FM Frequency: What It Really Means

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By Jeff Crane, P.E., LEED® AP
Published in the November 2005 issue of Today’s Facility Manager

This article might offer valuable guidance for anyone considering a career in the facilities profession. Most classified ads include a list of responsibilities or expectations against which a candidate is measured. Wouldn’t it be nice if hiring managers actually provided a literal explanation of their expectations? The following responsibilities might be considered a “top 10” list associated with facilities management ads

1. Requires technical leadership for facilities operations, includes maintenance, utilities, housekeeping, landscaping, food service, security, construction, and business continuity.
Translation: When something breaks, goes wrong, or the unspeakable “hits the fan”—within 27 seconds you better know exactly what happened, why it happened, and how to fix it. Note: A utility outage caused by a lightning strike across town might be the truth, but it’s not an excuse. Within three minutes, you will produce a written admission of fault and an apology to senior management/customers. Within 12 minutes, you will have new procedures implemented to guarantee it won’t happen again—even if it means eliminating all lightning from the sky.

2. Oversees all facets of the daily operations of the organization to ensure compliance with local, state, and federal laws, policies, regulations and industry best practices.
Translation: Our corporate attorneys recommend you carry personal “errors and omissions” and liability insurance. If someone sues our organization, you should expect to pay the fine, do the time, and, in shame, resign (yes, rhymes help toddlers and imbeciles remember important things).

3. Manages proactive space planning in cooperation with senior management and department heads.
Translation: You will be the referee in a political square footage contest without rules, authority, or time limits. You must have the courage, lack of sense, or a third degree black belt to stand between five to seven junior executives who despise each other and want bigger corner offices from which to manage their growing empires. Ability to predict the future is a plus.

4. Oversees the supervision of facilities personnel, including work allocation, performance management, job training, and problem resolution.
Look, you are overhead and your expenses come right off the profit line and out of my bonus. If there are any facilities staff members left when you get here, we’ll expect you to figure out how to manage without them. You can work smarter by outsourcing, outtasking, and putting the help desk in another country. Do whatever it takes; just don’t spend money. And by the way, we want the place maintained and run like a five star resort.

5. Oversees the activities of contract personnel—monitors and inspects work to ensure quality and adherence to specifications/industry standards.
Translation: We understand you’ll need to contract some facilities services. I mean, we know you can’t cook all the meals, cut the grass, and clean every toilet bowl by yourself. But hey, if we end up on the evening news or our stock takes a beating because of an immigration sting, see items 1, 2, and 4.

6. Establishes and maintains facilities services procedures to resolve problems and facilities complaints in a timely manner.
Translation: You’ll need to make everyone happy, all of the time. It’s simple and it doesn’t even rhyme.

7. Excellent written and verbal communication skills essential.
Translation: It’s important for you to say exactly what we want to hear. E-mails and memos (when not deleted or cross shredded) must include organizational disclaimers and will be considered your personal opinion not to be confused with those of the staff and management of the organization or its customers. Remember, a cross shredded document can never be read out loud and preceded by the words, “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury….”

8. Responsible for the facility’s physical security, life safety issues, and disaster recovery.
Translation: You’ll need to idiot proof our property and be responsible for keeping things running, business as usual. Prior planning experience would be very helpful, especially if you’ve already developed contingency plans ranging from “burnt popcorn hit-n’-run” to global nuclear war.

9. Must be available on a 24-hour, seven day, on-call basis as primary responder to facilities and security emergencies.
Translation: We’ll set you up with a pager, cell phone, PDA, Web cams, and mobile e-mail services. Even if we don’t call, we expect you to check in on the place every few minutes, even when you’re on vacation or in the delivery room with your firstborn. This position is “exempt,” which means we don’t have to pay you overtime, especially for pulling all-nighters to fix a problem you should have anticipated and prevented in the first place (see items 1-8 above and item 10 below).

10. Performs miscellaneous job-related duties as assigned.
Translation: Because at this time we can’t imagine some of the ridiculous, disgusting, dangerous (if not humorous) things that will be asked of you, we include this as a catch all in every job we advertise. It’s nothing personal.

Disclaimer: This month’s FM Frequency column was intended to frighten, intimidate, and haze FM rookies and guarantee job security for the rest of us. Everyone knows that all organizations have the highest regard for their facilities operations and would never place unreasonable expectations on them.

Crane is a mechanical engineer and regional property manager with Childress Klein Properties, a leading real estate developer and property management services provider in the Southeast.

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