blurred retail store

Why digital transformation is now coming to retail FM

The death of high street retail is probably somewhat exaggerated, but its transformation is happening now - and FM leaders need to be at the forefront of this change. 

"Legacy" FM is a set of attitudes to facilities management, firmly entrenched in the past, and making no effort to recognise today's digital revolution, which is changing retail FM rapidly and forever. Legacy FM consists of keeping old facilities in their traditional configuration, and ignoring or refusing requests to adapt the space to changing consumer demand. If systems need replacing, the cheapest option is always adopted, but in general, change is seen as something to be avoided at all costs.

The cost will always be important, but so is the investment, because retail business success requires spaces that consumers can relate to, and will make a point of visiting. Innovative companies that see a different future for retail are prepared to make this type of investment, but when it comes to recruitment, they need FM professionals who can match their vision.

FM companies will increasingly be partners to these game-changing companies, providing flexible and exciting locations that engage the customer. Tracking sensors, electronic in-store messaging, interactive kiosks and mixes of real-life experience with software provision are all going to be needed.

The new FM mindset is more flexible about building systems, too. Previously, systems were rigid entities that were difficult and expensive to change, without replacing the entire infrastructure. These days, with modular and intelligent building systems, parts of the system can be swapped in or out - provided the FM professional understands this new approach.

But perhaps the major challenge going forward is going to be integration with digital systems. In retail, the challenge from online will be met head-on by providing the same services as an online store, but adding value to them. Sure, you can buy your new drill online, but only when you order or buy in-store will you get the tutorial from a professional showing you how to use it. People won't want to carry lots of stuff home - but they will want it delivered later that day. So logistics systems will have to be integrated with store systems, and in some cases, delivery vans will need to be located nearby, for immediate pickup and distribution.

Another of the key changes in retail will be the integration of entertainment and eating into the retail environment. Some branches of Next already contain Costa coffee shops within the store. Large malls such as Westfield have cinemas, live music and other forms of entertainment, as well as a huge choice of restaurants, diners and cafes, and even spa and wellness areas. All of this calls for facilities management that is able to cross boundaries and service very different kinds of activities. New FM systems also integrate advanced security and monitoring systems, to ensure that the retail space is safe for both customers and employees.

The simpler, self-contained legacy systems of the past didn't have to deal with this kind of complexity. But the FM jobs of the future will go to those FM managers who can thrive in these kinds of multi-functional retail spaces.


young female worker holding glasses

How younger workers are reshaping the FM industry

Commentators are beginning to divide younger people into two distinct groups. There are the "millennials" that we hear about all the time. This is the generation that grew up with IT at school and then took to the internet in droves. Their working life has always involved the use of technology. But there's an even younger group, called Generation Z - the smartphone generation. They expect all of their interactions to be available via a phone and the phone dominates their use of media and their internet interactions.

As baby boomers reach the end of their working lives and retire, the recruitment demand for skilled employees (including FM professionals, of course), is soaring. But companies looking to recruit Millennials and Generation Z are going to have to provide the kind of workspaces that these new employees want, to attract the right kind of talent. What does this mean for facilities management companies?

Engage, inform and involve

One of the key differences with the new workers is that they expect to be engaged, informed and involved. The FM industry has sometimes had a "command and control" attitude, where pragmatism was the key virtue, and carrying out instructions without questioning them was the norm. This isn't going to wash with Generation Z. They will want to know the reasons that things are being done in the way they are.

They won't automatically respect greater knowledge either. After all, in the age of the Youtube video telling you how to do practically everything, knowing stuff doesn't have the cachet that it used to. Instead, they'll respect how FM managers apply that knowledge.

This is particularly true when it comes to values. In the past, FM professionals weren't expected to have a set of guiding principles. With the rise of concern for the environment, facilities management is far more political than it was in the past. Generation Z is going to want work that is meaningful, and not in contradiction with its values and beliefs.

