Facilities Management (Managing Assets)
So You Want a Career in FM?
- By Pieter van der Have
- December 1st, 2016
I recently generated a column
that was focused almost purely on technology
and the corresponding requirement
for higher education facility professionals
to be aware of the need to train our employees
in the effective use of leading-edge technologies
available to our profession. I will always be
committed to training and continued education.
It is not only a waste of money to procure a new technology
and not train; it is also a source of frustration and possibly
employee discontent when we don’t train.
At this point, though, I am changing focus to our employees:
what makes them “our employees” in the first place? I think we
can all agree that there is no single, right answer to that question.
Yet, some informal and unscientific research has shown
that most people “fall” into a career. Let’s face it: how many of
you woke up one morning, while still in high school, and as you
were yawning and stretching exclaimed, “Jeepers, I really want
to be a facility manager!” It is more than likely that many of us
ended up in this business because (a) we had a family member
or acquaintance who got us a job in FM, or (b) we landed a parttime
job in FM while going to school and stayed with it. That’s
how it happened with me. It was comfortable and very rewarding,
even with its frustrations. Most of us adopted FM as a career.
Or, perhaps FM adopted us.
How Did We Get Here, Exactly?
Whoa, wait a minute. Did I say career? That suggests that I
am over 50 years old. Back in the 1950s, our parents (probably
mostly our fathers) didn’t select a career because it was rewarding
psychologically. That generation ended up in a job, sometimes any
job they could find, because it put bread on the table and clothes on
their (our) backs. The security of having such a job was what most
adults sought. People in my generation, the traditionalists and the
baby boomers, have largely inherited that need.
Remember Maslow’s hierarchy of needs? He had “physiological”
and “safety” as foundations of his hierarchy. This meant
having a roof over our heads, food in our bellies and a reasonably
secure life. That is why many workers from that era (including
me) remained in the same job (with minor variations) if not the
same career for 30, 40, 50 years. That’s one reason why so many
individuals are angry today: their “hierarchy of needs” pyramid
was hit by an economic earthquake. That is frequently identified
as one of the main reasons that many baby boomers ultimately, yet
reluctantly, change careers.
What Do the Youngsters Want?
Do the Millennials and the “GenZ” generation look at a job/career
the same way? I doubt it. When I talk with my students about
a “career in facility management,” they look at me like I’m from
another planet — and most of them are GenY! I believe that Millennials
and GenZers are not looking for a career; they’re looking
for a path to something that may not even exist yet. What’s more,
they may not end up hunting for bricks-and-mortar and MEP jobs.
They’re looking for more exciting positions that are data-driven.
Mike Walsh, a self-described “futurist,” predicts that “the
next big shifts in how we manage and communicate…will be
shaped by the data-driven experiences that your kids now have
daily.” He suggests that, “the future will be faster and driven
by the next generation of consumers, [who] are growing up in
a data-driven, cloud-enabled, mobile-centric world of experiences.”
Those consumers represent the next generation of facility
professionals. Even more challenging, they will also be our
customers on our campuses!
Walsh also suggests that Millennials are only the warm-up
act. Is that a matter for concern? How many of us traditionalists
and boomers don’t quite know how to motivate, involve or relate
to the Millennials that already work for us? In fact, we’re not quite
sure how to recruit them and then retain them! If you have young
grandkids, study how they function and relate. Their relationships
and methods of socializing/communicating baffle most of
us “old folks.” Our universe is not the same as theirs. They won’t
look at buildings as bricks and mortar and steel and glass. They
will look at buildings as places where people hang out for a while,
on occasion. They may not even need offices and classrooms as we
know them. Their universe, as suggested earlier, consists of data
and virtual technologies, which can make it more fluid for them to
progress from one career to another.
We must start thinking of our employees with that understanding.
Just maybe then facility management as a profession can
continue to evolve.
This article originally appeared in the December 2016 issue of College Planning & Management.
Pete van der Have is a retired facilities management professional and is currently teaching university-level FM classes as well as doing independent consulting. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.