knowledge transfer

Knowledge transfer key to generational transition

Preventing the loss of corporate experience as seasoned FMs get ready to retire
Thursday, January 11, 2018
By Marcia O'Connor

Change is coming as a seasoned generation gears up for retirement and millennials move into the workforce, bringing with them top education, great technological skills, innovative ways of thinking and seeking practical working experience.

Historically, there were no courses, training or technical platforms set up for facilities management, or FM. It was established through years of development and implementation challenges, of policies and procedures created with little support, collaboration or teamwork, and learned on the job. The many years of experience seasoned professionals possess, and the accrued knowledge that comes along with it, is irreplaceable and needs to be transferred to the next generation of facility managers.

Companies need to embrace some change in their approach to new employees. Millennial facility managers approach their work environment differently than the generations before them. Many millennials are eager to ‘leap’ into the situation without getting to its root. This enthusiasm is great; however, it may take a few attempts to come up with the right solution. Seasoned facility managers know from experience how important it is to follow routines and be able to respond quickly as issues arise.

Here are three ways companies can prepare for the transition from a seasoned generation to the millennial generation in the workplace and minimize the loss of corporate FM experience.

1. Encourage communication and teamwork

It’s difficult for a seasoned facility manager to cover everything they themselves learned on the job. Junior facility managers can make the most of their time with seasoned facility managers by asking specific questions versus asking the seasoned facility manager to verify or review an existing routine. This will give junior facility managers a better understanding of the benefits of, expected outcome of and reason for routines. It’s important that new employees feel at ease to ask specific, task-related questions.

Weekly huddles can serve as a safe place for new facility managers to ask questions and, more broadly, keep the FM groups up-to-date on what’s happening at their facility. These 15-to-20-minute ‘scrums’ also help to identify current priorities, such as new client move-ins and recurring customer issues.

2. Let newcomers job-shadow and rotate jobs

Ensure overlap between incoming and outgoing personnel so new facility managers get a chance to follow the daily, weekly and monthly routines of seasoned facility managers before they leave the company. This will make for a smooth transition and ease the new facility manager into the FM routine. Job shadowing can help the incoming facility identify key areas of the facility that may require special attention, such as areas of potential leakage during heavy rain storms or accessibility workarounds.

Job rotations can also help millennial facility managers gain a better understanding of the diverse role of the FM professional. If the company has more than one facility, encourage junior facility managers to walk through other facilities and assess whether it’s at par with or better than their own facility, and whether there are ideas that have been implemented there that they can take back to their facility.

3. Centralize procedures for consistent operations

Ensure consistency of operations with a centralized platform for key departmental procedures. Include information such as standard operating procedures, current FM plans, business cases, building plans and up-to-date documentation on recent renovations and upgrades.

This makes corporate policy and directives available to newer facility managers, to help them gain history and/or context to current and future directions for the FM department. A repository of standard operating procedures is crucial to help new facility managers maintain the same level and quality of service.

Facility managers both new to the profession and seasoned can work together to ensure their facilities are maintained in good condition and meeting the needs of its occupants. By inviting questions, offering job-shadowing and rotation opportunities, and creating a centralized home for key corporate documents, organizations can ensure they don’t lose important institutional knowledge as seasoned facility managers start to retire and make room for millennial facility managers.

Marcia O’Connor is president of AM FM Consulting Group and lead instructor at U of T’s FM certificate program.

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