How to recruit the best

Mobile phone technology is second nature to "Zs", and with the increasing use of voice technology, its place in FM should be assured. So if Zs go for an interview with a company that has paper-based or PC-only systems, they're going to feel that they're entering the Dark Ages.

It's surprising how much potential candidates can glean about a company's attitude to technology simply from the recruitment process. A paper letter, with a map and directions for an interview, tells the potential recruit that the company is unlikely to be involved in anything innovative. Clunky email attachments aren't much better. These people will be setting out for their interview with a phone, so companies need to make sure that their profile and methods are completely mobile-friendly.

And importantly, even when Zs are starting at the bottom, they want their contribution to be recognised. So as well as recognising teamwork, managers skilled at recruiting and engaging this age group make a point of recognising their individual contribution too.


magnifying glass in the centre of wooden people

Are you ready for these new recruitment trends?

As the world of work changes, so does the way in which employers recruit. Some changes may not stand the test of time, but the following just might.

Mobile-first indexing

A Google initiative designed to enhance our experience as online searchers and to ensure that Google keeps up with our habits. Google likes the fact that we say we will “Google” something and it wants to keep on our good side. Nowadays, more and more of us are looking for jobs on our smartphones and tablets, but some recruiters still don’t acknowledge this. This move is intended to change that.

No more written CVs?

Increasingly, recruiters, whether in-house or external, are placing their focus on more than just what we write in our CV. What do our social media profiles say about us? Do they portray us in a way that we’d like a current or prospective employer to see us? Employees may need to start doing the same sort of things that businesses need to do, creating their own personal websites and building a suitable 'brand' for their chosen career in order to get hired.

Make the company profile look the part

We may not have got to the recruitment equivalent of online dating sites as yet, but we do need people to “fit,” if we want the hire to be successful on both sides. The way we do this is to be honest yet attractive. To use a phrase that was very common back in the early 2000s, we need to make ourselves, “employers of choice.” We need to do this on our website as well as our social media profile pages and we mustn't forget all those job review sites either.

AI anyone?

Like it or not, artificial intelligence is not going away. It’s already in use in one form or another in the UK, in the NHS, for example, and in a number of industries. This is starting to impact on the types of job available, with analysts suggesting that it will create many more new roles than it will replace. It is also having a significant effect on the efficiency of candidate screening and accuracy of hire in the recruitment sector.

Flexible working

More and more of us are moving into freelance or self-employed roles. It’s beneficial for the employer because their costs are lower and beneficial for the worker because they have greater flexibility over their working hours and locations. There are plusses and minuses on both sides but focus on the positives.

Virtual Reality

Not only software for video interviews, but VR and augmented reality are now being used in recruitment. They enable candidates to take part in simulations of real-life situations.

Talent Relationship Management (TRM)

This is becoming more important in recruitment, but we shouldn’t forget our existing talent. There are many reasons to promote internally-developed people, however, we don’t want to forget potential new talent either.

The truth is, we need to use a wide variety of recruitment methods in order to hire the right people. We stand a better chance of getting the right people by staying ahead of the curve.


brain shape from technology lights

Which technologies are changing the FM industry?

The world of facilities management covers a whole range of different areas. This means there are many opportunities for technology to streamline operations for companies involved in this field. Geographic information systems and computer-aided design were some of the first technologies to make an impact in the FM business, but there are now many others.

Smarter buildings

One of the big things that have changed in recent years is the number of devices and sensors that can send information over the internet. These ‘smart’ or ‘Internet of Things’ devices are now used in many buildings, particularly for environmental controls. This means that thermostats, for example, can report back to a computer system that can control heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.

Similar systems can be used for lighting, ensuring that lights aren’t left on when a room is empty, for example. They can also be an integral part of building an overall smart workplace, allowing employees to ‘hot desk’ and make the best use of available resources, for example, or to automatically direct people to the location of a meeting. The system can ensure that a conference room is lit and at a comfortable temperature before the meeting starts and that any audio-visual systems required are enabled.

