Demand: Energy Management, Capital Projects, And Diverse Skill Sets

After salaries, utility costs are the largest single line item healthcare and higher education institutions have, and reducing those expenditures is a leading focus. Tremendous opportunities in savings can be realized through optimizing equipment, practices, and efficiencies.

Recently, energy roles showing increased demand are director of sustainability, director of utilities, commissioning manager, and energy manager/engineer. The ultimate objective of securing these individuals is to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. They are also accountable for obtaining the best prices on utilities through aggressive purchasing, effectively upgrading equipment to increase efficiency and return on investment (ROI), and implementing improved usage metering.

Meanwhile, with construction activity increasing for new facilities and renovations, institutions are finding value in professionals who understand how to manage the planning, design, and construction of large and complex projects. This includes knowledge of construction management, the benefits and risks associated with alternative delivery methods, and an understanding of applications such as Building Information Modeling (BIM).

To perform these responsibilities, organizations are seeking LEED AP certified professionals and senior level project managers. Advanced certifications and degrees are also of interest including Professional Engineer licensure, Architectural Registration, and Project Management Professional designation.

Across the board, institutions are looking for the following skill sets among FM professionals:

  • Managerial skills
  • Continuous improvement mentality
  • Proactive approach to maintenance
  • Knowledge of sustainability and green initiatives
  • Ability to hire, train, motivate, and empower staff
  • Understanding of current trends and best practices
  • Comprehension of computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS)
  • Excellent communication skills, verbal and written
  • Demonstrated successful management of budgets and ability to work within an organization’s financial constraints
  • Strong business acumen with the ability to calculate ROI for maintenance, energy, and capital projects expenditures
  • Ability to identify and implement utility cost saving measures with an eye towards increased efficiency, sustainability, and environmental focus

Against the backdrop of these developments impacting FM, hiring organizations have an increased interest in professionals who have taken the initiative to obtain advanced degrees and certifications (e.g., certified facility manager, certified healthcare facility manager, facilities management administrator, facility manager professional, sustainability facility professional).

It should also be noted that succession planning is gaining more attention as the majority of institutions have yet to establish formal plans of this type. The most immediate issue driving this planning is the aging workforce, which has the potential to leave a significant experience gap. Strategic advantages of succession planning are having the ability to be proactive with talent management, grooming subordinates to advance successfully within an organization, ensuring internal professionals continue to provide value, and retaining good employees by providing a clear career path.

As FM continues to be an increasingly integral part of overall strategies, its role and responsibilities will continue to adapt and add value to the financial stability of institutions. These changes will continue to provide opportunities for talented professionals who have the desire to impact the success of their organizations.





Lord is managing director at Helbling & Associates, Inc., a retained executive search firm specializing exclusively in facilities, construction, real estate, and engineering. He is involved with client development and leads searches for facilities management, operations, and senior level management. Wargo is a search consultant at Helbling & Associates, assisting prominent universities, preparatory schools, and healthcare institutions with strategic hiring needs in their facilities management departments since 2006.