Redefining The Facility Management Experience

Redefining The Facility Management Experience

In most cases, lawyers go to law school, then they decide to specialize. Same with accountants. Not the same in the facility management industry.

Sure, there are institutions that offer degrees in facility management, but many individuals often gain their initial experience in building management from multiple points and perspectives. Some have started off as administrators, some have trade backgrounds, and others have learned on the job. The beautiful thing is that no two facility management jobs are identical and there’s no preferred path. While you could know everything about HVAC, you might know virtually nothing about how to keep patients or students safe during an emergency scenario, or how to plan a budget.

One thing we’ve learned is that the facilities management industry is packed with fascinating people who do vital work, and we’ve profiled dozens of them in our Women in Facilities profiles, Facility Voices podcast and Facility Chats.

Unfortunately, to the outside world, there’s a lack of understanding about what a facility manager does.

Parents, children, and friends don’t fully grasp the depth of the facility management industry, so we polled several facility management leaders to share how and why the profession is misunderstood.


Their replies were thought provoking.


Samantha Howell, EMCOR Services Fagan: It’s really hard to be in a profession that is misunderstood when most people don’t even know it exists. It’s a problem in our industry that is slowly changing but not fast enough to replace the people retiring. I believe people who know or work directly with a facility manger know their value and how much they do for an organization, but from an outsider’s perspective, it’s a dirty job and has some misconceptions. Check out our interview with Samantha here.


Christine Burkett, Sam’s Club: I do believe the industry as a whole is misunderstood. Many believe facilities maintenance is simply the reactive response to any problem occurring within a building. Many also assume facilities maintenance is all physical labor. Preventive and predictive maintenance plans, scheduled equipment replacement, vendor management and complex budgetary responsibility are often overlooked. Developing a strategic plan across multiple sites for building automation, or new equipment roll-out are rarely part of the discussion. Every conversation is a teaching and training opportunity to gain greater awareness and understanding of the magnitude and expanse of facilities maintenance. Check out our interview with Christine here.


Dr. Doug Aldrich, IFMA: I would use the word uninformed rather than misunderstood. I believe users of FM services don’t always understand the work processes for operations and maintenance that can benefit them significantly. It’s not just to fix things. Executives don’t always know how to incorporate FM capabilities into an organization’s strategies. It’s not just an afterthought in planning. Members of FM departments don’t consistently believe there is an excellent future in growth and fulfillment. It’s not just a dead-end job. I’ve seen all facets, which can be converted to opportunities, to deliver real value in those three dimensions.


Diana Ortiz Burns from Osprey Rising LLC believes the term “facility manager” undersells the breadth and scope of work she and her colleagues in the industry tackle every day. “We’re really impact and experience officers,” she said. Check out our interview with Diana here.


Leni Rivera, author of Workplace Experience: Create a place where people thrive, business grows, and a unique culture lives, offered a fresh perspective on facility management roles and responsibilities.

Leni uses the terms facility management and workplace experience interchangeably. She believes that organizations should have Chief Workplace Officers, on a level with Chief Executive Officers. Here’s a link to Leni’s book.

Clearly, the facility management industry is evolving, everyone is learning, and the actual work continues to grow in complexity and sophistication, with technology providing a much-needed boost to productivity and problem-solving.

We’ll continue to focus on innovation, best practices, and the people and personalities keeping this industry vital, and full of future potential.

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