investing

The case for continuing FM education

How professional development helps facility managers keep progressing in their careers
Friday, June 12, 2015
By Marcia O'Connor

People who have been working in facility management (FM) for a number of years commonly ask: “What can a professional development course teach me that I don’t already know?” The short answer is: Even though on-the-job experience alone can create great employees, keeping skills sharp and staying up to date on industry best practices is what will enable facility managers to provide value to their organizations, and ultimately, keep them advancing in their careers.

Sharpen skills

From a personal and professional growth perspective, facility managers should always look at ways to continue to learn and improve. Mature students who haven’t taken any post-graduate professional development courses after many years may have a lot of anxiety and fear of the unknown. That anxiety and fear seem to subside once their skills and familiarity with the course materials are acknowledged.

Foundational courses cover topics such as change management, communicating and marketing financials, and leadership strategies. These courses empower facility managers to become role models for their colleagues and peers in the FM profession. They also offer a unique way to stay competitive in giving facility managers the chance to learn and engage with a network of peers and gather best practices and experiences from subject matter experts in the field. Information-sharing is especially important in FM because no two facility managers operate their buildings the same way. Each mature student’s takeaway is unique based on their current skill, knowledge and experience levels.

Stay current

FM professionals are expected to continue to work smarter with fewer resources and juggle a number of concurrent priorities. As a result, remaining current on the latest industry best practices, products and services is becoming increasingly imperative. Advancing knowledge and developing skills that can be applied directly to the workplace is key. The most popular FM courses and programs right now are related to integrated tools, techniques, leadership, FM planning and innovation.

Professional development exposes adults to an array of up-to-date research and best practices in areas such as building automation and workplace design. Mature students get to apply concepts in a safe environment before taking them back to their workplace. Learning a new concept the right way could save the facility manager and the employer time and resources.

Provide value

Professional development offers facility managers the opportunity to increase the effectiveness of facility operations and staff competency. Many facility managers don’t realize a course’s value until after it has concluded. Examples include the immediate ability to establish benchmarks and key performance indicators to measure progressive improvement and success as well as developing defensible reasons to support change.

When selecting courses, facility managers (and their employers, especially if they’re footing the bill) should evaluate return on investment. Class or instructor fees, travel expenses, downtime and lost productivity are just some considerations. Another is the applicability of the particular program. Is it really necessary? Will it have a measurable impact and payback on day-to-day operations? Will it be possible for facility managers to participate while juggling their current workload?

Facility managers are all lifetime learners — leading change requires facility managers to leverage what they know and stay ahead of current trends to provide value to their organizations. When it comes time to promote, employers are passing over facility managers with similar on-the-job experience and knowledge for employees that have taken the initiative to complete FM courses. Professional development courses help facility managers meet and exceed their potential.

Marcia O’Connor is president and CAO of AM FM Consulting Group. An FM professional for more than 25 years, Marcia promotes professional development, change management and knowledge transfer. She has been the lead FM instructor at U of T for the last 15 years.   

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