APPA, Leadership in Educational Facilities
Alexandria, VA

Ethnographic Study of APPA Membership, 2022

DP was asked to do an ethnographic study of APPA membership to gather insights on the value of the organization to its members and members' workplace challenges. Understanding the operational culture of an organization and gathering insights on the patterns of behavior within the organization can significantly influence member motivation and commitment. We focused on how challenges can be addressed by participation in APPA, how diversity and inclusion are being addressed, and what resources, including programs, services, and activities from APPA would best serve their members.

Qualitative research included stakeholder interviews, participation in APPA online meetings and an in-person APPA seminar, and listening sessions. Quantitative research entailed an Ethnographic Membership Survey.

Top Study Findings

  • Three-quarters of respondents would recommend a career in Educational Facilities.
  • Supervisors were a very important and positive influence on respondents’ careers. Networking was the most important factor to respondents in Top Positions at APPA while educational courses/degrees are most important for Management and Staff/Administration.
  • Career progress can be hindered by a lack of support and recognition at work.
  • Organizational disruption, budget crunches, and lack of internal communication are the most significant institutional challenges that respondents face.
  • Future work is strongly affected by changes in executive leadership and organizational disruption.
  • Professional development is very important to respondents.
    • Institutions provide support for their employees through in-person programs and activities, registration and travel for conferences, and virtual programming.
  • Respondents view the training and professional development of APPA as a significant membership benefit that helps support career success.
    • The professional development at APPA also provides a strong sense of community for those who participate.
  • The interviews, listening sessions, online sessions and seminar underscored that in-person networking is the most valuable resource of APPA.

‘APPA [training] and networking with other APPA members all have significant and pertinent substance. Having my hands in different types of facilities maintenance, APPA expands my knowledge with all categories above. I always take away something new!  APPA most certainly has contributed to my success in facilities management…’ 

Actionable Outcomes and Recommendations

  • There were no significant differences found by demographic characteristics in the survey results, but we did find that there are more women entering the field of educational facilities. As such, APPA can use this survey as baseline data, as they continue to assess membership over time.
  • Members feel that APPA is about leadership and management in educational facilities, rather than operations and technical knowledge. This should be underscored with member institutions.
  • In the quantitative and qualitative research, members emphasized that APPA training is the best professional education they have found; APPA’s operational and custodial guidelines have become the gold standard in their institutions. Marketing this information to educational facilities departments through senior leadership at the member institutions can encourage more APPA participation by facilities managers.