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FM firms reporting rise in vacancies of over 250% – how new tech can help 

Facilities Management and their staff have been hit hard by vacancies and absences, and although there is no magic cure to such endemic problems – digital tools can make operations more efficient, writes mpro5 Sector Director Dan Teare…

The cleaning and hygiene industry is suffering “severe” staff shortages with the rate of vacancies having increased dramatically, according to a survey carried out by the British Cleaning Council (BCC) in late January.

11 of the biggest facilities management (FM) firms reported some 1,917 vacancies in total. One firm said their number of vacancies increased by 252% in the last six months, and another by 267%. This was due to many factors – with companies reporting the main causes being foreign nationals going home, and staff finding new jobs in different industries.

As the pandemic started to recede, modernised economies have had to face “The Great Resignation”. Although vacancies in FM have been caused by some industry-specific factors, every industry has felt the impact of staff re-evaluating their career paths en-masse. Within the UK alone, the ONS reported that vacancies increased to 1.2 million as workers changed jobs in October 2021.

Furthermore, although the isolation law is about to change in the UK as we learn to live with Covid-19, it was not long ago that isolating from the ‘pingdemic’ caused absences to reach an all-time high – with 1 in 10 absent from work due to covid.

Ultimately, whether due to a pandemic or shifts in the global economic and employment landscape, businesses have had to try and continue operating as best they can while severely understaffed – and this has impacted morale, stress levels, and results. It is therefore vital that companies, particularly in industries as labour-intensive as facilities management, employ new systems and digital tools to work more efficiently.

‘Smart buildings’, powered by the Internet of Things and sensor technologies, and all underpinned by adaptive, real-time software, enables FM businesses to work smarter, not harder; and ultimately be just as efficient with fewer people.

In many countries, the pandemic may feel like it’s gone, but the other issues effecting staffing have not – and we never know what may be around the corner. Enabling digital transformation now is the best thing you can do to operate efficiently and reduce the stress felt by current staff.

By utilising an IoT-driven workflow management platform, FM companies can easily harvest and unify the data around them; viewing patterns and creating tasks from a centralised platform – with all the knowledge at their fingertips. Teams can instantly view and act upon this data, rather than fixed, out of date schedules, so they can do what it is needed to be done, as it happens.

For example, if a sensor on a toilet door has been opened 100 times, then cleaning staff may well need to check the bathroom facilities are  still functional and clean. Inversely, if they go to clean as their schedule insists, and no one has been in that toilet or even on that floor, it is simply a waste of their time. Viewing these patterns form over time gives you the power to predict more accurately – so your future-facing schedules can be more accurate, and peoples’ time used more efficiently.

This gives teams and businesses the power to prioritise jobs and the right people to do them. Teams can spend less time worrying about covering for missing staff, and instead can trust that all tasks are being accounted for and covered; improving overall operational effectiveness while leaving no gaps.

Ultimately, it is about doing the same with less. Smart buildings, real-time data, and the ability to act upon it, gives FM organisations and their staff a better chance at effectively continuing operations – despite any vacancies or absences.