Wearables

Many people now have wearable technology like fitness trackers. It’s easy to see the benefits of these on a personal level, but how can they help with managing facilities? Using wearable devices can help managers to understand the pattern of employee activity throughout the workday.

Wearable technology can be used to collect data about how people move around a building, thus giving valuable insights into resource use and space occupancy as people go about their jobs.

Building information

Another thing that facilities management providers are turning to is building information modelling. This allows the creation of a digital model of a physical building. Why is this useful? It can help with space management, letting you work out the best way to fit people and equipment into the space. It also helps with making decisions about efficient use of the building, energy consumption and so on. It can also make it easier when it comes to refurbishments and redesign.

Recent moves are towards Open BIM, which means adopting common standards that make it easy to compare information about different locations. If fully adopted, this would allow information to be shared widely, helping to create ‘smart cities’ to promote levels of energy efficiency and space utilisation across a wide area.

Artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence is having an impact on many different areas of our lives and the FM sector is no exception. Along with machine learning and the smart buildings technology we discussed above, it can be used to analyse data in order to predict things like asset utilisation.

This means that equipment can be serviced according to its use, helping to prevent unexpected breakdowns of things like environmental plant. AI and ML technology can help to predict failures before they happen and therefore keep things running smoothly.


closed for Christmas

How to manage the office Christmas closedown

Right now, there are FM professionals up and down the country wondering where Santa's Little Helper is when you need him to help with those extra festive jobs. Not only do they have to ensure the workplace is looking lovely and cheerful, they often have to manage social activities in the building. Then when the last worker has left, they're the ones who have to restore order and make sure the building is securely closed down for the holiday.

Cleaning 

Evening functions in the premises play havoc with the cleaning routines. The functions often require extra cleaning to take place, but employees turn up the next day expecting the building to look as well serviced as ever. Many organisations now have a two-drink limit for any functions at their premises which has limited the worst - let's say messes - that have to be cleaned up. Still, it's a case of asking the cleaning company to be as flexible as possible, and that's best done some time in advance.

The quiet period over the holidays can be a good time for deep cleaning - again, something you need to arrange in advance.

Heating and ventilation

Heating needs to be adjusted so that it runs as economically as possible. If there are staff on site, such as cleaners or security staff, they need reasonable temperatures to work in. But there is little point in heating an entire multi-storey building for one security guard, and so they're usually provided with spot heating for the room they're in. After the holiday, it's a question of getting the building nicely warm, so that employees returning to work, dejected and probably broke, aren't freezing cold into the bargain. OK, they'll still be depressed and penniless, and spending their morning browsing recruitment sites, but at least they'll be warm.

Security

That lonely security guard with his turkey sandwich and oil filled radiator may be quite busy. Christmas is a key time for break-ins, and one of the facilities management jobs is to ensure that in the rush to get away, other managers haven't forgotten to secure their areas. So the last check is essential and alarms need to be primed for areas that won't be used.

It's also important too, to ensure that no one is sleeping off the after effects of the office party in one of the meeting rooms. Home alone is one thing, at work alone and locked in over Christmas, is quite another. For the same reason, toilets have to be checked, to ensure that taps aren't running.

Fire

A faulty light fitting setting fire to a paper lantern, or some tinsel draped over an overheating electrical device, are all it takes for a fire to start. So it's worth checking the decorations to make sure that none are interfering with any electrical fitting, or likely to fall onto radiators.

Finally, the FM manager gets to turn off the last light, lock the last door, eject the last party straggler and head off home for their own celebration. Silent night. Until the alarm goes off at 3 am and someone wants the key holder!


Business statistics bar graph

What's driving growth in the FM industry

There are four big trends currently driving growth in the facilities management market worldwide. They are providing strong growth and all of them seem set to continue into the 2020s, affecting jobs and recruitment. Let’s take a look at them.

