Several factors coming together in today’s Healthcare / Hospital Environment are illuminating a growing concern for the industry. Facility Managers, who have been stalwarts in their positions for many years are beginning to reach retirement age and the industry is experiencing a void in candidates prepared to step in these rolls. In 2015 a salary survey by Health Facilities Management and the American Hospital Association Society for Healthcare Engineering (ASHE) and the Association for Healthcare Environment (AHE) identified that 44% of all those surveyed said they had no succession plan in place.
The typical history of Facilities Directors comes internal advancement from an hourly positions into managing a specific aspect of the facility ( ie. An electrical technician). Longevity and history with the facility were the core rationale which moved someone into a Facility Director position. A degree was less essential for this position than was experience. Good Facility Directors became indispensable often based on their sole knowledge about the detailed workings of their facility. To some extent, a good Facility Director was incentivized to keep this integral knowledge to themselves as it’s hard to get rid of the “only” person that knows the secret functional and operations workings of the hospital. A good Facility Director has been worth their weight in gold. Succession Planning was often non-existent because it lessoned the value of the top person in the facility organization. If only one person has the key knowledge regarding the operation his position is secure. If two people have the key knowledge, then neither is secure. Thus has been the philosophy and process of Facility Management for decades.
From an Administrative position, one of the things that keeps you up at night is the realization that the knowledge of the operational aspect of the hospital are kept by one person. If you lose that person, it will result in a significant impact and cost to the organization, as well as a void of proficiency at the Facility Helm. Where will replacements for these Facility Directors come from? Often in today’s world it requires an extensive knowledge of technology and business acumen. A Degree or Advanced Degree is almost a requirement. Rarely is it the case where a long-term employee can take a Facility Director position based upon time served and experience.
So where do Administrators look for Facility Director positions? Succession Planning is perhaps the easiest and least expensive option available. It requires an organized process and coordination between the Director and Successor. Planning this process out with identified implementation steps will guide the process forward. It will require some Administrative follow-up and involvement to ensure the results are successful.
In addition to finding a right candidate who possesses the needed Physical Knowledge and experience (which is essential), there are other leadership skills which are indispensable in today’s healthcare world. For example, problem solving skills or the ability to quickly work thru issues that arise, collaboration or the ability to work with staff at all levels. There are now collegiate courses that focus directly on Healthcare Facility management and Construction Management. Administrative leaders looking for tomorrows leaders will most likely find a successful candidate in these university settings. The biggest mistake an administrator can make is to put off succession planning or replacement until a need arises. By then it is far too late.
It is not impossible to find good Facility Directors in the industry ready to take over, but the options are more limited than the industry needs. Begin succession planning now while there is time to teach and train the next great Facility Director instead of waiting and being forced to take what is available.