Understaffed facilities management teams
By Brian Prendergast

Five surprising reasons for understaffing in facilities management in 2023

JLL Technologies recently surveyed facilities management (FM) practitioners about their operations, quizzing them about what would drive higher performance in 2023 and what would prevent it. The questions elicited responses that revealed a predicament that will trouble FM practice this year.

How will understaffed FM teams manage more work orders in 2023?

The image below, taken from JLL Technologies’ report, The State of Facilities Management 2023, says that 61.6% of respondents will manage more work orders in 2023 than 2022. That may not be welcome news to the 48.1% of respondents who believe their FM teams are understaffed. Facility managers and their teams will be challenged to do more with less in 2023.

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FM understaffing is partially the result of pandemic-related layoffs, but the major reason is the mass generational shift of aging facilities managers taking retirement. An estimated 40% of the existing FM workforce will permanently exit the workforce by 2026. The paucity of new entrants to the industry—attributed to few formal degree programs and poor succession management within the industry—exacerbates the understaffing. Experts predict 158,000 open FM positions between now and the end of the decade.

Even more reasons why facilities management teams aren’t hiring

  1. The most common reason, per the chart below, includes hiring freezes—a holdover from the pandemic—and budget constraints, which could reflect concerns of a possible recession in the U.S. economy.
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  3. The second most-reported obstacle to hiring is the relatively limited pool of well-qualified candidates. JLLT hosted a webinar last year entitled, “Essential software skills for modern facilities managers.” A JLLT director of talent acquisition who recruits for FM positions acknowledged the difficulty of finding talent in a job-seeker’s market where the time to fill job openings has stretched from 45 days to 90 days or longer. Facility manager positions in high-demand industries like healthcare, life sciences (pharmaceuticals), and critical facilities (data centers) are especially hard to fill because the skill sets are so specialized.
  4. Today’s FM job candidates value ongoing training and professional development, especially for software skills, which enable them to keep up with the technology-driven, fast-changing pace of FM. Yet employers who are conserving cash and decreasing FM budgets as protections against a potential slowdown in the economy are reluctant to commit funds to training and development.
  5. The competitive market for FM talent is driving up hiring costs. The JLLT talent director cited above reports that an FM candidate who performs well over a series of interviews usually receives a written offer within 24 hours of the final interview. Some employers just don’t compete well in a hot job market where speed and hiring inducements are necessary to land qualified talent.
  6. Facility managers and techs who experienced some degree of remote work during the pandemic want more of it. Some are requesting, at a minimum, working from home on Fridays to catch up on paper work. This is a new development for the FM industry where many jobs require an on-site presence. Employers that show some flexibility for remote work are at an advantage in the current FM job market.

How facilities managers are responding to the hiring predicament

Taking advantage of FM software automation for repetitive and manual tasks is a great place to start. One JLLT customer shared a daring goal of automating 70% of work orders. That’s an ambitious undertaking, which, nevertheless, underscores the power of automation to achieve greater levels of efficiency and productivity to compensate for FM understaffing.

Another option is to make greater use of third-party service providers for processing work orders. The FM industry is already seeing a growing trend of augmenting internal technicians with such external service providers. In fact, some FM programs only use service providers.

Another option for boosting efficiency and getting more done is taking advantage of mobile app technology. Mobile apps give techs in the field full access to asset histories, parts and model numbers, etc., and enable more first-time fix along with greater productivity while on the go.

Get the full facilities management report

Respondents to the JLLT survey mentioned above had much to say. Discover the full story of how your fellow FM practitioners are planning to do more with less in 2023 as work order volumes increase, shortages of skilled FM labor persist, and economic uncertainty looms.

Download your free copy of The State of Facilities Management 2023.