1. Increasing FM integration and demand for outsourced services
In the Asia Pacific region, there is a rapid increase in the demand for outsourced services. At the same time, there’s a worldwide growth in demand for integrated provision. How are these two things linked?

The link is that clients see them both as twin solutions which will allow them to bundle up all their facilities tasks, and pass them to a provider who will provide an integrated, end-to-end solution, replacing a hotchpotch of maintenance contracts, in-house staff and other arrangements. As huge markets such as China open up to the possible efficiency savings of integrated and outsourced facilities supervision, this market will see significant growth.

2. Growing demand for services that assist corporate aims
These value-added services involve the provider having an in-depth knowledge of what the business is trying to achieve, and understanding how they can help. For example, this might be in the area of environmental issues, where a client might wish to achieve a more sustainable workplace through the use of the latest energy management technologies.

Similarly, a facilities manager might be able to bring about significant economies through more efficient use of energy, space, and infrastructure, thus increasing shareholder value. Again, an active provider could be engaged in helping a company to show its staff and customers that they are good employers, by promoting a “well building” approach and showing an active interest in issues such as indoor air quality.

3. International trade
Despite some problems in trade relations, the number of contracts is growing globally. Integrated management of facilities has broad international appeal because it can deliver on some universal business requirements. These are the need to cut costs, the desire to provide great workspaces to help recruitment of talented staff, and a feeling across the world that simpler, more standardised services are easier to manage and more likely to deliver.

As companies aggregate their regional and national operations, they are seeking contracts that can deliver integrated management of facilities to wider geographic areas and business sectors.

4. Increasing economic pressures on companies
Disruption from the internet, increased regulation and greater competition, are all putting pressures on companies to cut costs, and find partners to deliver key services at more economical rates.

All companies want to protect their current facility assets, but many are seeking a partner to take over the whole of the FM function, leaving the company free to concentrate on its core business. Companies are well aware that if they don’t deliver shareholder value, they could be targets for takeover, and so they are intent on divesting non-core activities.

Increased regulation concerning environmental, employment and health and safety issues means that it now makes sense to hand the whole facilities management function over to specialised companies.

It’s not surprising then, that many facilities management jobs now include a compliance component, which requires FM managers to have an up to date understanding of all current legislation and guidance.


problem

5 key FM issues for managers to know in 2018

Here are some of the key issues that our industry needs to engage within 2018.

1. The industry needs to think the unthinkable 
Scenario planning is a key activity for modern FM managers, and this may include thinking the unthinkable, such as: suppose there are no offices in the future? As unlikely as this may be, it can get people thinking radically about how building use may change in the future. After all, if someone had said 20 years ago that High Street shops would struggle to survive in the future, no one would have believed them.

The radical change in the pattern of building occupation and use can happen more quickly than we like to imagine, and can catch managers unaware if they’re not thinking in radical “what if” terms.

2. Get fresh talent to join the profession
Young graduates don’t seem to be aware of facilities management as a profession, even though many have exactly the mix of analytic and pragmatic skills that can ensure success in these jobs. As discussed previously, we need to think about future patterns of work and leisure. The recruitment of recent graduates means a fresh supply of ideas and the presence of people who will challenge the status quo. This is an interesting, varied industry, but to survive, it will have to take that message to the pool of young achievers and get them interested in joining.

3. Engage with people in the business
It’s important to find the areas in which facilities management is helping deliver the company’s mission and to use internal communications, newsletters, blogs and web pages to make sure people know about them. For example, nearly every business is keen to show that it’s shrinking its carbon footprint. The facilities function can almost certainly help them punch above their weight in this respect because it’s leading the way in reducing energy use. So make sure the company knows this.

4. Connect with senior executives
Industry professionals should be trying to secure a place in the discussion about where the company is headed - in terms of workforce numbers, locations, type of working environments and so on. One way to do this is a positive and thoughtful response to a blog or article written by the CEO, or other senior executives. It will make them aware that their facilities managers have ideas - and can make a quality contribution to future planning for the business, including discussions about cost reduction.

