According to the International Facility Management Association (IFMA), a facility manager (FM) must in their capacity "ensure functionality, comfort, safety and efficiency of the built environment by integrating people, place, process and technology."
IFMA also lists a number of "skill sets" required of facility management professionals:
Occupancy and human factors
Operations and maintenance
Facility information and technology management
Performance and quality
Leadership and strategy
Finance and business
It's safe to say that facility managers must possess a wide range of essential skills. This has never been more true than in 2020, where the COVID-19 pandemic is fueling immense changes to the workplace and to FM responsibilities.
So we reached out to several industry experts and asked them to choose what they believe is the #1 skill for success.
Each FM also provided real-life examples along with their insights into why each skill is vital to crafting an efficient and safe work environment.
1. Technological creativity
By nature, facility managers get tons of challenges thrown at them every day. Many of these challenges will demand creative solutions.
This is especially true with the influx of technological solutions - one needs to find a creative combination of technological tools to best fit the needs of the facility.— Elliott Chase, Managing Editor at i-FM.
So if you're used to simply following the rules and doing “business as usual,” then chances are you're not going to build an innovative workplace. In fact, you risk falling behind on many important tools you should be aware of.
Much talk of change in the industry now hinges around the growing role of technology. From our point of view, as industry observers, it seems clear that there are three areas that are critical to success:
This requires an open mind about new opportunities coming along for service management, delivery, and reporting. These will help an FM stay both up-to-date and in demand.
And as we shift toward a greater reliance on cloud-based technology, there is (as there always has been) a premium on very human traits. Facilities management is a people business, on multiple dimensions, and will continue to be.
Now more than ever, we need to rely on these solutions to help keep our people and assets safe in the context of global pandemics. We require better vetting and tracking of individuals like employees, visitors, and contractors who set foot on our premises.
More recently, I spoke about how Proxyclick's customer Sodexo has set a great example in technological creativity during COVID-19. As they offer food catering and facility management services across various industries, they had to come up with an adaptable business continuity plan per region.
They used Proxyclick to create a set of health-related questions for employees and visitors to reduce the risk of infection. They also adapted to fast-changing regulations in countries like Singapore, using Proxyclick from home to set new safety rules for visitors arriving the next day.
A majority of the responsibilities of a facility manager focuses on creating a happier and healthier work environment. So it’s imperative to put yourself into the shoes of your workers and facility guests—and to show compassion.
Jurriaan Hommes, currently the Regional Strategic Account BSC - Europe, Russia, and Turkey for Diversey, agrees that one of the most important skills for a facility manager is the ability to deal with people effectively.
Facility Management is all about the employees working for you within all FM services, the different stakeholders, the end users, and the guests.
It is not just about the 'desk' job and all the processes, it's about what your guests (and employees) experience every day when passing through your department. You need to guide your staff by example and be present if needed.— Jurriaan Hommes, LinkedIn Group OwnerofIntegrated Facility Management
The ability to better understand your guests’ and employee’s struggles and anticipate their frustrations will allow you to create a workplace that actually addresses their needs, instead of one that just looks good on paper.
No matter how savvy you are with Excel or building management software, you need to be able to quickly handle new or urgent situations that come your way.
You have to do so in a very calm, cool, collected demeanor.
Peter Ankerstjerne, currently the Global Facility Management & Employee Services Lead at JLL, and 1st Vice Chair of the IFMA Board of Directors, believes that the number one skill of facility manager is adaptability.
Facility managers must be able to understand and support the customer's’ core business and to adapt the workplace and the service set-up accordingly.— Peter Ankerstjerne
Ankerstjerne speaks frequently on this very topic, as he did in Madrid in 2015:
Ankerstjerne writes, "...as Facility Managers, we must evolve beyond our engineering and workplace administration skills into becoming more people-centric in the way we design and manage our workplace focusing on how to further leveraging organizational productivity and developing company culture."
During the 2020 COVID-19 outbreak, Akerstjerne spoke out about adapting to a new normal in the office, and new roles and responsibilities among facility managers. As he stresses on LinkedIn:
In navigating what's next, it's critical to now prepare for the reactivation of our workplace and to balance the health, safety, and financial implications of the COVID-19 lockdown. Preparedness, resilience, and agility will be key as we continue to implement the necessary health and wellbeing measures to allow the workplace to be safe and effective.
He believes that adding value as a facility manager means analyzing things like facilities spend, contractor performance, and quality of service. But that's not all.
You then need to proactively identify cost outliers and areas of improvement.
Today, any facilities manager looking to stay on top of his/her game, needs to be increasingly data-driven. The profession's moving away from simply being a reactive, dispatcher of technicians for work requests.— David Markowitz
He goes on to say that having the right facility management analytics tools make all the difference. Only then you can you leverage all the data available.
While each skill is important on its own, the combination of all of the above can really be the difference between an average facility manager and one that shines. (You can dig deeper into the IFMA knowledge basefor additional resources.)
What is abundantly clear, though, is that the changing role of facility managers extends way beyond on-site responsibilities, particularly during difficult situations like global pandemics.
The career paths available now and in the future correlate directly to the value facility management professionals bring to their organizations.
Bottom line? As we're facing sudden transformations in the workplace, there are exciting and important challenges ahead.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in March 2017 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.