As you plan for the future of your facilities management services you need to look beyond the bricks and mortar to your people. As facilities professionals across your campus retire or move into new positions, they can take critical information with them. What’s your plan to preserve the institutional knowledge these individuals have cultivated over years on the job?
You likely have a plan in place for training new individuals on processes, but training alone can still leave significant gaps in knowledge. And many higher education institutions today struggle to hire the qualified staff they need to replace those who retire or change jobs — so some jobs may go unfilled for a considerable period of time.
Challenge 1: The loss of facility management knowledge
When facilities professionals retire or move on to new positions, they take with them a tremendous amount of detailed knowledge about their institution’s facilities management services. Historically, most colleges and universities have a diverse portfolio of facilities requiring wide-ranging expertise to maintain and manage. Systems and equipment can vary significantly from building to building, complicating what should be simple replacements or repairs.
Take a moment to consider this: when a maintenance technician at your institution is asked to replace a sink faucet, does he or she have to walk across campus to check the brand and style? Would a future maintenance technician know where a critical valve is located?
The typical piecemeal approach to planning contributes to knowledge loss and operations and maintenance challenges. One important key to overcoming this challenge is systematic documentation. By recording detailed facilities information into work order tools, CMMS systems or even building information management technology for operations and maintenance, a vast amount data can be preserved and accessed by new employees.
Challenge 2: A lack of new skilled labor.
Across the board, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find skilled tradespeople. This problem is particularly challenging when it comes to facilities management services. An increasing number of employees are aging out, and less new talent is coming in. In particular, custodial and housekeeping workers are leaving, for more money, better hours, or even better-known industries that provide similar pay scales.
Moreover, facilities management as a profession is rapidly moving from traditional hands-on work to computer-operated services. While there will always be a need for facilities engineers and other skilled, hands-on workers, an increasing number of systems are connected to digital devices, and more facilities professionals are responsible for managing digital systems and tools.
While this means that facilities management departments need operators who possess higher-level skillsets, it also opens the door to a new generation of digital-savvy employees who may not previously have been interested in facilities management work.
This shift toward more data-based, digital work will demand greater flexibility from facilities departments and managers, as they reconceive their approach to hiring and training personnel.