Editor’s note: This is the first article in a two-part series on 2024 predictions. A link to Part 2, covering the industry’s biggest opportunities, can be found below.
With such a diverse and demanding job, facilities managers are constantly facing challenges old and new. Case in point: Consistent budget constraints and a (hopefully) once-in-a-lifetime global pandemic. But as the industry enters a brand-new year, what will be the biggest problem ahead?
To find out, we asked a handful of past “Faces of Facilities” guests to predict the No. 1 challenge of 2024 and what FMs can do to address it. Surprisingly, budgets and heavy workloads weren’t top of mind, proving just how resourceful and resilient facilities managers are. However, some overlapping answers revealed at least three key trends to prepare for.
Without further ado, here’s what the industry insiders consider the biggest challenge of 2024:
Alana F. Dunoff, IFMA Fellow, strategic facility planner at AFD Professional Services, and adjunct professor in Temple University’s Facility Management Program:
“The pendulum has not stopped swinging on the balance of hybrid work. FMs need to continue to be nimble, paying attention to upticks in utilization and understanding why folks are coming into the office. If people are coming back, it might increase the need for different types of meeting and collaboration spaces or occupant services like AV technology support, food, and cleaning services.”
Carolyn McGary, national director of FM Pipeline Team Inc.:
“Finding talent! Job postings are sitting open for long amounts of time. Companies are finding it easier to find good people with zero experience and train them on the technical skills needed than finding people with even two years of technical skills. How to find those good people? Try related college or technical programs. Connect with schools that have CTE (career and technical education) programs.”
Bobby R. LaRon, senior commercial property manager with CBRE and immediate past chair of the IFMA Americas Advisory Board:
“In 2024, the biggest challenge will be the continued digital transformation of our industry. Many FM teams still operate with legacy systems that won’t seamlessly integrate with modern technologies. FMs need strategies to bridge the gap between legacy infrastructure and cutting-edge digital solutions.”
Amber Gratkowski, Central Campus facilities manager at the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission:
“I don’t think 2024 will have any real challenges; I think we will just continue adjusting to the new world of facilities management. With sustainability being the hot topic, we will be taking on more sustainable projects. We will be dealing more with solar panel projects, waste reduction, energy efficient lighting, and green building supplies and materials. We have now become acclimated with the hybrid work environment and can start focusing on the workplace experience when customers enter our facilities.”
Dave Irvin, former AVP for facilities at Florida State University, new executive director of construction at Auburn University, and international chair for education facilities group APPA:
“Many will cite deferred maintenance or budgets. However, while they will be challenges, they have been so for decades. The biggest challenge will be our team, our people—how to recruit, train, mentor, lead, and retain top talent in an inclusive team with a true sense of belonging, focusing them on serving our institutions. With the right team, we can address anything. Without the right team, we’ll struggle to address any one thing.”
Darin Rose, IFMA Fellow and director of facility services for the Credit Union of Colorado:
“The biggest challenge will be to find the best ways to implement, manage, and support technology. Finding tools to help us do our jobs more efficiently is the healthiest thing we can do for ourselves and the organization we work for. Many FMs are still using Excel to track work order requests and should consider switching to an off-the-shelf computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) program. Furthermore, smart building technology like Wi-Fi thermostats can help an organization operate more sustainably, provide alerts when issues arise, and help track maintenance efficiency, which in turn improves occupant satisfaction.”
George Alvarado, quality assurance and training director for maintenance at C&W Services:
“Remote work and downsizing office spaces is the biggest challenge I see. It’s projected that $800 billion of potential losses from unused office space will impact major cities by 2030. If our facilities have less people in them, then space utilization and asset/resource allocation is where we should focus some of our efforts.”
Prince Reed, vice president of asset and facilities management at DaVita Kidney Care Inc.:
“The biggest challenge will be the shortage of skilled labor and the impact that shortage will have on facilities costs. To the extent available, utilize a major third-party service provider. These larger players have vendor networks that guarantee rate structure by trade and are specific to geographical territories.”
Jose Rosas Roque, facilities manager at HungerRush:
“With the rapid evolution of technology, including smart building systems, IoT devices, and automation tools, comes the opportunity to revolutionize the way we live and work. However, this also poses challenges in terms of integration and ensuring the security of these systems. Facilities managers can rise to the occasion by staying up-to-date on emerging technologies, investing in training for their teams, and collaborating closely with IT professionals to ensure seamless integration. By prioritizing cybersecurity measures, we can protect sensitive data and critical infrastructure, paving the way for a safer and more efficient future.”
Overall Outlook – Part 1
All FM professionals surveyed were also asked, “Are you concerned or optimistic about what’s ahead for the industry in the new year?” Here’s a sample of their responses:
LaRon said, “I’m optimistic for 2024 because each challenge we face is an opportunity for continued growth within the industry.”
Alvarado said, “My normal posture is cautious optimism. It’s easy to fall into doom and gloom when we are faced with the surmounting challenges that come our way. But keeping a realistic outlook prevents us from making costly mistakes, and optimism sustains and motivates us to innovate and realize the achievability of our solutions. So, I am cautiously optimistic about the future.”
Irvin said, “Totally and completely optimistic! Yes, there will be challenges—significant ones. But we in facilities management are trained to solve challenges. There is no one I’d rather have on a deserted island than a facilities team. We wouldn’t be stranded after a three-hour tour. We’d figure out how to build a boat!”
Reed said, “I am cautiously optimistic. We have seen cost of materials somewhat stabilize. Even though they will likely never return to pre-pandemic levels, the huge fluctuations have normalized. I also am aware of many initiatives by various facilities management associations like ConnexFM, SPECS, and IFMA that have created a focus on responding to the skilled trade dilemma. Even though we’re not as far ahead as we should be, realizing it and putting energy around solving it is reassuring.”
Dunoff said, “I am an eternal optimist. There will of course be new hurdles to overcome in the industry in 2024, but there were new hurdles in 2023—and the year before that and the year before that. FMs would get bored if there wasn’t a new challenge to tackle. So, whatever is the new buzz, trend, or unexpected event that appears in 2024, I have every confidence FMs will continue to learn, adapt, and execute to meet the needs of our organizations.”
Make sure to read Part 2 of this series, “FMs Highlight 2024 Opportunities,” here.