Aging Workforce Crisis in Healthcare Facilities Management
According to IFMA, the average facility manager is a 49-year-old male that has 28 years of experience, with 16 years in facilities management. For an average age statistic, that’s fairly high. By comparison, the median age of the labor force is estimated to be 41 years. One of the major issues in healthcare facilities management is its aging workforce. It’s not that this workforce is unskilled; that’s far from the truth. The reality is that there’s a deficit in skilled labor to replace them. As healthcare facilities management staff retire over the next 5-10 years, as a whole, the industry is ill-prepared to replace them.
This news in nothing new. I came across an article published by Health Facilities Management magazine in 2014, “Succession planning for facilities managers, Training the next generation of health care leaders”. In his article, Chris O’Malley describes this very issue and calls hospitals to action with succession planning. A 2012 survey by Health Facilities Management and the American Society for Healthcare Engineering (ASHE) found that 40 percent of facility managers were older than 55 years — an increase from 35 percent in the 2009 survey.
I recently spoke with a plant manager at a large healthcare system in the Gulf South. He has someone on staff that’s 81 years old with 36 years of experience at the same hospital. That level of commitment and sense of ownership could never be replaced. I guarantee it will be a sad day when that technician finally decides to retire. All his knowledge and expertise will walk out the door with him.
Training the next generation of facilities management professionals is not optional, it’s necessary. New infrastructure and energy systems are more complex than ever before. While these systems may start out operating efficiently, they don’t necessarily remain efficient because they’re oftentimes more difficult to operate and maintain. Fortunately, there are countless tools and dashboards that exist to help facilities management personnel make data-driven decisions about how to run their equipment. However, without proper and effective training, these powerful tools quickly turn into noise and nuisance.
As you embark on your training program research, know that not all training is created equally. Few avenues exist today that support the technical enrichment of facilities management staff in the healthcare industry. And for those that do exist, it’s unlikely that any existing program will fully satisfy the needs of any one given facility considering its specific staff and equipment. Due to this shortage of operator training programs, some hospitals are turning inward to develop their own training program that best fits their needs. The good news is that it doesn’t have to take 10,000 hours and a fat stack of cash to get it done. I have personally witnessed one hospital successfully accomplish this feat with a shoestring budget and in less than 3 months!
It’s amazing what can be accomplished with a little grit and perseverance.