Facility management is a demanding profession requiring a diverse set of skills to be successful. The consistent professional, interpersonal, and even emotional demands that facility managers face at the enterprise level can come from many directions, and you need to manage it all while continuing to serve the workforce’s changing needs, including everything from boosting the employee experience to meeting stringent sustainability regulations.

But it’s also a rewarding profession, with opportunities to create real change that supports employees so they can drive growth across the enterprise. In fact, even smaller incremental changes can create improvements that benefit different departments at multiple locations.

The key to lasting success in facility management is knowing the set of skills you need and how to develop them.

Interpersonal skills for facility managers

1. Empathy

A lot has happened in the previous few years, and we’ve all felt the effects of the radical changes to every part of everyday life. So, empathy tops the list of interpersonal skills every facilities manager needs. Empathy is the ability to understand what another person may be thinking or feeling and demonstrate concern for them.

Showing that you care can help in many ways, for you and the company. A survey of nearly 900 US employees by global nonprofit advocacy group Catalyst found workplaces with highly empathetic leaders are more innovative, inclusive, and engaged, with lower rates of employee burnout.

A few ways to demonstrate empathy in facilities management might include:

·       Listening to employees’ concerns and responding with ways to help them overcome challenges

·       Finding new opportunities to enable hybrid employees to take advantage of workplace amenities and activities

·      Recognizing the different workstyles of introverts and extroverts and designing spaces to support both

Remember, it’s often the thought that counts here, so don’t feel held back by not having the perfect solution right away. A simple gesture of concern or appreciation can go a long way at first.

2. Self-awareness

Like empathy, self-awareness is a critical element of emotional intelligence (EQ). It’s the ability to recognize your own strengths and weaknesses so you can become the best version of yourself. Unfortunately, some leaders lack self-awareness, and it can be because they don’t receive enough critical feedback from others. Leadership coach Kimberly Janson offers several recommendations for cultivating self-awareness, including:

·      Identifying a problem and working to solve it

·      Going beyond the obvious to understand why someone behaves a certain way

·      Asking for feedback from others often

For facility managers, improving self-awareness might mean conducting employee surveys to understand what aspects of your workplace design are working well and where there’s room for improvement, then inviting input from others to help you act on those opportunities.

3. Humility

When it comes to questions about the workplace of the future, today’s facility managers and workplace leaders face pressure to have the answers, says Doug Shapiro, VP of Research and Insights at OFS, in an episode of the Workplace Innovator podcast. Instead of pretending to have all the answers, the best leaders start by acknowledging what they don’t know.

“I think the great exercise that we could do that would be this exercise towards humility and dropping your own personal filter,” he said. “Spend more time thinking about what are the critical questions we need to ask, because oftentimes I think if you just search for answers, you’re missing I think the real insights.”

4. Curiosity

Curiosity comes with humility. Once you acknowledge what you don’t know, you need to be willing to dig deeper from insights from within and outside your organization. Listening to other industry leaders share what they’ve learned through podcasts, articles, and workplace management conferences can inspire you to find new solutions to long-standing problems. Talking with other employees and department leaders and asking questions to gain a deeper understanding can help too.

5. Adaptability

Facility management is a dynamic profession where no two days are alike. Maintaining a level head and a “go with the flow” attitude is critical to your success and even survival. Whether the workplace atmosphere stresses or excites you, the ability to constantly adapt to changes will give you a strong competitive advantage.

6. Decisiveness

Decisiveness might seem to conflict with other interpersonal skills like humility and adaptability, but it doesn’t have to be. Being decisive doesn’t mean making decisions spontaneously or without input from others. It means you’re able to gather all the information you need to make the most rational choice, weigh the pros and cons of potential actions, and act with confidence.

And people appreciate decisiveness because it means they can trust you to give clear instructions. Thye know what you mean and that you really mean it.

7. Proactivity

Your role as a facility manager is to understand the needs and potential issues that your workforce is facing, even before they know them themselves. Today, that often includes anticipating needs around hybrid work models and finding the best ways to support employees’ needs to connect and collaborate in the office.

8. Persistence

Persistence is the ability to “stay the course” despite obstacles. Within facility management, those obstacles can seem insurmountable at times. You’re trying to create an exceptional employee experience that attracts and retains talent, while optimizing resources and costs. It often means managing change, such as encouraging leaders and employees to adapt to a new office environment or new technology. Persistence means getting back up after a setback and trying a new approach.

9. Clear communication

Your success as a facility manager hinges on your ability to communicate, connect with, inspire, and engage colleagues. Identify the objectives of the people you work with, learn what motivates them, and commit yourself to forging professional connections that inspire everyone to be the best at what they do. The right technology can make communication easier. Rather than sending emails employees can easily ignore, sending notifications through a workplace app at their fingertips ensures they’ll get the message.

10. Ability to empower your team

While letting go and assigning responsibilities to your teammates is not always easy, it is, perhaps, one of your most valuable assets. Build a team of diverse individuals and let them put their talents to work. Delegation shows you believe in your team’s abilities, further strengthening your team and your entire organization. Making it easy for your FM team to receive work orders, find the assets or equipment they need to repair, and mark them complete from a mobile facility management app is a good place to start.