5. Understand changed work arrangements
Facilities professionals need to adapt itself to the changing nature of work. First of all, we had occasional home working, then full-blown hot desking. Now we have hotelling - where office space is provided short term to temporary workers on a project or is even let out temporarily to another company, if the building operator has spare capacity. Suddenly, the facilities management function is running reservation systems for spare desks, or reconfiguring whole floors of accommodation at short notice.

The pace of change is very unlikely to slow - so facilities professionals have to be aware of these issues, and develop creative but robust responses to them.


Security guard

How Facilities managers can keep their estates more secure

Facilities management (FM) is in danger of turning into a branch of the crime-fighting profession, as the number of crimes rises, with both buildings and land being increasingly targeted. This is no longer a threat that can be addressed in a piecemeal way - beefing up the locks here, adding CCTV there. It needs a strategic response.

Security roles need to be identified 

The strategic security plan needs to address the entire estate, and involve the whole organisation, including senior management. Roles and responsibilities will need to be clarified, and a rapid escalation path for security issues must be identified. A security assessment of all the premises and land in the estate will enable the FM professional to rank those where the threat is greatest and prioritise remediation action if their security isn’t strong enough.

That personnel who are identified as having specific safeguarding and security responsibilities will need training and must have the new duties added to their job descriptions so that no one is in any doubt about their responsibility. This has the benefit that if recruitment needs to take place, the jobs described will have the security role already embedded within them.

Equally, security action must only be taken by those qualified to do so - otherwise, staff may carry out potentially disastrous steps such as padlocking fire exits.

Simple measures can be surprisingly effective

Some of the most effective measures are also the simplest - for example, ensuring that doors are properly closed. Electronic door closers and push button openers can make a significant difference, without costing a great deal. Similarly, keypad access control is effective because the entry codes can be changed frequently at no cost.

However, for a determined intruder, keypad access is not much of a deterrent - they will look at the strength of the physical access system and determine how easy it will be to break it. Many keypad systems are not designed to prevent attempts at physical entry, only to ensure that certain groups of people can pass through and others cannot. So don’t use a keypad system when what you really need is protective security.

Is smart access the answer?

There are now access systems that use facial recognition, smartphone codes, swipe cards, fingerprints and other biometrics. These systems can be integrated with alarm and CCTV systems and used to log data such as entry and exit times. The weakness of these systems is the biometric aspect. In the US, a group of hackers have hacked a facial recognition system by identifying employees, then using their images from Facebook to fool the recognition system. Meanwhile, the theft of vehicles with “smart” keys, by gangs equipped with scanners, is rising hugely.

It’s no surprise then, that the old standby, the physical lock, is enjoying something of a resurgence - but in a smarter form. Smart locks can combine the best of the physical and digital worlds, especially now we have the Internet of Things. They can store and transmit data about when they were activated, and by whom. And of course, their key can be changed immediately, without any costs.

In the battle against smarter thieves, smarter locks are certainly helping - as are smarter and more security conscious FM managers.


cool office

Why more employers are investing in 'cool' offices

cool officeIf you think “cool” offices are confined to slightly off the wall startups in the trendier bits of London and Manchester, think again. A study reported in the Facilities Management Journal found that a third of employers had added a “cool” element to their workplaces, in order to increase productivity and bolster staff morale.

Cycle storage, showers, bean bags and quiet spaces are all being added, in an attempt to improve employee wellbeing. As contented staff are not combing LinkedIn for a new position every Monday morning, there are plenty of benefits for the employer.

In fact, the study also revealed that 20% of workers have left a job because they didn’t like the surroundings they had to work in. Given the expense of recruiting staff, employers see the cost-benefit of any investment that will boost staff retention. Another bonus is that these kinds of facilities can be used to attract new talent into the organisation.

