The facilities management profession is one that requires diversity and creativity. No two days are alike. The only constant is that demands are high and they can seem to come from every direction. The types of individuals entering this field seem to vary as much as much as that is required of you. There are, however, multiple facility manager skills that every FM must embrace and foster in order to lead their team and their organization to the industry’s top spot. We have compiled a list of the top ten attributes every facilities manager must strive for daily.
1. Interpersonal Skills
Above all else, facilities management is about the people within the organization you serve. Every aspect of your job requires an ability to connect with, engage, and inspire those around you and is the determining factor in you and your teammates’ success. The great news—people skills are among the most easily acquired traits on this list. It all comes down to perspective.
Communication and respect are the foundation of every productive working relationship. Strive to convey the information and motives behind your processes clearly and concisely and, in turn, make sure you understand others as well. Identify the objectives of those 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.
Most facilities are comprised of multiple departments, all charged with their own set of responsibilities. More often than not, these areas of oversight overlap. This is especially common in facilities management, as the physical workspace intersects with almost everything that happens inside it. Consequently, FMs must have the ability to network laterally across all departments, from IT, HR, and the admins. Take a step back and think about how your job complements the work of those around you and determine what you can do to solidify those relationships. The results will be astounding.
3. Environmental Awareness
Sustainability has emerged as not just a passing trend, but a real tool that adds value to businesses on a global scale. The facilities manager is charged with the task of ensuring their company operates at the utmost efficiency. As a result, employers are looking to their FMs to implement environmental initiatives that both save on resources and enhance productivity. The modern facilities management team must make sustainability a priority and take proactive steps towards implementing green programs. Not only will your facility’s bottom line be positively affected, so too will your professional portfolio and the environment we must protect.
4. Tech Savvy
While it is not necessary to have a software engineering background, the FMs realm is more technology-reliant than ever. The quicker you come to this realization and embrace it, the more valuable you will be in your field. From room reservations to asset tracking and maintenance, it is all managed on the computer today (and, increasingly, on smartphones and tablets). The ITs role is an invaluable one, as they have an impact on how FMs communicate with their workforce, customers and colleagues.
Your employer will look to you as the expert in evaluating what technological tools and software will enhance the company’s processes, as they likely do not have the time to educate themselves on the latest trends and developments. And since technology is continuously evolving, this is a part of your job that will always remain a constant.
5. Project Management
The facility manager often finds themselves leading multiple projects at a time. In your leadership position, it is your duty to set goals, motivate the workforce, monitor performance, and track results.
Much of your project leadership skills will be learned through on-the-job experience, but there are many seminars, websites and books to get you started. And of course, it is always helpful to have a reliable facility management software in place.
Although much of leadership comes from an intuitive nature, good instincts can be learned through your experiences. Are you generally easygoing, or are you naturally “on edge”? While either of these personality types can prove beneficial, flexibility is key for the successful FM.
Ours is a dynamic profession. Today will be entirely different from tomorrow, and issues arise with little to no warning. If this sort of environment excites you, you are already two steps ahead. But if you find yourself stressed by uncertainty, this does not mean you can’t be a strong facilities leader. It is never too late to learn to take a deep breath and recalibrate your approach to the unknown.
7. Emergency Responsiveness
Part of going with the flow means remaining calm under the pressures of 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, “calm and collected” is the most effective approach to even the most dire of emergencies. Knowing your organization well and planning are both valuable tools in facing an emergency with a level head. If you already know exactly how to react when an urgency arises, you won’t be caught off-guard. So be prepared!
8. Know The Industry You Serve Well
You likely know a lot of about the facility management field, but how much do you know about your company’s industry? Are you an expert in their arena as well as your own? While you do not have to know everything about the profession you serve, an insider’s insight will arm you with the tools you need to take your company to the #1 position.
It is also critical that you know your own company’s specific vision, values, and goals. Where do they fit in the larger, industry-wide picture? What sets them apart from the rest? What objectives are they targeting within their market? Employers need an FM who can help guide them through a strategically charted, goal-oriented path.
9. Legal Eagle-bility
While it is not necessary for you to have a law degree, you must be familiar with federal, state and local laws and how they impact your organization. Regardless of what industry you find yourself in, chances are good that numerous statutes and regulations apply to everything from HR to day-to-day operations.
If you are the facilities manager of a larger commercial establishment, Occupational Health & Safety laws will be especially important for you to familiarize yourself with. It is particularly important for you to be aware of OSHA standards and regulations as well as other applicable laws, especially if you are involved in a heavily regulated field. You also need to understand your responsibility for ensuring emergency contact is properly coordinated with physical location. Awareness of the basic principles of your state’s tort law, especially where premises liability, personal injury, and employment law are concerned is another tool for your FM arsenal.
10. Know The Numbers
You do not need to have a math or economics degree any more than you need a law degree. You will, however, find much of your job is centered around budgeting and financial planning. You must know what your company’s key metrics are and how to calculate and monitor them. The more financial insight you have, the more effective a manager you will be.
Even if you math and economics were your weakness in school, you do have the ability to learn the basic skills you need to understand high-level business budgeting. Critical thinking, an analytical approach and commitment to accomplishing your facility’s goals are the strengths you need to take your company to the top.
As the facilities manager you are, in a sense, the heart of the organization. These are exciting times for those involved in the FM profession. If you find you are lacking in some of the skills on our list, make it your mission this year to improve and build on your strengths. The benefits will come back ten-fold, not only for you but for your company and the people you serve.
Editor's Note: This blog post was originally published in June 2014 and has been updated for accuracy and relevance.