Fill your gaps: The top 5 gaps in facilities managers’ skill sets

by FM Media
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A list of the top five gaps in facilities managers’ skillsets that may need to be filled is provided by RYAN PURKISS, facilities manager and former recruitment consultant.

As facilities management is a diverse and complex industry comprising a number of different sectors and numerous types of assets, it can be a nightmare for prospective job hunters and hirers to navigate, let alone the individuals looking to break into the industry.
Those that are entrenched in the industry will testify to the fact that it is one of the most rewarding and exciting careers on offer, with no one day being the same and the variety of roles being endless. It is also a beast that constantly evolves and innovates. The industry has changed at a breath-taking speed over the last five years in Australia. Modern facilities managers have many new hats to add to their already extensive repertoire. This begs the question: how do you know which hat you need and where do you acquire one or all of them to get to where you want to be?
In terms of keeping up with trends and making yourself a more attractive choice for hiring managers or promotion through higher education, facilities management is one of the more difficult industries to navigate. Having worked on both sides of the fence as a recruiter and a hiring manager, I have a unique perspective on what knowhow the modern facilities manager is required to have.

So, what’s relevant? Surprisingly, regardless of the sector, the skills that employers are favouring lately are fairly similar, although which is ranked higher can vary. My top five are:

  1. Sustainability
  2. Occupational health and safety (OHS)
  3. Management
  4. Finance
  5. Project management

1. Sustainability
Sustainability is a huge industry in itself and facilities managers in all sectors need to keep up-to-date with changes in this field, as sustainability can provide a lot of value to clients by having a positive impact on their bottom line, as well as their branding and employees’ wellbeing. A number of years ago, the focus was on energy, water and waste efficiency within new buildings and understanding the required technology. Now, this has shifted to also include old buildings of every shape and size.
With the emergence of NABERS and other rating tools, the devil is in the detail, and how to measure, collate and examine data is becoming an everyday issue for modern facilities managers. Other new areas that are key in this field are culture change, procurement, community engagement and air quality. With numerous innovations and technologies on offer to achieve quick wins, it’s a no-brainer in the value-add category.

2. OHS
Although a golden oldie, safety is still the most important subject facilities managers need to be proficient in. While some old-timers, and some new-timers for that matter, may see OHS as a hindrance, the legal implications of a serious injury occurring need to be kept in mind. It is important to keep up-to-date with current changes in OHS legislation and improved OHS processes. This subject is of particular importance for those working, or wanting to work, in high-risk facilities or on high-risk sites. For instance, heavy industry and petrochemical companies work to extremely high standards that are uniform from their corporate office to their remote processing site. It’s best to know as much as you can in this field. I would recommend regular reviews of your current OHS practices following completion of an updated course.

3. Management
Whether managing staff, contractors or clients, if you have any managerial responsibility in your position or desired position description, then I would highly recommend taking some time to complete a course on the topic. As there are numerous courses available in this area, it is important that enough time is taken to ensure the chosen course will suit your preferred path. Decide on the skills you wish to acquire, be it motivating and inspiring staff or negotiating and getting the most out of a contract, and then find a course that covers those particular skills.
If you are fairly green in this area and are looking to work on your commercial acumen, an entry-level business management course may be the right choice. A base understanding of how a business works, budgets, profit and loss, contracts and marketing/branding will provide a great edge over the competition and impress clients when a suggestion that will help their company strategy is made. The possibilities for facilities managers to improve their clients’ processes and functionality is never-ending; the processes just need to be understood.

4. Finance
Finance can be a tricky area in which to gain experience as a junior or intermediate level facilities manager, but it can also be a big sticking point in gaining a foothold on that next rung. If you are in a senior position and have only managed a budget, it would also be a good idea to seek out more experience or a course in the area of finance.
Understanding the process around formulating, setting and managing a budget is extremely important, especially in these tight times. Generally speaking, facilities managers are expected to minimise costs and improve efficiencies, and if you do not knowing where to look within a contract or forecast, you will struggle to provide tangible results.
Employers are always looking for financial experience and it could be the difference between you making that transition or not. In this instance, I would recommend seeking experience within your current workplace, if possible. Being party to how your manager or finance division pulls together the annual spend would make it a lot easier to understand.

5. Project management
The philosophy and process engaged by a project manager can be extremely effective in assisting facilities managers to manage their workload. Having a sound structure to managing and prioritising all ongoing issues is imperative. Where this becomes an absolute necessity is when you have big or multiple projects to manage, whether it is churn, refurbishments or a new build. I don’t think there is a sector that does not involve substantial project work at some level. While practical experience is fantastic, it really pays to keep up-to-date with new tools and technologies to assist in managing your program of works. Some simple programs can be visually impressive when presenting to clients.

Whether you want to polish up your current skills or expand your repertoire, it is important to consider ongoing study as part of your general career development. Recruiters can perceive – incorrectly at times – that those who have not studied for some time are in fact stagnating. The trends above are the ‘hot’ areas that companies are looking for at the moment; however, no one is an expert in everything, so think carefully about where you want your career in facilities management to take you.

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