There are people working in Macalester’s facilities department who have been there for over 30 years. A lot of precise knowledge can be garnered in 30 years, from the nooks and crannies in a building, to the best way to set up an event, to what type of cleaning product works best where. The problem, then, is what happens to that knowledge when employees of over a decade retire.
This is the situation currently facing Macalester’s facilities department. They have seen the departure of six department managers since 2013. Terry Gorman, the longest serving of those managers, had been at Macalester for 37 years.
Facilities Department Director Nathan Lief is currently looking to fill five different positions, he told The Mac Weekly over email. Lief himself was hired in 2013, and said that coming into the job he knew he would be doing a lot of hiring. Since joining Macalester, he has created two new positions: an energy manager and an environmental health and safety manager.
Mike Pumroy joined the department in September 2015 as the college’s energy manager. He said that his job is to make Macalester’s buildings as energy efficient as possible, adding that much of his work has to do with switching the college to more efficient lighting.
“[The position] takes energy conservation from being an additional duty for a variety of people to the primary duty of one,” Lief said over email. The college reduced its electricity usage by 2.6 percent in the 2015–2016 fiscal year as compared with fiscal year 2014–2015, slightly below its goal of a yearly three percent usage reduction.
Jill Wirth was hired in April 2015 as the environmental health and safety manager. She works to make sure Macalester employees are safe while at work, she said, which includes things ranging from hazardous waste removal to maintaining the college’s fire alarm systems. Before the position was created, these duties were done by the department’s Associate Director of Security, Terry Gorman.
One of the jobs Lief is currently hiring for, Assistant Director of Facilities Services, is also a restructured position. It will include the former roles of project manager and maintenance manager, and will also involve aiding the Director in their general work.
The group interviewing stage for this position will begin next week, Custodial Services Manager Ralph Williamson said. It will be followed by interviews between selected candidates and the current department managers.
Williamson said that the turnover could be a good opportunity to look towards the future.
“We want someone that not only comes with the knowledge, but also has the foresight to see where we’re going,” he said. “The world’s changing and so are college campuses.”
He made sure not to downplay the loss of knowledge mentioned above as well.
It’s difficult to accurately weigh the pluses and minuses of replacing a long-serving employee. But in a way it doesn’t matter how these turnovers are seen. They are unlikely to stop any time soon.
“The average length of employment for [facilities] staff is very long and many employees have reached, or soon will reach, retirement age,” Lief said over email. “I fully expect that we will continue to see a great amount of staff turnover in the next few years.”