When we say workplace, we mean people using the tools to work together, wherever they're working. It isn't just about physical spaces.
The theme of the IWFM Conference 2021 was 'Emerging stronger'. A variety of speakers tackled megatrends and essential topics affecting the world of work. Here Ian Ellison and James Pinder of 3Edges appraise FM's use of workplace data.
The workplace and facilities management profession has lagged behind other sectors in terms of digital literacy and effective application of data insights. This has to change. The role of data is essential to being an effective FM professional. Whether the client is a social housing provider, telecoms company or a Premier League football club, data is vital.
“FM and workplace teams we work with often seem to be data poor; they don't always have the data they need to make the right decisions.”
Previous research from 3edges highlighted two major problems with the workplace and facilities management profession’s approach to data:
- Generally as a profession, there was little awareness of emerging digital technologies in FM – particularly technologies that aren't already used within FM; and
- There was a low level of readiness for technological change, particularly regarding technologies that were emerging in other sectors but hadn’t become commonplace in FM.
The proposed solutions include:
- Improving digital literacy through learning more about digital technologies. They needn’t be experts but just know enough to have informed conversations;
- Partnering with a tech company can help organisations achieve goals they could not do on their own; and
- Using data more effectively to improve customer experience, boost efficiency, and make better decisions.
Currently, the workplace and facilities management profession should be focusing on four key considerations:
- Operational: workplace and facilities management has been performing excellently in frontline work environments. The industry has been providing safe spaces for many;
- Strategic: the profession is garnering unprecedented attention from executive leadership about the physical workspace and alternative ways of working;
- Collaboration: workplace and facilities management has found new ways to work with key departments such as IT, HR, and corporate communications; and
- Culture: the pandemic forced the rest of the working world to understand what the workplace and facilities management profession has been saying for a long time; where, when and how we work is about working together to get work done better. It’s about finding more tolerant and diverse ways of working to accommodate different people’s needs.
With these four thoughts in mind, we need to consider what answers they give to the big question: Is the new approach to work working well? Tied to the big question are sub-questions: Are we working as productively as a company? Are our people performing? Are they happy? Are we losing out on time and productivity with our online meetings rather than being able to stroll down a corridor and ask someone a question? Are our outputs easier or harder to achieve? Are we increasing innovation or just churning out work?
Further questions arise:
- Are our workspaces fit for purpose?
- Do our workplaces enable people to work efficiently?
- Do our people have the right tools in their workplace to get the job done?
- Is our business facing increased risks?
- Are we working more sustainably?
To answer these questions, we need data from:
- Employees – engagement and surveys about how they feel about working; retention and attrition rates; productivity levels; daily attendance.
- Workplace analytics – sensors; occupancy; usage; utilities data from CAFM systems.
So what about data quality, access and ownership? Who has the data and what power does it give them? Is it more valuable when shared or held onto? Part of the answer lies in understanding that bigger picture. If FM wants to pull the strategic lever it needs to use data effectively.
Only through proper analysis of workplace and employee data can we answer the big question: is the new way of working proving successful?
Themes to ponder
- Why do the conversations around the importance of data not match the efforts of FMs and FM organisations to use data?
- How does the profession get better at accessing, analysing and actioning data?