The Great Retirement and the Future of Facilities Management, Operations & Maintenance

Published on 23 May, 2023read time 6 mins
Senior Manager visiting factory plant and discussing with younger facility worker

Have you heard? You must have. Workers all over the world are quitting their jobs to find purpose and meaning elsewhere - in business or in other fields of work they find more rewarding.

But this isn’t the whole story. A full two-thirds of these folks aren’t actually resigning. They’re people who have reached retirement age. In 2021, Goldman Sachs estimated that more than half of the people who left the workforce during the COVID era were over 55 years old.

The Great Retirement is a term used to describe the sudden growth of the population that is reaching the age of retirement. Baby Boomers, i.e., people aged over 50-55 years are inevitably going to retire in droves. This not only opens up a lot of roles to be filled but also presents an alarming rise in the new workforce that needs to be trained.

How the Great Retirement affects FM leaders, managers and the O&M workforce

According to, 76 million baby boomers will retire from the workplace this decade. That’s a challenge in many fields, but particularly so for the facility management industry. As more and more facility management professionals, operations and maintenance workers reach retirement age, there simply needs to be enough people and a robust framework in place to smoothen the transition to a newer workforce.

According to the CBRE Facilities Management Cost Trends 2022 Report, people are retiring from jobs faster than they are being filled. On the other hand, as of March 2022, total job openings were at 11.5 million, 94% higher than the number of people who were unemployed. This poses a problem for the job market in the FM sector and the shoes that are waiting to be filled.

What are the challenges your organization should be concerned about?

Facility management companies, especially in the hard services segment - asset management, operations and maintenance - have enough reasons to be concerned about the Great Retirement. One of the main reasons is that about 60% of FM staff - electricians, plumbers, HVAC mechanics, and operations and maintenance workers, among others — will exit in the next 5 to 7 years, with potentially serious problems for your organization. These could be in the form of the following challenges:

A Growing Skill Gap

A clear skill gap between the old-gen and the new-gen workforce is already becoming visible. Facilities management is such an industry where workers stay in one job for eons. The average hard FM services worker is aged around 55+ years and their share in the total workforce has only risen over the past two decades. Which means organizations are going to lose a huge wealth of knowledge and experience when these workers retire.

Not a consequence of the great retirement, but another macro level change that has exposed the skill gap is the explosion of data and numerous technologies that have disrupted how buildings are operated and maintained today. Where the old-gen workforce lacked in skill, they made up in terms of experience. But the new-gen workforce is still not equipped enough, both in terms of skill and experience.

So there’s not only the need to hire new employees but also train them appropriately to fill in those shoes. The average young worker, about 25 years old, must learn quickly in order to keep up with their predecessors. This takes time, resources and a combination of the right systems and tools in hand.

Knowledge Retention & Transfer

The state that FM companies and O&M teams are in today warrants the need for them to retain their institutional knowledge and find a way to pass it on to the future workforce as well.

This is where the right tools and technology have a huge role to play. If your operations and maintenance teams do not have a knowledge retention and transfer mechanism, then you’re staring at a colossal competitive disadvantage. Because any organisation’s growth depends on how they leverage their learning, experience and resources they have built over the years, facility management companies should be looking to do the same.

What’s the need of the hour?

The future is going to be defined by an intelligent data-centric approach and as an industry, facility management should not fall behind. The future workforce and the existing workforce need the right tools and data not only to track, report and manage their tasks but also to build the organization’s capacity.

The most important thing is to pick the right software for the job. One that empowers O&M teams to solve for today and scale for your tomorrow.

What should your software help you do?

1. Build a knowledge repository

Your O&M software or asset performance management software should allow you to capture all your observations, conversations, and learnings from each experience with managing your facilities’ assets in a digital repository which can be accessed by teams on demand and keep them handy for guiding new workers.

If your O&M team reilies on manual processes and paperwork, it’s almost impossible to retain your workforce knowledge. Keeping records of such data for both individuals and the organization will pave the way for more contributions from both sides. This makes it easier to train the new workforce and also engage retiring workers in practices that impact the future .

2. Adjust to a younger workforce

The future of hard services, asset operations, and maintenance now depends on a younger workforce. Companies need to address the fact that there is a conflict of interest among the current generation regarding facility management career choices. The industry is highly under-rated and underappreciated. The younger workforce is more likely to consider jobs with higher growth and more tech savvy roles. Companies need to up their game to suit the younger workforce by investing in software that makes the job easier and highlights their contributions.

3. Run leaner, data-driven operations and maintenance

While your O&M or asset management software should take into account generational changes in the workforce, it should also help overcome structural changes. Financial and economic pressures have forced businesses to work with tighter budgets. The need for cost reduction is higher than ever. Which means you need technology and automation to substitute for some of the activities that your workforce currently performs and run leaner teams for greater cost-efficiency.

Xempla helps you unlock higher operational performance from your existing building management systems and infrastructure with easy integrations, data-driven insights and zero disruption for O&M teams.

Why your O&M workforce needs a Decision Support System to navigate the challenges of the Great Retirement

Like any other industry, facilities management has to come to terms with the fact that technology and digital transformation play an important role in how you attract and retain your current (and future) workforce knowledge. But technology is no good if it doesn’t make work and life simpler for its users.

Since assets and facilities have traditionally been managed without data and technology (because it was enough back then), most operations and maintenance workers are not used to handling it. Now, smart building technology is changing the face of the industry. Data is available in stacks and piles but there’s not enough (good) decisions that can be made from it due to the lack of digital and analytical skills.

The world today is in a state of constant flux, full of challenges and uncertainties for people who work in operations, maintenance, and enterprise asset management at large. And it’s going to be like that as far as we can see. Technology, automation, and digitalization advance by leaps and bounds, yet more often than not, it’s the people who fall behind.

Predicting the future is tough. But moving ahead of time and preparing your teams with the right tools and mindset can make it easier. Software built for O&M efficiency, knowledge retention, smarter decision making, and continuous learning will help you stay forever forward.

Xempla’s Decision Support System for Enterprise Asset Management is a perfect example of software that helps O&M teams with the right tools and assistance needed to make better decisions, faster. Powered by the DIIV framework, it enables you to identify inefficiencies, investigate their root cause and deliver action on the ground faster. It also augments the process of operations and maintenance for your workforce to get proactive and come up with more innovative solutions.

Ready to imagine and create the future you want?

Book a meeting with us today or schedule a tour to see how Xempla can help you do that.