As the facilities management industry grapples with staffing shortages, K-12 schools across the nation are facing significant challenges. The shortage not only affects the maintenance and operation teams, but also the leaders charged with keeping their districts running. 

Here, we delve into the staffing shortage issue, explore its causes, and, most importantly, offer potential solutions to mitigate the impact on school facilities management.

Understanding the staffing shortage

One of the primary contributors to the staffing shortage in K-12 school facilities management is the diminishing number of skilled candidates available. With more individuals pursuing college degrees or entrepreneurial ventures, there has been a decline in the number of people entering trades. Moreover, retirement rates in the industry have increased as facilities workers age out of their profession. The COVID-19 pandemic further accelerated this process.

The challenges in staffing school facilities management positions

The staffing shortage poses several challenges for school facilities management teams, including:

  • Limited staff availability makes it difficult to prioritize projects effectively and shift from reactive to proactive maintenance strategies. 
  • It becomes challenging to ensure student safety and support positive student outcomes when there is a backlog of tasks. 
  • The shortage also amplifies the need for specialization, complicating the already-pressed demands in school districts.

Solutions for the staffing shortage

  1. Expand the candidate pool: 

Instead of solely seeking candidates with specific qualifications, consider trainable individuals who show potential and offer training programs to develop their skills. Incentivize these individuals by providing additional compensation upon certification.

  1. Incentive-based compensation: 

To attract and retain talent in the face of competition from the private sector, consider implementing incentive bonuses based on performance. Departments that have readily available data, such as the maintenance department, can lead the way in setting up performance-based bonuses. This approach motivates employees and rewards their contributions.

  1. Utilize social media and networking: 

Leverage social media platforms to share job opportunities, interact with potential candidates, and expand professional networks. Creating an online presence helps in reaching a wider audience and connecting with individuals interested in the field.

  1. Tap into retirees’ skills: 

Rehiring retirees on a temporary basis can provide an opportunity to learn from experienced professionals while bridging the staffing gap. Retirees can pass on their knowledge to younger workers, ensuring a transfer of skills and expertise.

  1. Promote career advancement and cross-training: 

Incentivize existing team members to expand their skill set and gain certifications by offering job advancement and increased pay. Encouraging cross-training enables employees to work across departments, filling gaps during shortages and retirements.

  1. Foster a positive team culture: 

Establish a positive work environment where everyone shares a common goal and supports one another. Encourage employees to celebrate wins and recognize successes within the team. Such a culture enhances employee morale and encourages a sense of belonging.

  1. Enhance Efficiency through Technology and Tools: 

Provide teams with the best tools and technology to improve efficiency and productivity. Investing in modern equipment, such as ride-on vacuums or other labor-saving devices, can significantly reduce the time spent on certain tasks and alleviate the burden on staff. Likewise, investing in facilities management software can boost productivity and streamline processes.

FMX’s staffing shortage roundtable discussion

As the staffing crisis continues to affect schools nationwide, we at FMX are committed to helping you and your team maximize operational efficiency despite limited resources. Our goal is to provide you with practical, innovative ideas, and processes that empower you to navigate these difficult obstacles.

Watch our recorded staffing shortage roundtable webinar and learn how to:

  • Effectively recruit and retain team members while also enhancing team productivity.
  • Utilize reports and dashboards to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of your team and equipment and justify more resources for your team.
  • Optimize labor hours and cut costs by shifting to preventive maintenance tasks vs. reactive ones.
  • Document all equipment, manuals, and photos to ensure new team members onboard faster.
  • Incentivize and recognize your team to be more efficient with your current resources and improve performance.

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