The facility management umbrella covers a huge variety of sub-specialties, skillsets and responsibilities. From cleaning and maintenance to workplace strategy and sustainability, it’s been a significant challenge for those involved in facility management (FM) to find common cause and a unified profession.
A 2011 profiles study conducted by the International Facility Management Association (IFMA) identified more than 7,000 unique titles for men and women working in FM. The professionals who hold these titles came from a large variety of different backgrounds, including IT, HR, and custodial services.
At the same time, the expectation that FM, in all of its variety, delivers peak performance has only grown more urgent. Organizations of every size and scope have turned to facilities and the men and women who run them to gain a competitive advantage, whether it’s through increased efficiency, corporate responsibility to employees and society or even to gain an edge in recruiting top talent. Billions of dollars are invested in smart building technology. Innovative workplace strategies are making headlines around the world. And a key element of a major political agenda in Washington, D.C. is centered around retrofitting the built environment with modern green technology.
With higher expectations, the shortcomings of a fractured industry can no longer be tolerated. Different protocols between regions of the world, different organizations and even different buildings within the same organization pose a significant barrier to achieving effective strategic FM objectives. Moreover, this discontinuity means that FM skills learned in one job aren’t necessarily transferable to any other site and that businesses looking to hire FM talent face huge expenses associated with training staff to the unique approach in every new facility.
Unification in the FM Industry
Fortunately, in recent years a truly global FM industry has begun to emerge—and with it, global standards based on data-driven best practices. The first global International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standards for FM were introduced in 2017, with new ones added in 2018.
This unification of the FM industry is, for the first time, creating a sense of shared identity that transcends the myriad of backgrounds and titles. A community is developing. FM professionals are joining that community in a number of ways. New FM programs are popping up at colleges and universities around the world. More options for professional development—training programs, credentials, certifications—are hitting the market.
With community comes a shared professional language and transferable skills, which help individuals advance in the industry and help organizations find the talent they need. In this context, the question for those involved in FM becomes one of first acquiring and mastering the knowledge and skillsets of the profession, and then demonstrating that knowledge to potential employers.
The solution is the dramatic re-emergence of a traditional approach—the professional credential and certification. Pick an FM-related organization and look at the men and women serving on the board of directors. You’ll discover that many of them have professional designations listed after their names. It’s a letter salad. The designations are both the cause of and the reason for their elevation into roles of leadership in their industries.
These designations represent their standing in the profession. IFMA’s suite of professional credentials and certifications, for example, are based on a regular empirical study of facility tasks and responsibilities called the Global Job Task Analysis. The results of this survey, which identified 11 core competency areas for the modern FM, are the framework around which educational and assessment materials are built. Thus, they become the delivery mechanism for individual professionals to learn global professional standards. Displaying them through post-nominal designations, or more recently through digital badging like that provided by companies like Credly, tells peers and employers that they have mastered that body of work.
The benefits to both the individual and the organizations that hire them have been empirically demonstrated.
Return on Certification Investment
A 2017 survey of IFMA’s credentials-recipients found a $15 return for every $1 spent on professional development over a five-year window. That return on investment came from better job opportunities and higher salaries that resulted from being able to demonstrate knowledge and skills.
Like many working in FM, Don Parris, CFM, FMP, didn’t begin there. As a contract security officer, he caught the eye of the facility manager at his current company and was encouraged to pursue a Facility Management Professional™ (FMP®) credential to facilitate a career shift. He spent his own money, worked through the training books and earned his credential in 2010. Parris credits the FMP with laying a foundation for his new career, as he shifted to a Facility Services Coordinator role in 2013.
But he wasn’t done. As he grew in his new role, he wanted more responsibility. This time, with the support of his employer, he sought to continue his professional development with a Certified Facility Manager® designation. After he passed the CFM test in 2018 and posted his certification on LinkedIn, Parris says the response from his professional network was almost immediate.
For Parris, like many of his peers, patience and hard work paid off first by learning a new trade and then through demonstrating his experience—all through professional designations. Today he is the facility manager at National Gypsum Company, a role he credits at least in part to training investments in his own career.
Increase in Employee Performance
As previously stated, the advantages of professional development to harness the benefits of industry best practices and standards are not limited to individuals. Another study, this one in 2018, found that 70 percent of organizations rate credentialed employees as having statistically significant higher performance. The average credential resulted in a more than 40 percent increase in employee performance.
To understand why, consider The Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, which was among the first to realize the benefits of unification through standardization. A facility management staff of 300 was charged with operations in 45 separate buildings (6.2 million square feet), each with its own standards and reporting structures. Fragmentation was so pervasive that a facility manager from one building couldn’t fill in for an FM in another building if he or she were out.
Turning to IFMA, the FM team sought training to standardize their approach. In a few short years, FM team members had earned more than 90 Facility Management Professional (FMP) credentials and 40 Sustainability Facility Professional® (SFP®) credentials. With the training came efficiencies as FM professionals across the organization began to speak the same professional language and understand their role in the larger picture. This helped save $2.1 million in the first year and an estimated $15 million in the first five years after the training program was introduced.
Today, FM is a keystone industry for countless strategic initiatives – from workplace productivity to sustainability and business continuity. To succeed, an FM professional must be able to tap the resources of a global FM community. To do that, more FM professionals are looking to professional development products and services, which savvy employers use to identify the most qualified candidates for their facility management teams. T&ID