Written by: Nick Roth, Regional Manager, Facility Technology, ARC
There’s an aging workforce in facility operations that must be replaced with a younger generation of workers. The good news is, this situation is not unique to facilities teams.
In the early 2000s, the U.S. nuclear industry faced a similar demographic challenge to the one that the facility management industry is facing today.
According to General Electric: “It was clear that with a large cluster of nuclear professionals approaching retirement, a younger workforce must be brought in to replace them in a timely manner.” But, younger workers weren’t applying for these job openings. Today it’s a different story. The nuclear industry has a thriving workforce and access to a continuous stream of qualified talent. Facility managers can tap in what the nuclear industry did to overcome their succession planning challenges.
Facility Management is Facing a Talent Shortage
Here’s the situation: 40% of facility managers will retire in the next eight years yet the volume of young people applying for facilities jobs is simply too low to fill the gap. During a recent panel discussion, former president of the Chicago chapter of IFMA, Jerry Dicola, pointed out two major reasons for this labor shortfall:
1. the scarcity of training opportunities and
2. an outdated view of the facility industry.
He noted that it wasn’t until this year – after an appeal from IFMA – that the Bureau of Labor Statistics created a separate Standard Occupational Code to officially recognize facility management as a specific profession. Regardless of the reasons, facility management must find a way to attract new workers while minimizing the loss of knowledge from retiring workers.
The Nuclear Industry’s Talent Gap: How they Solved It
As mentioned earlier, today’s nuclear industry does have a robust workforce. That’s because the industry made an effort to focus on three objectives:
• Create a clear career path for young workers – The Nuclear Energy Institute partnered with other stakeholders to create an education and training structure that today includes 27
community colleges training nuclear technicians, and 30 universities offering nuclear engineering courses.
• Adopt technology to facilitate knowledge retention – Several utilities gave older workers mobile devices with cloud-based apps to quickly and easily take field notes, which made it
possible to make informed decisions once the workers had retired.
• Adapt training strategies – Plant operators developed training programs that catered to the vastly different learning styles of their trainees. Specifically, they leveraged digital
technology to provide hands-on, virtual training which appealed to younger people.
Modernizing Recruitment in Facility Management
Facility management has what workers want – opportunity for growth, a dynamic work environment, and a clear path to advancement and there will continue to be a steady volume of job openings, now and in the coming years. The facility management industry must be proactive about projecting the image of a modern, viable, career path.
The good news is that efforts are underway. According to IFMA, the number of programs that offer FM credentials is on the rise. You can find a number of accredited programs on the FM Academic Registry. While more FMs are becoming certified and credentialed, however, FMs still need to get more active when it comes to recruiting young talent. One place to start is IFMA’s Global Workforce Initiative. This initiative pairs facility professionals, businesses, teachers, and students in an effort to educate young people about FM and present staffing opportunities for facility managers.
Taking a look at how FM work currently gets done can also be revealing. Studies indicate that when it comes to managing building documents, facility managers are relying on outdated processes and technology. By integrating technology into their daily operations, they will be applying yet another best practice from the nuclear industry’s book.
This will facilitate a more efficient process for transferring knowledge to the next generation.
A Multi-Pronged Approach to Solving Staffing Challenges
While this article has set the stage for what could be, there’s much more to consider, which is covered in two in-depth papers. The first is about the facility management brain drain and how facility managers can resolve knowledge transfer challenges. The second is about proactively addressing the lack of incoming talent and strategies for attracting and retaining a multi-generational workforce.
Additionally, the use of the right mobile technology tools, particularly mobile facilities dashboards can be instrumental in helping attract new employees and reducing the risk of retiring workers. In fact, the cost savings more than pay for the mobile dashboards. Calculate your potential savings here using an online value calculator created specifically for facility operations teams. Read both papers for ideas and strategies you can use to do your part in reversing the labor shortage. A robust facility management workforce is not only good for the industry, it’s also good for the productivity of our entire economy.
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