Workspace management skills for facility managers

11. Facility management budgeting

As a facility manager, you play a critical role in managing costs. The ability to understand your organization’s needs, analyze current costs, and determine how to optimize your budget is essential. Because real estate is likely your company’s second-highest cost aside from payroll, software that simplifies space accounting and chargebacks can give you a better understanding of how each department impacts the budget. The sales team may be asking for more office space to accommodate growth, but when you look at their true space utilization, you might find most people are only at their desks about 50% of a typical week. A desk hoteling system that allows them to reserve space as they need it gives them flexibility while reducing costs.

12. An understanding of legal and compliance obligations

Regardless of your industry, there are federal, state, and local laws that impact every aspect of your building operations. For instance, you need to comply with accounting standards that require you to keep detailed information about each asset you lease. If you manage larger industrial facilities, you need to ensure all employees follow health and safety regulations. Depending on your location, there are different sets of sustainability and environmental regulations to follow.

13. Ability to engage the workforce

Your workforce is the driving factor behind your organization’s success. As a facility manager, your job is to be sure they’re happy and productive. By encouraging employee engagement at your workplace, your team members are more likely to stick around and work more efficiently while they’re there. This is especially important in today’s hybrid workplace, when you may not see every employee every day or even every week.

14. Emergency preparedness and business continuity

Emergencies are inevitable. Remaining calm in the face of adversity is the mark of a great leader. Develop a crisis plan based on potential problems. Simulate a real crisis and involve the entire team. This will not only educate employees on their roles; it will help you identify any shortcomings in your crisis plan. Business continuity is another important aspect of being prepared. If your organization or your data is affected by a natural disaster or a cybersecurity threat, you need a clear plan for restoring operations and recovery time objectives.

15. Project management

Your official title may not read “project manager,” but your leadership position requires you to motivate and manage your workforce, set goals, and analyze results that help you identify where improvements are needed. Then, the responsibility falls on you to devise and implement new processes.

16. Analytical ability

Whether you are analyzing financial data for a budgetary meeting with the executives or configuring the office redesign, strong analytical and critical thinking skills are essential to both you and your facility’s success. You should be skilled at sorting through data, making sense of it, and presenting in a logical way to make the case for business decisions. For instance, if you are considering consolidating office space, you need to be able to forecast future space needs and demonstrate you’ll still have enough space to accommodate your growing workforce a year from now.

17. Networking

Successful facility managers must be adept at networking across the entire organization, including information technology, administration, human resources outside executives or peers. Each of these colleagues is, in a sense, part of your team. So, put your interpersonal skills to work, and build solid relationships with your entire facility management department.

18. Operational and property management skills

As a facility manager, you are involved in building operations and maintenance. While you don’t necessarily need to be a skilled mechanic, you do need a good understanding of the basics of building management. You should be able to identify electrical, plumbing, or HVAC issues, accurately describe the problem and know what type of maintenance has taken place. Facility maintenance software that gives you a digital record of all your assets, age, and work order history makes it much easier to make informed decisions.

Professional facility management certifications through the International Facility Management Association (IFMA) give you a solid background and help you advance your career.

19. Technology skills

Technology plays a critical role in facilities management and the employee experience. You should have a good understanding of how to use software to plan spaces and moves, manage buildings, maintenance, and service requests, and make it easy for employees to find and reserve space. You’ll need to work with your IT to ensure the technology you use is secure and well-integrated with your company’s other systems. Cloud-based software that includes data hosting, maintenance, and regular updates will make it easier for you and your team.

20. Strategic mindset

Facilities managers have become valuable members of the executive team and play an important role in business strategy. To succeed in this role, you need a strong understanding of your company’s business objectives and how your team’s efforts will support them. If your company anticipates the launch of a new product line in Europe, you need to plan for global expansion and determine the best way to support employees in those regions. That might mean investing in a new office building, leasing several smaller buildings, or using coworking spaces to establish a presence with plans to invest in something more permanent later.

21. Environmental stewardship and sustainability

Sustainability initiatives are becoming high priorities for companies and, by extension, facility managers. That includes optimizing energy management, seeking alternative energy sources, using sustainable building materials, and using sensor-enabled lighting and HVAC to reduce waste.

An integrated workplace management system can help you monitor energy utilization, measure your carbon footprint, and achieve green building certifications.

22. Future orientation

The world of work is constantly changing. From agile working to interactive technology in the workplace, there’s always a new trending topic in the industry worth exploring. As a workplace leader, it is your responsibility to always be looking ahead to see what your workforce might benefit from most. You know your organization better than anyone else, and it’s up to you to keep them ahead of the game.

That means this list is comprehensive but not exhaustive. It’s also not set in stone.

As the field changes, so do the challenges and the best ways to overcome them. Just as improving these skills can help you accelerate your facility management career, having the modern software solutions technology at your fingertips makes it in many ways easier to succeed in this evolving field. For example, t’s easier to be empathetic when you can see clear data on when and why employees are coming into the office. You can hit sustainability targets with reliable data on occupancy that empowers you to right-size your real estate portfolio. And every step of property management, from organizing leases to assigning work orders based on service requests from employees, is easier with the right facility management solution.

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Jonathan writes about asset management, maintenance software, and SaaS solutions in his role as a digital content creator at Eptura. He covers trends across industries, including fleet, manufacturing, healthcare, and hospitality, with a focus on delivering thought leadership with actionable insights. Earlier in his career, he wrote textbooks, edited NPC dialogue for video games, and taught English as a foreign language. He hold a master's degree in journalism.