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Addressing the Manpower Crunch in the FM Industry


Asset managers are exploring ways to use property technology (proptech) to optimise certain processes in Facilities Management (FM) to improve operational efficiency. It is reasonable for them to expect service providers and proptech partners to help them in that transformation journey.

A major issue in the adoption and integration of smart technology in facilities management is that many workers find it difficult to operate these new systems as they are not trained to do so. Additionally, those who have worked in the industry for a long time may experience difficulty in adapting to newer methods. With technology constantly evolving, it is only a matter of time before better and more advanced technology is introduced into facilities management. These new technologies may be more difficult to operate compared to older technologies.

Upskilling and Reskilling

Some examples of newly created systems in the FM industry include:

  • Internet of Things (IoT) – An IoT system collects building performance data and highlights any aspects of the building that are not functioning efficiently. After installation, staff will need training to maintain it and ensure that it runs properly.
  • Data analysis – Many of the recent technologies introduced to facilities management revolve around data collection to help facility managers make better decisions. However, the raw data collected usually contains a lot of unnecessary information and requires someone to analyse it and extract key information which helps in the decision-making process.

Given the right environment, the application of smart technology such as IoT and automation can lead to creating higher value jobs as a defence strategy to protect older employees from losing their jobs.

Cross team learning is a very important method to develop agility amongst employees, precisely to defend older workers against the risk of job losses. Learning best practices from other site teams help FM professionals sharpen their focus on providing the best solutions for clients. This is also a powerful recruitment strategy for attracting younger talent.

Learning should be a life-long process. When managers act as teachers and coaches, a culture of lifelong learning is built. Such an environment will foster an open mindset amongst employees to welcome change and learn from mistakes. This helps them to adapt to the ever-changing technologies being introduced.

Reassessing and Amending Service Contracts

A common misconception in the industry is that embracing smart technology will lead to reduced manpower, making the jobs of FM technicians obsolete. This is aggravated by resistance from FM experts on site staff taking on multiple tasks. For instance, sanitary workers are not allowed to perform simple monitoring and evaluation tasks like changing light bulbs even if they are trained to do so. Service buyers tend to enforce these restrictions strictly, adding to the inefficiencies in the FM sector.

Multi-disciplinary workers can also help reduce the manpower constraints. The government can start to take the lead in this initiative by giving more flexibility in FM contracts. The issue on mismatched skills may be painful at first, but that should ease eventually as industry experts, educational institutions which typically supply labour, government and FM service providers start to collaborate more.

The facilities management industry today is still manpower-heavy, manual and paper-based. Hence, it has a hard time attracting younger talent who are more attracted to technology-based jobs. However, the digitisation and integration of smart technology into the industry should re-define FM roles, and influence people’s perception of these roles positively over time. There is a lot of opportunity for educational institutions to collaborate with industry professionals to sharpen the focus on relevant skills, and in thinking ahead of the skills needed for the future of FM.

There are systems and procedures in place to give them the opportunity to gain knowledge and skills that will make them more versatile employees. These will allow them to open themselves up to working in the many different sectors of facilities management.

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