Labour sourcing is the top obstacle for FM professionals when providing cleaning services of the right quality, according to a report by SoftBank Robotics EMEA, a humanoid robotics firm.
SoftBank Robotics partnered with independent polling firm OnePoll to survey 2,000 employees in March 2022. Nearly half of those asked (46%) ranked labour sourcing higher than traditional barriers such as ‘cost margins’ (24%) and ‘demonstrating value’ (22%), with almost three in four respondents (73%) in total reporting that they ‘always’ or ‘regularly’ have difficulty sourcing labour.
To guide the FM sector in designing solutions that address the labour shortage and generate better outcomes for businesses, employees and consumers, SoftBank Robotics undertook a survey of FM professionals in the spring of 2022 to learn how the current labour shortage is afflicting the sector, the biggest challenges FM professionals now face, and the challenges to technology adoption.
When asked about the biggest barriers to sourcing labour, the most popular answers in the survey were “changes to immigration” (27%) and “employee expectations over pay, benefits and working conditions” (27%), followed by “cleaning industry image” (18%).
At a time when new technologies could provide the solution to the cleaning sector’s labour sourcing woes, SoftBank’s research showed “a significant knowledge gap in its adoption". Despite 79% agreeing that real-time data for measuring cleaning services is important, one in three (30%) lack confidence or knowledge of what’s available.
Respondents were asked to name the biggest challenges in identifying and implementing new technology, the joint most popular answers were “cost” and “demonstrating ROI”, both at 26%. Linked to these areas is the challenge of organisational buy, cited as a key barrier for 15% of FMs.
To offer an additional layer of context, SoftBank Robotics also surveyed 2,000 employees on their expectations for cleanliness in the buildings they occupy, from offices and hotels to coffee shops and restaurants. The results revealed that 71% would like visual reassurance of cleaning regimes in the buildings they enter, while 33% said they would rather work from home than in a workplace or venue where they questioned the approach to cleaning and hygiene.
As a result, there appears to be a disconnect between employee expectations and employer aspirations.
Stefano Bensi, general manager of SoftBank Robotics EMEA, said: “There seems to be a paradox at play. Demand for cleaning services has never been higher at a time of a soaring labour crisis. Additionally, increasing employee expectations concerning cleanliness and hygiene have resulted in the FM profession experiencing both a challenge and an opportunity. Forward-thinking FMs are exploring a number of innovative strategies to stay relevant, including the adoption of cobotic technologies.”