By Randall Niznick
From the June 2018 Issue
As facility management continues to make traction in becoming a career of choice rather than chance, many may wonder, “What do I have to do to enter into the field of facility management”? I hope to answer that question as I myself transitioned from military service into facility management.
The biggest lesson I learned with my own transition into facility management was that the technical skills I already possessed were not as important as the soft skills that are applied on a daily basis as you manage the built environment. The following are my observations on those soft skills (outside of standard management like budgeting, people management, etc.) needed to have a strong foundation upon entering this profession.
Customer Service. This is one of the fundamental and essential skills you need to have in facility management. Every work order that is called in is a result of someone who has been impacted (negatively or positively) by the built environment. When they place that work order they expect the situation to be resolved in a timely manner. Understanding the problem and being empathetic to the caller will assist you in becoming the leader in facilities that everyone will feel comfortable coming to when they have a facility issue.
Communication. A lack of communication can wreak havoc in the facilities profession. Communicating to our customers and keeping them up to date on the status of their work order is crucial to maintaining an excellent customer experience. If we do not communicate, people will think we do not care about their problem or concerns. This in turn could result in either resentment toward the facilities department or worse. People just want to know that they have been heard and that their concerns are being addressed. It is also beneficial if you can provide a timeline to completion of the request. People not only want to know that the issue is being taken care of but also when it is being taken care of. It is also important that facility managers communicate with external groups and various internal departments, which brings us to the next soft skill.
Relationship management. As facility managers, we have the distinct privilege to work with third-party vendors along with fellow employees and organizational leadership. All these stakeholders require us to build long-standing relationships of trust and integrity. We are no longer working from the mechanical rooms or in the basement of our facility; we are becoming an integral part of the organization’s initiatives. With this new focus we are now attending strategic meetings and are getting more face time with the organization’s leadership and decision makers. It is paramount to develop and manage relationships with stakeholders, fellow associates, vendors, etc.
Emotional Intelligence. As a facility manager, you are looked upon to develop emergency and security operational procedures in concert with the security and safety departments. In the unfortunate event of a real emergency, it is incumbent upon the facility manager to remain calm and act as incident commander, ensuring the safety of all employees and the facility. Additionally, there are times when facility management is suddenly thrust into the limelight, due to a building system failure for instance. You will have to provide immediate answers to the “what, who, how” of the failure. Do you have the confidence to handle the situation with professionalism and a calm demeanor? This is what will be expected in times of crisis or system failures.
Facility management takes on many forms depending on the type of buildings managed. What does this mean to you?
Every building is unique in its operations and its occupants. Does your facility house the executive offices? Does it have a call center? Are there lab environments that will require additional research and study on facility management’s part to ensure environmental compliance? All this and more is what a facility manager needs to think about when taking over management of a facility.
And as the old saying goes, nothing ever breaks at noon on a Monday. Being on call is a basic requirement for facility management. If you are not comfortable with making yourself available for after-hours facility issues, then this may not be the career to pursue. For me, I always have my cell phone on my person and at night… well it goes on my nightstand. Extreme? Maybe. But I never know when I will get that call at 2am from Security stating, “We have some flooding coming out of the pump room on the first floor.” It happens.
With all the above being said, one thing I absolutely love about this profession is the willingness to share knowledge with those of you who may be thinking about joining our ranks. For those who are interested, I highly encourage reaching out to facility managers via social media and other networking.
In closing I would like to leave you with my own personal quote about facilities management. As facility managers we: “Serve others through the sustainable management of the built environment”.
Based in Oakbrook Terrace, IL, Niznick is regional facilities operations manager with JLL, a professional services firm that specializes in real estate and investment management. JLL is a Fortune 500 company with nearly 300 corporate offices, and operations in over 80 countries. Niznick is a retired 23 year US Navy Seabee veteran who advanced from the HVAC and plumbing trades into maintenance and facilities management. He earned his B.Sc. in Environmental Management from the University of Maryland University College.
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