A survey conducted by Health Facilities Management and ASHE found that 40% of facility managers were older than 55. Many of these facility managers maintain the knowledge about buildings, including renovations and remodeling information, shut-off valve details and other critical information. On average, it takes 9-12 months to onboard a new facility manager. With uncertainty of when the most experienced employees will leave, owners and facility managers need to prepare to mitigate risks and costs of losing critical building information.
Kevin Craine from AIIM recently spoke with David Trask, director of facilities technology at ARC® about the risk of losing organizational knowledge in the Facilities area of the business…and what to do about it.
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Kevin Craine: “David Trask welcome to AIM on air. ARC has recently released a white paper titled ‘Stop the Brain Drain: Challenges Facing Today’s Facilities Managers’. What do you mean by Brain Drain and how does it affect Facilities Managers?
David Trask: “One of the challenges that we found (and I’ve had literally thousands of meetings with Facilities Managers nationwide) is the aging group of employees. So, the facilities team members on average we’re finding that it’s between 40-50% of the Facilities staff is within 10 years of retirement. That is a tremendous drain and challenge for Facilities Managers. How do we address that?
Kevin Craine: meaning that talent and knowledge will soon be leaving the organization?
David Trask: Absolutely, it’s that institutional knowledge. We often joke that the folks who have been with the organization for 20 or 30 years know where the bodies are buried *Kevin laughs* but that’s reality and the challenge is, how do you replace that institutional knowledge, those years and years of experience these folks have, how do you replace that?
Kevin Craine: Well how do you do that? Your white paper outlines 5 strategies to consider. Very briefly, what are those five strategies and why are they important?
David Trask: Absolutely, so realizing the problem with the status quo, that’s the first thing. What is my move forward? When these folks retire, what is my plan? In many cases, they don’t have one.
- The second is transferring those decades of knowledge…how do you get that information out of their heads? What is your plan? What is your move forward? That’s compounded when you hire new people to replace those folks. What we’re finding is that on average it is taking over a year to train the next person who is hired, that is a tremendous drain on resources too because those new folks tend to really rely on those people with long term knowledge so that it pulls them off things that they’re working on just so they can show them how to fix something or how to replace something.
- Third is starting that central database of Facilities Information, collecting all that data you got, all that paper you have got around the facilities all that documentation, as well as extracting out that field knowledge. Typically, that stuff is hand-written on a set plan sheets. Transferring that over so everyone has access to that.
- Fourth is using technology that everyone can easily use with mobile solutions that makes everyone’s lives easier and more productive, at the end of the day it must be easy. If it’s not easy they won’t use it. So again, facilities managers and building owners must have a program that is extremely easy to use because typically in Facilities, they’re not really tech savvy. Especially the older folks in the organization, so if it’s not easy they won’t use it.
- Fifth and last is use intelligent Facilities dashboards. Make it so that it is push button access—instant access to what I need when I need it right now. If you can’t get access to information in 30 seconds that’s a problem. If you’re spending on average an hour, two hours, in some cases three hours per day per employee just looking for Facilities documentation—floor plans, as-builts, O&M manuals – all of that information before you even do your job going and fixing things, that’s a problem. That’s inefficient, so having access to everything that you need right now when you need it, push button access so that you’re not wasting that time digging through plan sheets, O&M binders, all of that type of information just to do your job. Now you literally push a button and go out and do your job. Push button access to anything you need.
Kevin Craine: So, what you’re talking about David is a thoughtful and strategic approach to using information management technology that maybe we’re familiar with being in the information management technology sector. But implying that to capture the knowledge of these knowledge workers that are in facilities that have critical knowledge that may be lost so you’re talking about using technology to really capture and codify that information and keep that as an asset to the organization
David Trask: That is absolutely right. And I often use the example of the information should live with the building and not with the person. People are interchangeable. You’re going to have people who win the lottery, people who go out on PTO, or they’re on vacation. Things happen in life. As a building owner (whatever it is, whether it’s a municipality, a school district, or a hospital or anybody who owns a building ) the information should live with the building not with the person. So, you need to be prepared in case something happens. [Such as] people retiring, they switch jobs, that’s just a fact of life. So what this does, and through a system and plan like this, it really helps facilitate the ability to capture that information so that it does in fact live with the building.