Facility management during the 2009 recession: a snapshot view
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In 2008 and 2009, the world was shaken by the deepest recession since the Great Depression. This event has forced changes on many industries and professions - including Facility Management. This paper provides a "snapshot view" of how Facility Managers and Facility Management departments are navigating the financial meltdown. Preliminary research focused on previous recessionary periods, and the impact that they had on the development of Facility Management. In the recessions of the eighties, nineties and two thousands, Facility Managers started professional associations and developed professional certifications for themselves. At the same time, more businesses began utilizing the Facility Management function in order to orchestrate an increasingly complicated (and potentially expensive) built environment. At the same time, the same economic pressures led both to an increase in the use of outsourcing, and a backlog of deferred maintenance. Facility Managers had to be both innovative and flexible to survive in the industry - which has seen little growth in the 2000s. The main focus of this paper was a survey answered by 119 Facility Managers. In it, they reported on both how their departments were responding to the recession, and also how they were personally managing their careers during this time. Follow-up questions were also asked of some Facility Managers, to get a more detailed understanding of their answers. The main strategy that the survey found Facility Management departments turning to during the current recession was deferred maintenance, followed by staffing cuts and contract renegotiations. Facility Managers also reported that they are continuing to shift work to outsourcers - although some FMs reported that they have either outsourced all the work they can, or that there is no way to outsource some of the tasks that they do. In those cases, they focused on doing more work in-house. Individual Facility Managers tended to have relatively long careers, with about seventy percent being in their positions for longer than three years. Also, of those FMs who reported being unemployed, the majority had only been out of work for less than six months. Many of the Facility Managers questioned in this survey stated that they believed networking was a key component of their jobs. There were some who disagreed with this, however, believing that technical knowledge has become much more important than a strong social network. About equal numbers of people who had been in their jobs for about a year reported finding those jobs through job-boards as through networking Most of the Facility Managers who responded to the survey are not aware of any initiatives devoted specifically to helping out-of-work FMs. These groups do exist, however, and some were discovered in the course of researching this paper. It's notable that many Facility Managers appeared to have much more negative view of social networking sites than they do of in-person networking. The paper concludes by speculating on what the various results mean. While Facility Management departments appear to be laying professionals off, the long tenures and short periods of unemployment may signal that Facility managers are still in demand - even in times of recession. They may actually be more in demand now than in normal times, because of the need to balance multiple needs during a time of constrained spending on both capital and operating budgets. One red flag on the horizon is the perception of new technologies by respondents to this survey. Facility Managers were originally hired to manage costly new technologies in the workplace - this is something that they must continue to do in the future, and if they are not comfortable with changes that are coming, the profession may be bypassed or become marginalized. This may be a generational issue, which will be solved as younger people enter the industry.