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Three key human capital priorities to tackle in 2021

After a year filled with more uncertainty than most, especially for facility managers, 2021 brings even more challenges and opportunities. One of the most important considerations FMs, along with their organizations, will face is how to successfully usher in the future of the workplace while supporting their most important asset: human capital.

With many organizations pivoting to working remotely, procedures and policies that normally kept spaces, employees and business running needed to evolve on the fly. This evolution has led to key trends in human capital that organizations will need to confront in 2021, according to Stormy Friday, MPA, Hon. FMA, IFMA Fellow and ProFMI Commission Chair: keeping employees energized, assessing current skill gaps and building an organizational knowledge bank.

Priority 1: Keeping Employees Energized

The first major trend will be finding new ways to support and engage employees, especially as some return to in-person workplaces or others transfer to a more permanent remote working solution. Friday stresses that previous policies and procedures may not fit workplaces going into 2021 as there is no longer a “normal” or even “new normal.” Also, employees’ patience is wearing thin with pandemic restrictions stretching on, so keeping everyone apprised of updates and engaged in developing future strategies is critical.

“The expectation has not been set by most companies and institutions about what the path forward will look like yet, and I think that’s because we really don’t know,” Friday said. “But we need to make sure our FM staff is completely engaged in what our current strategies are, as well as starting to think about the future even if others aren’t.”

Priority 2: Assessing Current Skill Gaps

The next trend focuses on assessing an organization’s current skill gaps to ensure teams are prepared for anything thrown their way. With teams working remotely, or spaces not used as they were before, some skills could get “rusty” or newer employees may not have interacted with the people who could teach them the ropes at home, Friday added. In a remote atmosphere, it can be more difficult to assess and fill these gaps, but Friday suggests creating new opportunities for employees to step up and demonstrate their competency or give opportunities for people to grow further in their abilities.

“You can’t ignore knowledge and skill gaps and just let that piece of your human capital go by the wayside,” Friday said. “You can’t afford to allow your organization to atrophy in terms of its skills and you want to be building new skills for whatever this new frontier will look like.”

Priority 3: Building an Organizational Knowledge Bank

The third trend Friday foresees organizations needing to tackle in 2021 is building up their institutional knowledge bank. Friday argues many staffs aren’t consistent about documenting and sharing institutional knowledge in the best of times, and with the past year’s many pivots and challenges this will be even more important. Additionally, the facility management profession is seeing growing retirement gaps as older FMs retire and leave vacuums in both knowledge and skills. These retirement gaps mean years of experience and institutional knowledge walking out the door, which makes it imperative for organizations to document this knowledge to ensure future employees can be prepared and learn from previous decisions and policies.

“We’re losing a lot of our institutional knowledge during this whole process because it’s not being documented, including everything from procedure changes to infrastructure upgrades for remote staff.” Friday said. “And so, eventually when we’ve gotten through this pandemic and we have a new mix of onsite and remote staff, FMs will look for historical knowledge about how facilities have changed and should run now, and it won’t be there. So, we need to be building our knowledge bank before folks with that institutional knowledge are gone.”

With human capital being a key focus in 2021, it’s also important not to overlook the large impact investing in FM human capital can make on an entire organization. Since FM touches all aspects of business, when institutions focus on optimizing the knowledge and skills of their own teams, they can support the productivity of all employees, contractors, visitors and customers. With this investment, FM services can create a more productive environment overall, one in which occupants can achieve their objectives to improve the bottom line.