I had a conversation recently with a client, the head of a large facilities department. We were talking about the difference between those who get involved and advance their knowledge and those who don’t. Which one do you think are more likely to get ahead in their careers and deliver results for their employers?
It’s usually the ones who are active and connected in the FM industry.Instead of feeling they must have all the answers to keep their job and look credible, and as a result, don’t seek out other experiences, solutions and advice, they engage with others, attend conferences, take volunteer positions and expand beyond their own job. Also, they don’t look at what they do simply as a job, they look at it as a career, so they are more willing to invest their own time and sometimes their own money for training, designations, association meetings, magazines and books.
Since organizations don’t always value the facilities role and consider it a profession, Facility Managers don’t always get the same opportunities for training, particularly for general management, leadership and business training, as many of their colleagues in other departments do. Facilities leaders press for this for themselves and their staff.
If you’re in that position, you need to start promoting your FM profession and making the case for more training, conferences and development. When you network, ask others what they are doing and how they convinced their organizations to support it. The more examples you have, the better your case to your employer will be.
The bottom line is that the best in the Facility Management industry are heavily involved and learn from their colleagues and other sources as much as they can while sharing their own experiences and knowledge. They either make the case to their organization and get what they need or they take their own initiative to develop and grow in the industry.
There are a lot of ways you can do this.
You work in a profession and professions have associations to help their members, so you need to belong to the association, attend events and even better, get involved as a volunteer or on the board. Contribute your expertise to the industry or learn through working with others at the right level of involvement.
Include your Facility Management association fees in your next budget and push for it if you need to. The next time you change jobs, get your membership as well as support for attending their conferences and meetings included in your employment agreement.
There are a lot of them. Many are free, some have a subscription fee. They range from general Facility Management and Property Management right down to specifics about HVAC, janitorial, roofing, grounds keeping and more. Even if you can’t read them all, get them and scan for articles that you do want to read. Then pass them on to your staff to promote the culture of learning with them as well.
The good thing about magazines is you can get many of them either with no cost or minimal cost and you can maximize their value by sharing them in your organization. Some even have their content on-line. If you belong to an association, they may have their own publication. This is particularly useful if you manage a unique facility type, but even if you do, be sure to read the general magazines as well – many practices and ideas are equally applicable to you.
My favorite way to learn is from books. You can do it at your own pace wherever you want. Don’t feel you need to absorb everything or learn something from every chapter. At the price of a book, even if you gain one insight that helps you, you’ve made a great investment. This is something you should invest in personally even if your company won’t pay for them.
But don’t just buy books directly related to facilities management. Buy buy and read other general business books to advance your overall business knowledge. This could include books on communications, marketing, sales, finance, logistics, leadership, internet, Human resources and similar books. You would be surprised how many of those books will provide ideas and approaches you can use.
There are many resources available on-line. Whether it’s through the business networking site linked-in, IFMA’s Council Forums, other association’s websites and other forums and bulletin boards, they give you a means to network and communicate with other professionals without leaving your office. (But don’t limit your networking to on-line – get out of your building once in a while!).
In some of these on-line tools, you can ask questions about issues you have or you can contribute when others ask questions. Either way, you learn more and may even find solutions you didn’t know you needed.
(If you have a copy of my book, “Managing Facilities & Real Estate”, there is a long list of associations and magazines at the back, along with a list of a few other FM books you should read)