The facilities management industry is approaching the edge of an imposing cliff. As its workforce ages and nears retirement, facilities management professionals are looking down a steep drop-off in fresh talent.
JLL reported that facilities management professionals are on average older than the general working population, averaging 49 years compared to 43 years in other professions. The president of consulting firm The Friday Group, Stormy Friday, told FacilitiesNet that she expects up to 60 percent of facilities management workers will leave the industry in the next five to seven years.
Figuring out how to attract millennials, or those ages 18-34, to facilities management careers is vital to securing the growth of the industry. A Pew Research Center study found that more than 1 in 3 workers in the U.S. today are millennials, and that this year they overtook Generation X to become the largest share of the workforce.
The cliff might look steep now, but just across the chasm is a more viable, tech-savvy and environmentally friendly future for facilities management.
Increasing industry awareness
For more millennials to join the workforce, they have to be aware of the dynamic career paths facilities management offers. In a JLL survey of more than 200 college students conducted last year, 43 percent of students knew of facilities management as an industry, and only 1 percent of students thought they would choose a career in the field. In addition, almost half of the students surveyed were seeking degrees in science, technology, engineering or mathematics-related fields, essential study areas for careers in facilities management. There's a growing pool of STEM students nationwide, too: A National Student Clearinghouse report found that 40 percent of bachelor's degrees achieved by men and 29 percent achieved by women are in STEM fields. With the right attitude and the right skills, these graduates can become valuable leaders in the facilities management industry.
It's important for facilities management professionals to recognize the unique talents that millennials can bring to positions in the industry. One significant strength is their familiarity with technology. Millennials have grown up using complex, ever-changing technology, and, according to a PwC study, they are the first generation to go into the workplace with a stronger understanding of essential business software and tools than most senior workers. They're also eager to learn new systems, and are 2.5 times more likely than older workers to be early adopters of new technology, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.
A second strength is their eco-consciousness. A study by GPI found that millennials are more concerned about the environment than any other age group, and that more than 80 percent of them believe being eco-conscious improves their quality of life. Many millennials are well-versed in issues of sustainability, especially as it relates to workplace environments and apartment buildings and alternative energy sources.
Together, these strengths will benefit the facilities management industry by helping it adapt to the changing needs of society and daily life. By recognizing these strengths and developing them further through training programs, the facilities management industry will evolve.
Responding to millennial work preferences
Millennials have workplace and lifestyle preferences that set them apart from previous generations. They seek out positions that have opportunities for advancement, mentorship and personal growth, according to FacilitiesNet. They also want to understand ahead of time, as much as possible, the exact tasks and duties that will be expected of them, and prefer jobs that have wellness and personal benefits, like gym facilities or child care. Facilities management professionals that recognize and respond to these preferences will attract greater numbers of young talent and ensure their buildings see a bright and relevant future.
Apprenticeships and training programs are great ways attract millennials to facilities management careers and prepare them for the realities and responsibilities of the job.
"It is very important for young people to meet face-to-face with people who are currently working in the FM and property sectors," said Gillian Burdis, CSR manager at BT in an interview with FMLink. "This enables both parties to share experiences and perceptions and gives young people an opportunity to see the potential of a career in the property industry, working with people not so far removed from themselves."
Training programs allow young people to learn directly from the professionals they'll be working with, and, eventually, replacing.
When choosing a career path, millennials look to see how they'll be able to make the world a better place. A career in facilities management is well-suited to this ideals, as it is dedicated to maintaining and improving the spaces in which we live, work and grow. With their technological and environmental savvy, millennials are vital to the facilities management industry. To bridge that age gap, facilities management professionals should investigate how their workplaces can appeal to millennials preferences and provide extensive training opportunities.