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The 5 skills facilities managers need today

Behind every office that dots the skyline or graces a boulevard is a person whose job it is to keep it running smoothly. Facilities managers are like the proverbial ducks in the lake—they glide effortlessly above the water while their legs pedal furiously underneath, unseen. Facilities managers might be comparing contracts for new janitorial services one minute, and brainstorming the best workplace technology to customize various work areas the next. 

But whether they’re figuring out what that noise is in the ceiling, or making sure workplace security is in compliance with the law, facilities managers are a special breed. If you’re looking for a facilities manager for your business, or you believe you have what it takes to become one, take a look at the skills you’ll need to be a great one.

1. Communication and interpersonal skills: “I’m a people person!”

Being a facilities manager is so much more about people than facilities. Since ultimately, facilities house workers and make it possible for them to work at their best, a facilities manager’s first concern is always the employee experience. They need to have strong interpersonal skills to cultivate workplace relationships that extend from the top of the company to all the employees and vendors. 

Facility managers need to stay in constant communication with project managers and contractors to help them meet deadlines. At the same time, as the workplace experience evolves, facilities managers are tasked with being the primary voice communicating changes and timelines so that work can continue uninterrupted. 

Written communication is just as important as verbal. Facilities managers need to document just about everything they do, and that can include incident reports, project cost quotes and estimates, and insurance descriptions. The ability to write effectively is crucial. Almost any time a company requires a paper trail for proof of purchase, liability, or compliance, many of those documents will have been written and submitted by a facilities manager.

2. Understanding the IT world: “I’m all about the tech!”

Getting excited about emerging technology isn’t just for the IT folks. Even if a company sells a product that has nothing to do with technology, IT plays an enormous role in how the company functions every day. Facilities managers are expected to have expertise with software and other workplace technology that relates directly to workplace operations. 

But that’s not all. Offices are automating procedures, workplace security, visitor management, package delivery, and even environmental controls. And facilities managers need to stay on top of all those latest trends to understand what it will take to create a transformed workplace. A love of technology drives facilities managers to be constant learners and to be the first to identify new innovations that can move the company forward.

Zoom scales their workplace experience as they grow with delivery management software

Most of the time, physical workplace technology implementation is strictly an IT concern. But IT isn’t the department that calls the shots about the best use of technology budget for the company—facilities managers do. Beyond “does this meet our needs?” and “Will this solve a problem or make something easier?” Facilities managers need to think about the cost and ROI of new implementations. They  need to research the ramifications of each installation, asking questions like:

  • “What effect will this investment have on our commitment to data privacy?” and 
  • “How does this ‘new thing’ integrate with workplace technology we already have?” 

Facilities managers also need to be able to collaborate with IT to create cost/benefit analysis and make a case for technological advancements that will be advantageous to the company. Which brings us to the next core skill to cultivate and look for…

3. A data-driven decision-maker: “I’m a mathlete!’

There was a time when most business was conducted by “gut feelings” and building on previous successes. Still, today, decisions are driven by one thing: metrics. Crunching numbers to prove effectiveness is, to some executives, the most compelling evidence that workplace operations are successful––or, that changes need to be made. For facilities managers, the key to making a case for project success and future investment is data analysis to show strategic value. In other words, do the math, and don’t forget to show your work.

On any given day, a facilities manager works with budgets, quotes, cost projections, and timelines. They know that each decision affects others. Facilities managers need to take both the bigger picture and the macro view into consideration, so having an eye for detail will only help formulate calculations. Facilities managers don’t necessarily have to be star “mathletes,” but they do need to be on the team. It helps to know the company’s key performance indicators and company goals—spending money on projects critical to the company keeps facilities managers aligned with corporate goals.

4. Adaptability and readiness for anything: “I’m a shape-shifter!”

Facilities managers never know what’s going to show up each day, and they need to be ready. From the C-Suite to HR, from solving a power issue in IT to figuring out the most secure way to sign in visitors, the facilities manager will have to interact with different departments daily. So adaptability is a valuable skill. A facilities manager should like the challenge of unpredictability and be ready (and excited) to “shapeshift” into the right person for any situation. 

There will be times they need to be proactive, and other times when being reactive is the right course of action. Offices and buildings are changing. Technology is changing the workplace experience. Facility managers need to be ready, need to continue learning, and, whether in business casual or a construction vest, adaptable to anything that comes. 

5. Workplace security savvy: “I’m on guard!”

When it comes to workplace security and safety, facilities managers need to have every base covered. Of all the facilities managers’ duties, this one might be the most important. Threats to a company, its employees, trade secrets, technology, and data can come in a lot of forms. Cybercrime can strike silently and unnoticed, but its result can be devastating, ruining a company’s brand, reputation, and destroying its record of regulatory compliance. Working with IT, it falls to the facilities manager to find the right workplace security software to detect and prevent data breaches, and to stay on top of other types of attacks. Phishing and trojan horses come into employees’ emails and phones, and employees need the training to recognize it. 

Naturally, these five character traits are not the only ones that facility managers need. Their skill sets far exceed what we can discuss in a single blog post. Facilities managers are there during and after hours to ensure a positive workplace experience. They make sure a new painting project is done right, overseeing issues with the HVAC system, finding someone who can get that weird stain out of the carpet. Facilities managers ensure that all the computers are grounded if a thunderstorm is coming. They make sure that the elevators will not break down when employees are trying to go home on a Friday afternoon. They’re the one who calls a restoration company if there’s a flood in the basement or a crack in the parking lot.

Above all, facilities managers deal in truths, even if they’re not always what management wants to hear. Their goal is safety, security, compliance, and ensuring a smoothly-running company—and making it look easy.

Chat with an expert to learn more about how visitor management can positively impact your workplace facilities experience.