Facilities Management Qualifications vs. Industry Expertise

Efficient facilities management is paramount to the success of every organisation. In this fast-growing discipline, how critical are formal FM qualifications for both applicants and businesses in addition to sector-established skill sets?

Do today’s facilities management candidates need formal qualifications to succeed? The debate regarding the necessary combination of soft skills, hard skills, and formal education qualifications in the facilities management sector is as varied as the role itself.

No matter the title or level of designation, however, a now large and complex FM industry requires a command of a range of design, build, finance, and management expertise. As such, the concern for the highest qualified facilities management recruits are more important to the marketplace than ever before.

Since expert and high-level facilities management involves the delivery of an organisation’s strategic and operational objectives, including provision of a safe and dynamic working environment, property strategy and space management, communications infrastructure, and contract management (to name a few), today’s FMs bear a range of important responsibilities for providing, maintaining, and developing myriad, complex services.

A mix of in-house departments, contractors, multi-service businesses, and corporations expecting the finest in strategic and operational assistance push the desire for secondary qualifications by employers, especially for larger organisations and management positions, in addition to sector-required norms in skill set, cultural fit, and personality.

Facility Manager Basic Qualifications

At the very least, facilities management applicants will require the established, sector-standard soft skills required to succeed, including negotiation and change management skills, the ability to manage feedback, adaptability, attention to detail, the ability to work in teams, and impeccable time management. These soft skills are non-negotiable and essential to the recruitment and hiring of impactful facilities management candidates, as they always have been.

A diverse level of knowledge competencies is needed in the profession, including a solid understanding of finance and business management. An ever-increasing expectation for facilities managers to manage larger budgets and cut costs out of these budgets by several per cent per annum drives this requirement.

The spectrum of hard skills and qualifications needed to fill a given role, however, depends on the position and its level of seniority and responsibility. Here is a deeper look at which hard skills and qualifications are expected:

Hard Skills

Regardless of whether a facilities management applicant entered the field with formal qualifications, most facilities managers have a background in directly-related areas of proficiency such as building management, business studies, construction, engineering, hospitality, administration, finance, accounting, or management (or a combination of these). With a solid foundation in related studies and experience, on-the-job training may be provided to graduates who can supplement their formal training by taking professional qualifications once hired. Typically, a client with a solid soft and hard skills foundation can find a position in these circumstances.

Larger organisations are more likely to require the hiring of a facilities manager with a formalised, strategic overview of a range of functions and supporting services, in order to manage and supervise. Similar to on-the-job training, graduate development programmes, available with larger organisations, can provide a combination of work placements and training, providing graduates with the opportunity to receive forthright experience and training at the same time as acquiring professional qualifications.

Are Formal Qualifications Really Needed?

Many service providers and client companies in the facilities management industry have had problems filling a specific vacancy – and allude to reasons that include a lack of required experience or technical proficiency.

With the introduction of more sophisticated recruitment methods and higher standards for applicants, many firms seeking mid-management and above in FM are now expecting to see a sound grounding to at least to HND/GCSE level, but preferably A level standard, balanced with some additional further studies, expected in either FM or business/financial management.

In all, pre-entry experience is desirable and some time in industry with a relevant degree can be particularly useful for gaining skills and building a network of contacts. For some FM positions, it is necessary to have qualifications offered by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) or National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health (NEBOSH).

Formally, facilities management apprenticeships are available from the British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM) from levels 2-7, with levels 2 and 3 being suitable for new entrants. Postgraduate diplomas and Masters are also allowed for interested professionals with a background outside of FM who want to move into the realm of facilities management. Masters degrees are an increasingly popular qualification for the sector. In addition, many universities deliver the BIFM Level 7, which forms an integral pathway towards a Masters in facilities management.

Membership of the BIFM and other organisations relevant to one’s specified area of expertise may be helpful for networking, training and CPD opportunities, see the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) and the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE).

Facilities management professionals, regardless of entry, are also expected to engage in rigorous continued education, also known as continuing professional development (CPD), comprised of external short courses and “in-house” training. Common areas of training include health and safety, legislation and regulation, and practical and business skills training, to keep facilities managers current. It is also expected that facilities management candidates take further studies with respect of advances in technology.

Evolving Facilities Management Expectations

Times have changed since soft skills like communication proficiency, a winning personality, and an eye for innovation were the biggest requirements in the facilities management profession. As the sector continues to expand to include the management of an increasingly broad range of tangible assets, support services, and people skills, the need for a broad range of abilities and formal qualifications will only increase – and the competition between applicants will continue to grow. 

For current facilities management recruits, a high level of tenacity, a strong network of contacts in the industry, and up-to-date qualifications and continuing education courses will continue to keep one competitive. For employers seeking the best in facilities management expertise, the requirement for qualifications will remain strong, as employers seek to maintain their edge in the marketplace.