More than bike racks and bean bags

Facilities managers now need to be able to provide a wide range of cool features when they furnish workspaces, with the main emphasis very much on health and wellbeing. An impressive 40% of employers believe that reducing stress and improving employee well-being pays off with increased productivity and better attendance.

So lunchtime yoga and fitness sessions, gyms, games rooms, and even indoor play equipment such as slides, are all now becoming more common. One of the developments that are interesting for facilities management professionals is to see the way in which physical furnishings, such as sofas and relaxation pods, are part of an integrated approach to wellbeing that may also include lunchtime talks or bringing pets to work. One can’t help wondering whether some staff may not find the office manager’s pet tarantula a little less than relaxing, however.

What’s holding back this movement?

Those employers who aren’t intending to give their staff any new wellbeing facilities are not necessarily present day Scrooges. Although 17% think that the cool office trend is a fad that will pass, for nearly half, the overwhelming problem is lack of space. Where this rules out space-hungry features such as quiet rooms and relaxation pods, employers are still able to offer employees many of the facilities they now want. For example, where there isn’t enough room for a gym and shower, employers are offering discounts on local gyms and healthy eating restaurants. They’re arranging for motivational speakers to come in during the lunch hour or giving staff free access to fitness classes and local swimming pools.

One thing is certain - the trend for remote working, with employees paying only occasional visits to the office, will increase the pressure on facilities management companies to provide an environment that is welcoming and that aids productivity. The office will need to justify its cost, by providing more than a desk, a PC and a phone. The extra perks will change over time, but the days of lateral desking in tones of beige, and a dingy coffee area may have gone - much to the relief of many staff.


5 of the biggest FM technology developments to know

5 of the biggest FM technology developments to know

Facilities management is being transformed by technology, and that is both enhancing and disrupting the traditional business models that have dominated the industry until now. These are the five key technology trends that facilities management professionals must know about.

1. The Internet of Things (IoT)

One key development is the Internet of Things - the ability to add intelligence to physical items, to network them together and to have them communicate into central control points. This is revolutionising the way that buildings are managed. Physical information collected by thermostats, actuators or sensors can be pushed into a processing system which can then take decisions on how well the system is running, and what aspects of it need to be adjusted, in order to reach peak performance. The information collected can confirm humidity, temperature, light levels, sound, vibration, occupancy levels and all kinds of other data.

The facilities manager is able to view the building system as a whole and to manage it much more effectively.

2. Building Information Modelling (BIM)

When a building is being designed, architects need to be able to model the way that the finished construction will work when it is in use. Contractors and others need to use these models to estimate quantities and costs, and to draw up their own plans for how systems such as cabling, heating and so on will be installed.

BIM used to be a specialised tool, used primarily before the building was constructed. But the facilities management profession realised how useful these models would be in planning how buildings would work, and in modelling the building system as a whole. When linked to working documentation, such as floor plans, BIM can be a powerful management tool.

3. Developments in heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC)

HVAC systems are some of the most expensive facilities to run, and this area has been the target both for cost reduction and for efforts to reduce the carbon output of buildings. New building automation systems can make these targets easier to achieve, through lower use of energy for heating and cooling the building.

Facilities managers can get advance warning of system elements that are about to fail, and can also pinpoint elements that are not working efficiently - for example, using more energy, or producing less output, than they should.

4. Maintenance streamlining through software

Managers are beginning to realise the benefits of adding maintenance schedules for systems or parts of systems, to an automated facility maintenance package. The software can create work orders and link them to the required documentation, in order to produce full instructions for contractors, and others working in the building. After the job is finished, the status can be updated in the software, and calendar reminders can be set for the next scheduled maintenance. This enables managers to plan workflow more evenly through the year.

5. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)

That's the official name for drones. Until now, these have mainly been used for filming inaccessible parts of buildings. However, in the future, we can expect to see the development of drones that can carry out jobs such as redecoration and repair. It will be a while before scaffolding isn’t needed anymore - but the sight of drones buzzing about buildings is going to become a common one.