The 4 skills of any successful facility manager, according to experts

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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
  • Sustainability
  • Facility information and technology management
  • Risk management
  • Communication
  • Performance and quality
  • Leadership and strategy
  • Real estate
  • Project management
  • Finance and business

It's safe to say then that facility managers must possess a wide range of essential skills. 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.

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Elliott Chase

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 two areas that are critical to success.

  1. 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.
  2. And as we shift toward a greater reliance on cloud-based technology, there is (as there always has been) a premium on very human traitsFacilities management is a people business, on multiple dimensions, and will continue to be. 

2. Compassion 

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, co-owner of Hospitality Works!, agrees that one of the most important skills for a facility manager is the ability to deal with people effectively.

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Jurriaan Hommes

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 HommesLinkedIn Group Owner of Integrated 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.

3. Adaptability

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, Chief Marketing Officer at ISS A/S and Non Executive Board Member at IFMA, believes that the number one skill of facility manager is adaptability.

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Peter Ankerstjerne

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:

 

 

More recently, 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."

You can see his full write-up here

4. A data-driven mindset

David Markowitz of ServiceChannel, and expert on facilities management analytics tools, knows a thing or two about analyzing data. 

He believes that adding value as a facility manager means analyzing facilities spend, contractor performance, and quality of service (among other things. But that's not all.

You then need to proactively identify cost outliers and areas of improvement. 

 

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David Markowitz

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. 

Markowitz goes further in outlining what it takes to "get a seat" at the proverbial table in stakeholder management in his e-book What You Need to Know to Succeed in Facilities Management in 2020.

Having it all

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 base for additional resources. 

What is abundantly clear though is that the role of facility managers extend way beyond on-site responsibilities. The career paths available correlate directly to the value facility management professionals bring to their organizations.

Bottom line? There are exciting times ahead!

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Editor's Note: This post was originally published in March 2017 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.


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