While the career path for facilities managers has never been clear, those who entered the field decades ago most likely shared some similar credentials.

Many learned a trade and entered health care right after graduating or after working in private industry or the military. Promotions usually came after years of service, and many were automatic. Many lacked degrees or business training.

The new generation of facilities managers still needs the technical skills, but likely will also need a degree as well as a full roster of soft skills that are harder to quantify but are incredibly important to career advancement.

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“Managers will always need to know the nuts and bolts of managing facilities,” says Peter Martin, partner with Gosselin/Martin and Associates, Mystic, Conn. “But now, they may also have to lead board meetings or explain sophisticated concepts, and they will need the skills to take them to that level.”

Strategic thinking, interpersonal skills, business management, business writing and above all, communication, are in-demand soft skills. Today, communication encompasses everything from emails and social media to speaking, giving feedback to a wide range of ages and skill sets, and creating a rapport with patients.

“There cannot be too much emphasis on the importance of communication skills,” Martin says. “Managers will need to communicate with everyone from support staff to the C-suite.”

The ability to collaborate with all levels of staff also will be critical, says Tim Adams, FASHE, CHFM, CHC, director of member professional development, American Society for Healthcare Engineering (ASHE).

“The word ‘collaborate’ might never appear in a job description, but it is really important for managers of the future to have that skill,” he says. “Managers need to work and collaborate with clinical staff, senior leadership, contractors, architects and suppliers. We can’t reach our goals working in silos.”

For the most part, candidates coming into these positions will learn these skills as part of an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in health facilities, business or related fields. But current employees may need to be proactive in acquiring or updating their leadership skills through online courses, degrees, industry seminars or workshops.

One example, the upcoming ASHE seminar, “Beyond Competency: Health Facility Leadership Skills Development Program,” presented by Martin, focuses on communication, business writing, engaging employees and the multigenerational workplace, among other topics. For more information, go to www.ashe.org/education/beyondcompetency.

Beth Burmahl is a freelance health care writer and former associate editor of Health Facilities Management. She is based in Lisle, Ill.