Bridging The Facilities Talent Gap

As seasoned facility management professionals enter retirement, the next generation benefits from technology that captures institutional knowledge.

facility management By Marc Moschetto
From the November/December 2016 Issue

For facility executives and other operations professionals, the list of day-to-day issues involved with keeping an organization running smoothly is never ending. One that is muscling its way up the list in priority is the reality of facility staffing shortages. Despite the growing demand for well-trained facility management professionals to keep hospitals, schools, manufacturing facilities, government, and membership-based organizations running smoothly, the available talent pool for these positions is shrinking.

The numbers point to a two-pronged cause. On the front end, the number of people entering the field is on the decline, with fewer students earning a facilities management accredited degree. But the statistics on operations professionals on the latter ends of their careers are sobering, considering the U.S. Census Bureau says 10,000 baby boomers will turn 65 years old every day until about 2030. The Sloan Center on Aging and Work says that over the next 10 years, those numbers translate to more than 50% of facility management personnel packing up their offices and handing over their keys to the younger generation.

Organizations Losing More Than Employees

There’s no doubt that the issue needs to be tackled from both sides because either way, the result is a loss of manpower. However, the impact of losing an employee to retirement goes beyond trying to fill a position. Organizations also lose a wealth of invaluable, on-the-job experience and knowledge when facility managers leave work for the last time.

Employers know that’s trouble, according to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management and AARP. Nearly half of the respondents surveyed recognize that the loss of older workers over the next decade will be a problem. Nearly 40% believe it will hurt their entire industry.

When it comes to facilities management, the knowledge retirees take with them can mean closing the vault of data on:

  • The location of operational equipment and resources throughout a facility, like valves, outlets and vents, and utility meters
  • Work order history, including information about what items need work and what has been retrofitted
  • Their team’s skills, strengths, and weaknesses, learned after years of working with them

And today’s retiring operations professionals are part of a declining group of employees who have most likely worked years, even decades, with one company—keepers of a trove of historical data that’s not easily recalled or replicated. Without capturing that valuable information, organizations are left with staffing and operational gaps that affect their day-to-day processes now, as well as in the future, when faced with onboarding new, less experienced staff.

Technology To Take On The Challenge

Rather than allowing such institutional knowledge to be swallowed by those gaps, proactive organizations are bridging them by leveraging computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS). Maintenance management software can serve as a vault for the type of historical data that organizations count on to document processes, monitor and coordinate facility management functions, and plan for the future. Data is driving decisions for these facilities, as they use CMMS systems to gather, analyze, and put data to work to integrate day-to-day operations with capital forecasting. Data is equipping facilities professionals with better insight to make the right decisions.

Organizations that are transitioning to this data resource have put in place crucial best practices to navigate change successfully. They’re refocusing the way they see change—choosing to view it as an opportunity and taking advantage of the new influx of data by prioritizing these areas:

Building Community: For employees facing significant changes in who and how facilities manage operations, strong leadership can be the difference between adapting to change and floundering in it. Leaders who navigate changes with confidence, while providing their team effective resources needed to do their jobs well, build a close community that’s more likely to invest in change and commit for the long-term. For some organizations this could mean hiring the appropriate resources as replacements, including the team in the hiring process, promoting from within the group, or being supportive of technology investments that can ease the transition.

Providing Documentation: Documentation goes a long way in bridging facility management gaps—if it’s accessible and usable, that is. As organizations roll out changes, a CMMS equips staff with the ability to process, log, and track workflow efficiently from anywhere. It provides a standard of consistency by giving all employees (the experienced and not-so-experienced) fast, easy access to information they need to do their jobs.

One food packaging manufacturer, Hart Industries, needed better facility management documentation to secure a third-party certification for the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act and recognized by the Global Food Safety Initiative. Hart turned to its CMMS to start documenting in more detail and put preventive maintenance (PM) programs in place to verify that jobs are being done, and being done on time. As a result, the packaging company scored a perfect 100 on its first audit due to the CMMS helping to ensure robust attention to detail. This documentation will also help future employees get up to speed on the PM program more quickly.

Accessing Data: Documenting processes opens the door to a wealth of data that’s key to optimum operational efficiency today and in the future. A CMMS provides historical and real-time data that enables organizations to track processes and trends, making it easier for even less experienced employees to determine the right solution to problems. Extensive reporting capabilities also provide insight to justify current and future resources that are essential to an organization operating at top efficiency.

Albuquerque Public Schools has used its CMMS to create a large database of historical work, which enables them to benchmark and plan for future facility maintenance and upgrades. Having this type of key performance indicator (KPI) data is a valuable tool when managing employee transitions, but it is also key for enabling data-driven decisions.

Taking Action Today: The evidence is clear that a shrinking facilities management workforce threatens to stunt many organizations’ efficiency and growth. While the facility management industry takes on the long-term issue of how to increase the supply of incoming professionals, organizations can address the impending exodus of operational professionals now by leveraging technology to actually unleash a new level of efficiency and growth.

facility managementMoschetto serves as chief marketing officer for Dude Solutions, a cloud-based provider of operations management solutions to education, government, healthcare, manufacturing, and membership-based organizations.

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