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How IFM Partnership Benefits Organizations in Uncertain Economic Times

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April 21, 2022     6 minute read

What’s on the mind of multi-site business owners, facilities management (FM) professionals, and service providers these days? In the face of ongoing economic uncertainty一stemming from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic一how to navigate the new normal.

Since 2020 many organizations have changed the way they operate. For some, the adoption of preexisting trends such as automated workflows, expanded digital sales channels, and flexible employee work arrangements has accelerated. But day-to-day operations一let alone strategic initiatives一for many companies remain mired in the aftereffects of downsizing, cost cutting, and a decidedly risk-averse outlook.

However, with the ability to improve operational efficiencies and provide financial insights with organizational impact, an Integrated Facilities Management (IFM) partner is in a unique position to benefit companies in these challenging conditions. Here are a few examples of how.

Meeting Fluctuating FM Needs

As we emerge from the pandemic stage of the coronavirus, both corporate leadership and employees remain cautious about a full return to the office. Said one construction and facility services provider recently: “I think how we’re working [currently] will stay here going into 2022.”

Research-based consulting firm Global Workplace Analytics estimates 25% to 30% of the U.S. workforce will work at home one or more days per week after the pandemic. This marks a significant increase from the approximately 3% that worked from home beforehand. And global brands such as Amazon, Google, Pratt & Whitney, Apple, and PwC, among many others, are making hybrid/remote options permanent, at least for now.

Many workers have warmed to the flexibility working from home affords. Employers and employees also understand a hybrid model enables the workforce to return to remote work quickly and efficiently should additional coronavirus variants or other emergencies disrupt workflows again.

The hybrid/remote model will also put increased demands on FM teams. For example:

  • Shifting employee work schedules will require variances in cleaning protocols (including comprehensive disinfection services), HVAC management, security, and other FM tasks.
  • Flex jobs will also be widely available and enable employees to work from the office outside conventional business hours. This, too, will require additional support from FM.
  • Shuttering dormant facilities, rethinking office space to accommodate social distancing, and creating smarter spaces will also be part of FM.

An IFM partner offering comprehensive program visibility, an operations center, mobile access to the work order platform, and centralized independent service provider (ISP) network can meet these ongoing adjustments effectively and in real time一even while minimizing disruptions to employees and customers. The same approach isn't viable with a standard FM program grappling with legacy software, a limited provider network, and other program constraints.

Mitigating the Impact of Downsizing & Labor Shortages

The post-pandemic dislocation between global supply and demand has had a particularly problematic effect on the labor market. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, August job openings hit a near series high of 10.4 million, while at the same time, hires decreased to 6.3 million, and quits (the voluntary separation from employment by the employee) increased to 4.3 million, or 2.9%, a series high.

Demand for workers is generally highest among retail, leisure and hospitality, and business and professional services (including standard FM functions such as engineering, cleaning, waste disposal, and surveillance, among others).

This poses significant challenges for multi-site businesses, many of which are recovering from earlier rounds of downsizing. In a recent survey by global consulting firm PwC, a 37% plurality of CHROs surveyed say retaining employees will be their number one priority over the next three to six months. However, a quality IFM partner can assist in providing needed on-the-ground assistance.

For example, before working with an IFM partner and during a rapid growth period, bath and beauty retailer Lush Cosmetics LLC struggled to address the FM needs of more than 265 stores with one in-house FM professional.

With an IFM solution in place, Lush was able to transition program oversight and repair and maintenance一including emergency response一to its IFM partner’s dedicated operations team. This improved the level of program oversight significantly, and with the IFM partner’s top-tier ISPs, the quality of work improved considerably, too.

According to Lush Retail Maintenance Coordinator Russell Arbuthnot: “Having NEST there 24/7/365 has been fantastic, [and] given better [FM] coverage...and peace of mind.”

Delivering the Customer Experience

A quality IFM provider not only supports day-to-day work order management tasks but can partner to help achieve an organization’s customer experience initiatives, as well. That can be a heavy lift in today’s commercial ecosystem plagued by shutdowns, capacity limitations, staff shortages, and increasing costs.

In the aforementioned PwC survey, 40% of CMOs surveyed believe labor shortages and employee turnover, for example, will have a negative impact on the customer experience. However, this is where an industry-first IFM provider can make a big difference.

Take Party City, for example. The national party retailer partnered with an IFM provider to help build out the brand’s next-generation store. The new design included enhanced, in-store efficiencies一especially around key business driver helium balloon purchases一to improve the overall customer experience.

The IFM provider assisted with redesigning the company’s helium manifold and delivery system from the back to the front of the store, saving Party City more than 25%一or millions of cubic feet of helium waste一per year.

Even routine tasks such as maintaining heightened cleaning protocols can impact the customer experience in today’s coronavirus pandemic reality.

“[Businesses] are going to be much more focused on cleaning and ways to keep people safe,” explains ASSA ABLOY Entrance Systems Key Account Business Manager Ross Merkling. “Because that will impact your customer turns.”

Supporting Growth

Scaling puts significant pressure on an organization's resources, even in good times. When a company is prepared to scale, maintaining product integrity, operational efficiencies, and consistent execution is still exceedingly difficult to achieve. It can cripple a company’s chances of growth in no time.

A company has a better chance of achieving its growth targets by partnering with an IFM provider that consistently delivers support across an expanding fleet, systems, and assets. Oftentimes a scaling company can’t increase its on-the-ground staff fast enough, either一especially in times like these一which is another area where an IFM solution can add immediate value.

A national specialty flooring company relied on its IFM partner, for example, as it undertook an accelerated scale initiative. The IFM provider had served the company for a couple of years leading into its growth plan, building trust and a deep understanding of the floor brand and its FM needs.

The company is now growing at a massive 20% per year and relies on its IFM partner to provide support to its expanding program. Without its IFM partner, the retailer said, “Growth would have suffered.” There was no way the retailer could hire the team needed to keep up with its scaling rollout.

Providing Actionable Financial Data

At least for the moment, economic uncertainty seems here to stay. Organizations will continue to struggle with changes in labor needs and expectations and consumer behavior and preferences. Importantly, companies will also have to strengthen balance sheets, cut costs, and save growth projects whenever and wherever possible.

The need, then, for comprehensive visibility into operational finances is critical for organizations to make smart decisions at speed. And an IFM partner will be pivotal to the success of these efforts, both now and in the future.

As a top 10 operational expense, FM significantly impacts the corporate bottom line. An IFM partner can optimize efficiencies across the program, and identify meaningful savings in spend with proprietary technology and analytics, premier ISPs, operational support, deep financial consulting, and industry expertise.

Lush’s Russell Arbuthnot credits its IFM partner with providing critical information from comprehensive analytics to predict and prepare for upcoming trends—strategically customizing its future agenda, accordingly.

“Previously there wasn’t a lot of data and tracking...or budget or asset management,” he explains. “[Our IFM partner] was able to provide all of this…now [we] have a baseline of data to be able to [forecast and budget] trends for next year and shape plans moving forward.”

At some point, current conditions will revert to something that looks more like normal一 until the next time. Perhaps Jeff Dill, Vice President of Enterprise Facilities and Energy Management at Party City said it best: “We have to make sure we are thinking about the next pandemic. Are we prepared?”

Partnering with an IFM provider is a great first step.

This article was originally published as part of Going Far: Success in 2022 Through Integrated Facilities Management Partnership. To view the full report, you can download your free copy here.  

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