In our current series, we’re reviewing facilities management. Our previous two blogs focused on ergonomics, specifically the adverse effects of poor ergonomics, as well as how to conduct an ergonomic risk assessment. Today, we review the skills your facilities manager (FM) will require to effectively perform their duties, and manage the area of health and safety that falls within their responsibility.
What does a facilities manager do?
A facilities manager is the ultimate organiser, making sure that a workplace meets the needs of employees by managing all of the required services. In this job, you will be responsible for the management of services and processes that support the core business of an organisation. Facilities managers make sure that an organisation has the most suitable working environment for its employees and their activities.
This is a diverse field with a range of responsibilities, which are dependent on the structure and size of your organisation. Facilities managers are involved in both strategic planning and day-to-day operations, particularly in relation to buildings and premises. Likely areas of responsibility include:
- building and grounds maintenance
- catering and vending
- health and safety
- procurement and contract management
- space management
- utilities and communications infrastructure.
Your duties will probably vary depending on the nature of the organisation, but will generally focus on using best business practice to improve efficiency, by reducing operating costs while increasing productivity.
A facilities manager can be employed in all sectors and industries and the diversity of the work is reflected in the range of job titles.
10 key skills of a facilities manager
- Numerical know-how
Most FMs aren’t economists, mathematicians, or CPAs. But budgeting and financial planning are nevertheless important parts of the job. You need to know what your company’s key metrics are and how to calculate them. The more financial insight you have, the more effective a manager you’ll be.
- Legal ‘eagle-bility’
A superhero FM doesn’t need a law degree any more than they need a maths degree, but having an appreciation for the impact that legislation has on your facility is important. Whatever industry you find yourself in, chances are good that numerous regulations apply to everything, from HR to day-to-day operations.
Understanding HSE laws are especially important commercial facilities leader skills. Familiarity with HSE regulations and other applicable laws is a real benefit for any FM, especially those who manage high-risk sites or who work in a heavily-regulated field. You also need to understand your responsibility for making sure emergency contact is properly coordinated with physical location.
- Insider’s insight
As an FM, you probably know a lot of about the facility management field. But what about your company’s industry? Are you an expert in their universe, as well as your own?
Let’s say you’re the FM for the second-busiest hospital in your city. Sure, you know the building and how to run it, but how much do you know about healthcare? You don’t need a medical degree, but understanding how the medical industry operates will enable you to diagnose (pun intended) your facility’s problems. Armed with an insider’s insight, you’ll be better poised to take your hospital to the number one position.
You also need to know your own company’s specific vision, values, and goals. How do they fit into the larger, industry-wide picture? How do they differentiate themselves? What objectives are they targeting within their market? Employers need a facilities manager who can help guide them along a strategically-charted, goal-oriented path.
- A go-with-the-flow attitude
A lot of leadership is intuitive, but good instincts can be learned. Are you generally easy going, or are you naturally a more highly-strung person? Either personality type can serve you well in different situations, but flexibility is an especially valuable trait for FMs.
It’s a dynamic profession. Every day is different, and problems pop up without warning. If that kind of environment excites you, you’re already two steps ahead. But if uncertainty is a stressor, it doesn’t mean you can’t be the best of the best among FMs. It’s never too late to learn to take a deep breath and recalibrate your approach to the unknown.
- Emergency reflexes
Part of going with the flow means keeping calm in an emergency. If you’ve never faced a true emergency, you might not know how you’d naturally respond. Some people panic; others become instinctively solution-oriented and level-headed. As a general rule, cool and collected is the most effective approach to even the direst emergency. Planning is part of that. If you already know exactly how to react when an urgency arises, you won’t be caught off-guard. So be prepared.
- Project leadership
Facility managers often double as project managers (PM). Or they might work alongside a designated PM. Whatever the task may be, yours is a position of leadership. You’ll need to:
- set goals
- motivate your workforce
- monitor performance, and
- measure results.
While there’s no real substitute for experience, even a newcomer to project management can learn a lot about leadership by taking a seminar or reading a book. It helps to have project management software you can rely on too, which brings us to…
- IT savvy
FMs may not need a background as software engineers, but the reality is that today’s FM world is more technology-reliant than ever. The more quickly you embrace that, the more valuable you’ll be in your field. Everything from room reservations to asset monitoring and facility maintenance is managed on the computer today (and, increasingly, on smartphones and tablets). IT plays an invaluable role in the way FMs communicate with their workforce, customers, and co-workers as well.
Your employer will look to you as the expert in facility management software. They likely don’t have time to educate themselves on the latest developments, so they’ll depend on you to keep the facility on solid technological ground. That’s why you’ll want to keep yourself apprised of the latest trends in FM software development. Make sure your IT platforms are situated to solve problems and eliminate waste.
Sustainability continues to trend, not only as a buzzword, but also as an emerging corporate value all around the world. That’s especially true in the facilities sector. A sustainable building is an efficient resource for any company, so your employer will count on you to keep your facility as green as can be. Start looking for ways to enhance efficiency. Make sustainability a goal and take proactive steps toward it. It’s good for your professional portfolio, the environment, and the bottom line.
Companies consist of numerous divisions, charged with specific sets of responsibility. Often, these areas of oversight overlap. That’s especially common in facilities management, because the physical workspace intersects with almost everything that happens inside it. That’s why FMs need the ability to network laterally across the entire organisation with IT, HR, administration, other executives, etc. Take a step back and think about all the ways your job complements the work others are doing elsewhere in the company. What can you do to improve those relationships?
- People skills
Ultimately, facilities management is all about the people you serve. Your ability to connect with, engage, and inspire the others around you will make the most determinative difference in your performance as an FM. The good news is that people skills are among the most easily acquired traits on this list. Much of it comes down to your own perspective.
Respect is the cornerstone of every productive working relationship. Communication matters, too. Don’t just convey information; make sure your meaning is understood (and, in turn, make sure you understand others as well). Identify the objectives of the people you work with, learn what motivates them, and commit yourself to forging a professional connection that inspires each party to bring out their very best.
14 typical tasks of a facilities manager
Responsibilities often cover several departments, as well as central services that link to all the teams in the organisation. In smaller companies, duties may include more practical and hands-on tasks.
Many facilities managers are responsible for either one or many sites. Some organisations outsource their facilities management services and use specialist facilities management providers. In these cases, facilities managers may work for a firm offering all services or one that offers specific services, such as catering.
Your typical tasks may include:
- preparing documents to put out tenders for contractors
- project management, and supervising and coordinating the work of contractors
- investigating availability and suitability of options for new premises
- calculating and comparing costs for required goods or services to achieve maximum value for money
- planning for future development in line with strategic business objectives
- managing and leading change to ensure minimum disruption to core activities
- directing, coordinating and planning essential central services, such as reception, security, maintenance, mail, archiving, cleaning, catering, waste disposal and recycling
- ensuring the building meets health and safety requirements and that facilities comply with legislation
- keeping staff safe
- planning best allocation and utilisation of space and resources for new buildings, or re-organising current premises
- checking that agreed work by staff or contractors has been completed satisfactorily, and following up on any deficiencies
- coordinating and leading one or more teams to cover various areas of responsibility
- using performance management techniques to monitor and demonstrate achievement of agreed service levels and to lead on improvement
- responding appropriately to emergencies or urgent issues as they arise and dealing with the consequences.