Real Estate Technology & the Talent Shortage
The talent shortage facing the facility management industry is significant. Industry leaders increasingly recognize the impact it may have on how buildings are operated. This was a popular topic at the annual Realcomm | IBcon event in June.
The industry trends are clear. IFMA reports that their average member age is 50.9 years old. RICS also has written extensively about this topic (with IFMA, in fact) and noted that it has more members that are over the age of 70 than under the age of 30 (see page 10, here). RICS also notes that only 15 percent of its members are under the age of 40. The key headline from all these organizations: the industry needs an influx of new talent. As a local example, in 2016 San Bernardino County had 3,200 open positions and only 32 qualified applicants in the field.
Due to expected growth in the industry, the problem may get worse before it gets better. While it’s hard to find job growth projections specifically for Facilities Management, many of the core roles within the industry are tracked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). For example, HVACR installers and mechanics are expected to see a 15 percent rise in employment from 2016 to 2026. This is over twice the expected growth for all employment, and installers/mechanics generally. Similarly, property, real estate and community managers, a category that includes a wide range of building types, is expected to grow 10 percent over the same time period. The category for janitors and cleaners is also expected to grow by 10 percent. All of these, and other building and facility roles, are outpacing the broader economy.
While the fast growth in the industry may attract new talent, a number of leading firms and other groups are making their own investments to mitigate the talent shortage. Johnson Controls, for example, has written a white paper on the topic, focuses on hiring military retirees and is investing in technical colleges. Additionally, ABM is funding an effort by the IFMA Foundation to mitigate the growing talent gap. The IFMA foundation is also partnering with California Community Colleges to offer facilities management as a career pathway.
At IBcon 2019, our panel, Building a SMART BUILDING TEAM – Navigating in a Skills Shortage Environment, discussed the state of affairs and also profiled a few innovative firms that are thriving in this talent-short environment. A few of the most notable points included:
- Younger staff want to work in more advanced buildings. Older staff may be more resistant, especially when technology is first deployed. There may be an opportunity to attract new talent with investments in smart buildings (which will also pay off in other ways).
- Panelists noted that they had to get creative to hire staff. In many cases, they tried to describe a type of role that might fit well in building/facility management but wasn’t close enough to it to ensure that staff will naturally apply for jobs. Reinforcing the point above, one panelist mentioned former members of the military making great hires in facility management.
- A key focus is on training. On one hand, staff may realize that training makes them more valuable, which opens up other job opportunities and exacerbates the shortage. But panelists agreed that it is more important to ensure that staff is aware of new tools and technologies to do their jobs.
This all aligns with a recent article in Canada’s Financial Post stating that technology will disrupt the current roles of some workers, but will have the capability to mitigate the impacts of a talent shortage. This is an important industry issue to watch, though there is some good news: the discussion has moved from “Will the tech steal my job?” to “Can technology help make me more efficient and focus on high-value tasks?” This is a step in the right direction.
This Week’s Sponsor
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Join a unique gathering of Corporate Real Estate and Facilities professionals at CoRE Tech 2019, held Nov. 13-15 at the San Jose Convention Center. For the 10th year, CoRE Tech focuses on groundbreaking automation and technology strategies to help organizations achieve Real Estate business goals. This year's theme, REcalibrate | Using Innovation to Turn Challenges into Opportunities, focuses on why entire organizations need to fully understand the next chapter of the digital revolution—a chapter impacting individual roles and entire companies.
As you REcalibrate, CoRE Tech attendees gain access to:
- Global Industry Experts
- Leading-Edge Learning Programs
- Executive Briefings and Tours in Silicon Valley
- Innovation Showcase of Ground-Breaking Tech Solutions
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UPCOMING REALCOMM WEBINARS
Real Estate Information Management - BUDGETING & FORECASTING - 9/5/2019
With real estate portfolios becoming more complex and in need of continuous financial scrutiny, the demands for integrated, real-time, accurate building and portfolio performance information is critical to business success. Long gone are the days of isolated static forecasting; we are now entering an era of complex, integrated, real-time and predictive. New platforms, including CPM (Corporate Performance Management) products, approaches and innovations continue to reshape this important real estate process. Industry experts will present state-of-the-art, leading edge and modern approaches, providing an up-to-date perspective on current best practices.
Chuck Niswonger has over 30 years of successful leadership experience in technology-related roles that range from operating his own consulting company (www.nicenets.com) to directing the IT strategy of a real estate investment management firm to manufacturing and technology-enabled education. Chuck has also been the chair of the Realcomm Investment Management (IM) Advisory Council for the last ten years, managing content selection for the conference educational sessions, IM forums, workshops and webinars.
Porter Bellew is VP, CIO for Federal Realty Investment Trust. He is responsible for the Trust’s information technology strategy, services, operations and team. Porter has over 25 years of experience in real estate information management.
Nick Moore is a founding partner of Lionpoint Group, a global consultancy focused on delivering complex business and operations transformation initiatives to solve process and data inefficiencies within the alternative investments market.