The FM of Tomorrow

Jake Gunnoe, Ph.D., Jacob Kashiwagi, Ph.D.


The State of the Industry

In a rapidly changing world, the FM industry is struggling to keep up. The FM is not seen as a core component of most organizations; it is a technical support service, and a cost of doing business. Automation is beginning to dominate the workplace. Many technical job functions will soon be replaced by machines and artificial intelligence. If the FM industry does not shake the perception of being a technical cost of doing business, the industry will continue to suffer.

As IFMA members, we tend to develop tunnel vision when looking at the industry. From inside the ranks of FM, our role is clearly critical to business operations, but from the outside looking in, facility management is a fairly unknown field. The evidence is right under our noses. The 2017 joint industry report from IFMA and RICS states:

“A shortage of skilled Facility Management talent is the most significant challenge identified by both the survey respondents and the executives who were interviewed directly. Facility Management is not attracting enough new talent to replace its retiring professionals.”[i]

The report goes on to mention that less than 15% of FMs are under 40. This has inspired the IFMA’s Global Workforce Initiative: “ fill the growing FM workforce talent gap as more than half of today’s practitioners are expected to retire in the next 5-15 years.”[ii] Simply put, the younger generation is not interested in the industry, or doesn’t know about the profession.

Traditionally, FMs came to their position through years of on-the-job experience. Many FMs fell into their roles by initially starting out in technical trade skills. Few recent graduates are considering FM as a career path because they only view it as a technical trade, or support service. This is a result of the following recent trends:

  1. FM professional is a technical area that the C-Suite perceives as a cost of doing business.
  2. FM professional still has the responsibility to meet all building and technology requirements, but is treated as a cost which can be reduced.
  3. FM professionals attempt to cut costs by bidding FM services.
  4. Organizations outsource their FM services attempting to further cut costs.
  5. When the FM professional is outsourced, the FM professional’s ability to utilize their professionalism and expertise is minimized and their benefits are decreased.
  6. The FM services real cost for the same services will increase, as the FM outsourced services now must maintain legal services, contracting services, as well as HR services.
  7. As automation technology improves, FM responsibilities are being replaced.

Who is the FM of the Future?

This is a critical juncture in the FM community. Our fate is not sealed. IFMA is populated with professionals who have developed an extensive skillset in both technical trades and business acumen. The modern FM is capable of managing entire businesses. Many are qualified for upper-level management positions. These FM industry leaders are crucial to business functions. They are not merely a cost of business. It is time for the profession to break from this perception.

Visionary FM professionals and vendors already know what must happen:

  1. The FM professional of tomorrow must be a part of C-Suite or ownership of the organization.
  2. The FM professional must be in the leadership role (identifying and utilizing expertise). Other roles of leadership are they must talk in a very simple and understandable language, so the ownership can understand their value generation (reduced cost, increased value and quality, done faster and with higher quality).
  3. The FM professional of the future must not manage, direct and control (which requires them to be an expert) but have a way to quickly identify and utilize expertise.
  4. The FM professional of the future must be a bigger service provider than today, covering all areas of expertise that are required in an organization.

The FM Professional of Future is a different type of professional.  He or she is a crucial part of a company’s upper-management and can speak in simple, non-technical language that anyone can understand. The FM Professional of the Future is an expert at managing, outsourcing, and utilizing talent (from both man and machine). The FM Professional will surround themselves with technical experts known as FM Associates. The FM Associate of the Future is a technical expert who has developed specialized skills that cannot be automated or replaced by machines. FM Professionals will know how to quickly identify and utilize FM Associates. With the help of the FM Professionals, C-suites will begin so see how critical FM Associates are to business functions as well.

Adopting the Top-Down Approach

The FM Professional of the Future must be a different kind of person.  They must be leadership-based.  They can no longer be technical experts which requires experience and heavy technical education.  They must learn how to identify and utilize expertise, they must be into value creation, they must broaden their professional area (deliver more services) to survive in the new environment. Their professional expertise will be to identify and utilize expertise by using the language of metrics.

The transition to the FM of Tomorrow mindset is challenging because the FMs of today must realize that their day is over.  They will survive, but the future will be totally different.  Resistant forces are in place in every FM organization to maintain the status quo of survival and building business solely based on relationships.  There needs to be a change agent within the industry to inspire a new direction.

Traditionally, the industry has taken a bottom-up approach to education and training. FMs have been hired directly to technical roles, learned technical skills, and rose in the ranks. Today, universities are trying to mimic this experience by teaching students the same technical skillsets in a classroom so they can assume FM roles immediately after graduation. Companies are finding that even when students have memorized technical information, they have not truly developed the skillsets and need to be retrained any way.

To pave the way for the FM of Tomorrow, we must start taking a top-down approach. The top-down approach is a method that teaches people high-level concepts that focus on logic, leadership, and interpersonal skills. Someone with a top-down education learn more effectively wherever they go because they are taught to quickly identify when:

  1. A system or process is inefficient or too complex.
  2. They lack knowledge or expertise, and need to seek help.
  3. They need to change their approach.

This education can only be achieved by teaching natural laws. Natural laws describe how the world works and explains basic human nature. Natural laws apply to all situations. Understanding natural laws, helps someone to simplify their thinking processes so they can operate more efficiently. There are three fundamental natural laws that can simplify all business processes:

  1. Cause and Effect – Everything happens for reason
  2. Utilizing Expertise – Efficiency comes from recognizing and aligning strengths
  3. Cycle of Change – Everybody’s capability is limited by how quickly they can learn and change


The Facility Leadership Series

Over the last 25 years, research has been conducted in six different to test how implement these natural laws affects business operations. Through 1,900 case studies valued at $6.8 billion with a 98%, Dr. Dean Kashiwagi, retired ASU professor, has developed a new leadership that has helped organizations save up to 30% on their administrative costs. The Leadership Society of Arizona has used this model to develop an education program for professionals, college students, and high school students. The focus of this education model is to help people implement a top-down approach throughout their personal and professional lives.

LSA has partnered with the IFMA Knowledge Library to create an article series that examines the three natural laws of business and human nature in more detail. Through this article series, we will take a closer look at how understanding these ideas can positively impact the IFMA profession and pave the way for the “FM of Tomorrow”. LSA’s mission is to help inspire a new generation of facility managers who are motived to make a lasting impact in company, the industry, and the greater community. LSA is preparing the way for next generation Facility Leaders.

Please continue to read our monthly article series and let us know what you think about the future of the industry. We are hoping to generate a great discussion in the FM Pulse.


[i] RICS, 2017. Raising the Bar Executive Summary. March 2017.