Over the centuries, buildings have gone from a means of shelter to an actor in our daily lives. As technology advances, we expect our spaces to work for us, not against us. We expect the buildings we occupy, whether it is a building in which we live, work, learn or play, to be safe, functional and comfortable. There’s a lot to do to make that happen, which is why facility managers can be such an important function. Yet facilities management is not a widely known career path.
Now that COVID-19 has essentially expanded the scope of a facilities manager’s responsibilities, the demand for facility managers is only increasing. But with Great Retirement fast approaching, now is the time for the facilities management industry to make its presence known to young workers looking for a rewarding career.
Granted, “facility management” is more of an umbrella term that encompasses a variety of different roles, but each is critical to building and occupant operations. Traditionally, the maintenance of a building for the benefit of its occupant was the responsibility of the facilities manager. Managers design the interior layout of the building with things like safety, noise levels, humidity levels, or temperatures in mind. Today’s facility managers must pay full attention to building functions and employee satisfaction. From maintaining HVAC systems, to emergency planning, to energy consumption, to supervising all modes of communication in the building, to managing projects and moves, and so on.
As the role of facility manager has become even more critical to the functionality of buildings (and dare I say society as a whole), the demand for facility managers is on the rise. However, facilities management is not really well known as a viable career option for young people trying to decide on a career path. “Many college students are not exposed to the facilities management career path, if ever, until they are already years into their respective majors,” wrote scholars Roscoe Hightower, Jr., Ph. D. and James Highsmith in an article for the International Journal of Facilities Management. “Unfortunately, without proper marketing programs coupled with high-quality undergraduate and graduate programs, the United States and other countries in the Western Hemisphere may never produce enough [facilities managers] to meet industry demand. »
The lack of marketing for the position becomes very apparent when you start talking to people in the industry and find that many facility managers end their careers through word of mouth and chance. James Eason, facilities project manager for Stewart Title, a global real estate services company, took on his role like most others in the industry: he found out about the job through a friend. “I worked as a machinist after high school, then a friend lured me into this job. Everything fell into place after that,” he told me. It was 10 years ago.
Like many others, Eason never wanted to become a facilities manager himself, but according to him, he loves the job. “Facilities management is great for people who don’t want to be stuck at their desks for hours on end,” he said. “I end up walking almost two miles a day, just to manage everything that needs to be handled. I’m never bored because it’s never the same thing every day. When I pressed him about his other favorite perks, you could hear his smile on the phone. “God, I’m usually the first person to find out that something cool is happening at the office!”
If what Eason cherishes about his job doesn’t sound terribly exciting to young people entering the workforce, perhaps the average facilities manager salary will. As of September 26, data reported by HR shows that the average facilities manager in the United States earns $105,056. Now, obviously, that number varies by region and level of certification, but even at the low end, facility managers are looking at upwards of $75,000 per year.
Facilities management was already seen as a specialized profession based on processes and services, but after the pandemic crept in, facilities managers got a highly specialized role that is at the epicenter of construction operations and commercial. When the first blockages broke, facility managers found themselves at the center of the chaos. After all, facility managers were responsible for keeping buildings habitable and safe. Space and health issues have become a priority for every corporate occupant, making facility managers crucial to the decision-making process. They have gone from being an oft-overlooked component of a desk to becoming an essential thanks to the push for “return to work” in hybrid mode. It is therefore not surprising that companies have recognized this change and that the demand for facility managers has increased. In 2021, the global facilities management market was valued at $42.2 billion. By 2028, this market is expected to explode to $109.05 billion at a compound annual growth rate of 12.6%. The increase in notoriety and demand seems to be a tremendous lever for workers in the sector, until we realize that most of them will be retiring in just a few years.
One in four of the U.S. workforce belongs to the baby boomer generation, a statistic that has given economists pause. Companies are already aware that they need to adequately replace their workforce when their staff reach retirement age, but industries that attract older units of labor will ultimately face greater arms race for hiring than others. As of September this year, the average age of a working facilities manager is 50, meaning facilities management is ready to scramble to replace and train employees. Twenty-three percent of facility managers have worked in the industry for 20 years or more, so there is concern that the knowledge of veterans is disappearing with retirees. Not to mention that facility managers are also increasingly concerned about the growing threat of cybersecurity as cybercrime rates continue to rise, which means new facility managers will naturally need Additional training in addition to what their older mentors can teach them.
The job of a facility manager became more holistic and focused on increasing worker productivity rather than simply meeting the demands of the workplace. With integrated services and improved environments, facility managers now place more importance on the health, happiness and productivity of their staff. This change is the result of an increased focus on workplace technology thanks to the rise of hybrid working. Facility managers need to ensure they are creating the necessary connections for the hybrid workforce and that the tools used on the job benefit both on-site and off-site workers. Thus, a possible labor shortage will not only harm the facilities management industry, it will harm the function of the office as a whole.
Facilities management teams are responsible for the overall well-being and functionality of a building. From the perspective of the corporate occupant, equipment lifespan, digital connectivity and workplace comfort depend on the facility management service, which means that if the building is in a less than stellar, the quality of the occupants’ products or services may suffer. Today’s facility managers have more to manage and will need more training than ever before. As older facility managers retire, the demand for trained facility professionals will only grow. With more positions opening up, it may be time for the industry to increase its visibility and better show prospects how lucrative, challenging and rewarding a job in facilities management can be.