Human Resources, Maintenance and Operations, Sustainability/Business Continuity

IFMA Leader Talks World FM Day, Industry’s ‘Very Bright’ Future

Happy World FM Day! Global FM, a group of leading facilities management (FM) associations, spearheads the annual celebration every May. The event brings together the FM community and highlights the positive impact that FM professionals have on businesses and people’s lives.

To commemorate World FM Day, Facilities Management Advisor spoke with Don Gilpin, President and CEO of the International Facility Management Association (IFMA) and Global FM board member.

FMA: First, happy World FM Day. How will you be celebrating?

DG: IFMA Staff is hosting a reception at our Houston headquarters where we will celebrate important contributions and achievements of the FM community. The governor of Texas recently signed and awarded IFMA a proclamation for World FM Day. It is great to be recognized at that level.

FMA: World FM Day’s theme is “Making a Real Difference.” Can you highlight some of the ways that FM professionals make a major impact?

DG: Facility managers make a tremendous impact every single day. People spend almost 90 percent of their time indoors. While FMs take care of the buildings where everyone spends most of their time, our true focus is on people. When occupants and visitors don’t have to think about lighting, temperature, comfort, and safety and security, FM has done its job.

However, for so long, so much of the work was behind-the-scenes ensuring that every stakeholder’s needs are met. Today’s facilities and stakeholders demand a visible FM team and their effects on space. People want to know the air they breathe indoors is clean and the surfaces they touch are sanitized. The way occupants view and use space has drastically changed in the last four years. Both organizations and people relied on FMs to create an atmosphere where people can be at their best, whether it is being productive in the workplace or enjoying time with loved ones at an entertainment venue.

It’s about making our facilities positive in all the meaningful areas. The dominant role FM has in creating better facilities for a better world includes: transitioning organizations to a green economy; getting up to speed on rapidly emerging technologies that will help us improve service and productivity, have better control and greater agility, and enable a mobile workforce; and creating healthy, diverse, and inclusive workplaces. Creating a culture of positivity is not just good business strategy, it’s the right thing to do. Workers and visitors want to feel welcome, safe, included. They want a reason to come to the office—because it fosters teamwork, stimulates creativity, inspires social interactions. It is the experience—for anyone using, visiting, or occupying our spaces—that has become a leading workplace strategy today and into the future: creating experiential spaces, improving interactions through culture, aesthetics, amenities.

FMA: Facilities managers are clearly important, but they’re often considered the “unsung heroes” of the built environment. How can they get company leaders and the public at large to recognize the true value of FM?

DG: For organizational leaders, listen to your FMs. They know your buildings and systems inside and out and are always looking for ways to improve your infrastructure to best serve your needs. Communication and collaboration are the absolute keys to success for both the FM team and the organization.

For individuals, take a moment to think about your day in the office. Is your building safe and secure? Do the elevators get you to the floor you need to go to? Do your lights turn on? Is your office comfortable? Can you access the areas you need so you can be your best and most productive? There is an incredible team that works around the clock and behind-the-scenes so that you don’t have to think of any of those things.

How people perceive and interact with our facilities is making a difference to recruitment and retention strategies, and the bottom line. Air quality, cleanliness, even how quickly maintenance issues are resolved impact people’s decisions about whether they want to be in your building or steer clear. Many tenants will not even consider a building without high energy efficiency and low emissions. FMs know their facilities better than anyone else. Advising organizational leaders to move forward on improvements the FM has identified for the adaptability, resilience, and performance of the company is of high value.

FMA: In addition to World FM Day, does IFMA have any initiatives or programs to help raise industry awareness?

DG: One of IFMA’s newest initiatives is the establishment of our Military Community, which bridges the gap between all military-related components and branches with facility-management-adjacent skills and the FM professional who needs more people with those skills.

IFMA events are now including community service projects where our attendees directly impact the cities where we hold our conferences through our IFMA Cares program. At IFMA’s Facility Fusion event in San Francisco, our volunteers filled 1,000 hygiene kits to distribute to homeless people in the Bay Area. We are finalizing plans for another service project in Denver to coincide with World Workplace 2023.

Our IFMA Chapters also do a wonderful job of reaching out to their home communities, identifying needs, and selflessly giving their time and resources. Every one of those events and projects allows our members to advocate for the industry and professionals.

FMA: What are some other key benefits of becoming an IFMA member?

DG: The biggest benefit of being an IFMA member is access. Our members have direct access to learning and networking opportunities that can propel their careers, raise their leadership level, and put them at the table as trusted resources within their organization and industry. IFMA has its finger on the pulse of an evolving industry.

FMA: Where do you see the industry heading in five years? Are you noticing any major trends? Is the outlook bright?

The FM industry’s outlook is very bright, and it’s an exciting time to be in FM. The world has faced many new and unexpected challenges in how we use our facilities. FM has turned those challenges into opportunities, not only for the industry, but for their organizations and occupants.

IFMA has identified five emerging topics that everyone is talking about, but no one has a solid handle on: circular economy, climate change, ESG reporting, proptech, and workplace wellness/well-being. These areas represent the most uncertainty around what FMs need to know and when we need to know it, which enables IFMA to focus our efforts on developing and enhancing informational and educational resources that will help FMs guide their organizations toward turning unknowns into advantages.

These topics are no longer buzzwords in the industry. They have become actionable and persistent challenges that will be in the spotlight for the foreseeable future.

We’re developing standards and cultivating conversations to help organizations navigate these new opportunities. People want to know that the organizations where they work or purchase their goods from are people- and earth-friendly. Facilities account for 40 percent of carbon emissions. Lowering those emissions falls directly on the shoulders of FMs.

How are people treated in the workplace? Do organizations recognize their needs, wants, and concerns? How does the workplace reflect that those needs are met?

FM is a data-driven industry, and unfortunately, corporate real estate is one of the last industries to go digital. As a consequence, we’re upskilling a workforce to take sophisticated systems and make sense of it in the midst of a digital transformation.

We have much to learn in areas of cybersecurity, using AI for preventive maintenance, how to get value from digital twins, supporting a dispersed workforce, even 3-D virtual worlds; but there is also much to be gained—creating more efficient processes, making decisions based on facts rather than assumptions, and helping us reach, track, and report on sustainability targets.

FMA: Anything else you’d like to add?

DG: The built environment is one of the leading drivers of climate change. The future of the global economy, humanity, and the planet itself depends on responsible resource management and emissions reductions. Facility management is one of the few professions that can impact all 17 United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. As the world debates how to move forward in areas of decarbonization, diversity, ESG reporting, hybrid work, employee privacy, and space optimization, FMs have already begun crucial work to assess risk and plan for resilience. If and when there’s a consensus, we’ll have already future-proofed our facilities, lowered our emissions, protected and uplifted our people, and leapt over the technology learning curve.

For more information on World FM Day, visit For more industry interviews, check out FMA’s “Faces of Facilities” series here.

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