How Facilities Professionals Can Navigate the Labor Shortage

By

Kevin Pejoumand

According to the most recent numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 10.6 million job openings in November 2022 and 6.3 million unemployed workers. The difference between those numbers, around 4 million, indicates there are many more open positions than employee candidates across the economy.

Labor is top of mind for most facility operators at the moment, because it has become a significant operational issue for facility business models. Staffing challenges have led to operational disruptions, rising costs, and tighter profit margins.

The labor crunch won’t disappear overnight, so many operators are looking at diverse strategies to address the challenge. Your facility should be proactively implementing a labor strategy that approaches the issue from many different angles, from adopting creative hiring strategies to finding new efficiencies with facility management software tools.

Money, financial

Cost of the Labor Shortage

There isn’t one single reason causing the general staffing crunch, but a number of overlapping factors are related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Ripple effects from the pandemic continue to impact the economy, affecting everything from childcare availability to overall labor competition as industries hire heavily at the same time.

For your company, inadequate staffing undoubtedly has an impact on operations. Without enough employees, you may create a negative guest experience, be forced to cut operations or hours, and even potentially prompt a negative turnover feedback loop as existing staff face burnout.

High turnover rates have always created a large financial burden for operators, made all the heavier with the current labor market. The hiring process costs time and resources, and the disruptions to your team can hurt productivity, cause stress, and impact morale.

For most operators, fully staffing and reducing turnover are priorities. But with such complexities, where should your facility start?

For facilities professionals trying to navigate the labor shortage, there are three areas worth focusing on: hiring and retention, labor-saving facility data and analytics tools, and long-term investments.

Evaluating Hiring & Retention

At its core, facilities management is a people business. To address staffing, you should be investing in your people, from new employees to existing staff.

Always Be Hiring

In a competitive labor field, hiring should be a constant priority. While it may feel most urgent when you have a specific position to fill, consider listing “evergreen” job postings for your team to ensure you always have candidates in the pipeline.

As you invest in your hiring process, evaluate your system as a whole. Are candidates able to apply for positions, quickly and without a hassle? The more you can streamline the process for potential hires and your hiring managers, the better for your operations.

Offer Competitive Wages, Benefits, and Bonuses

With a tough hiring environment, your wages and benefits for your open roles should undoubtedly be competitive in the facilities industry. Make sure to list specific wage and benefit information in your job descriptions, rather than wait until the interview process, so that you communicate it clearly to potential applicants. 

If you are considering expanding your benefits, use surveys or listening sessions with existing employees to understand their priorities. You may find that certain specific benefits, from childcare rebates and tuition reimbursement to a commute subsidy, stand out to your potential hires.

Finally, leveraging hiring bonuses as an incentive can help generate new applications. These bonuses should be paid out promptly after a strategic time period, such as three or six months, to encourage new hires to stick through the initial training period and become engaged with the company.

Invest in Employee Retention

While you may need to focus on hiring, don’t lose sight of the valuable staff you already have on your team. Retaining employees is generally healthier for your bottom line than hiring new ones.

Using the above example, if you are offering hiring bonuses, consider implementing retention bonuses to recognize valuable long-time employees as well (which also shows your new hires that your company prioritizes staff appreciation).

In addition, while wages and benefits certainly are important to employees, many staff members also care deeply about their big-picture career opportunities. Investing in employees is a critical retention strategy, covering programs from training and employee development to prioritizing promoting from within the company.

Resume, hire more, interview

Make the Most Out of Facility Operational Spend

For many facility operators, investing in technology and automation can help counteract rising labor costs. If you are struggling to hire enough staff, you may want to consider investing capital in other places, like automating time-consuming processes and reporting.

Streamline Scheduled Labor Costs

Your labor data can help you find how to best streamline your labor spend, without negatively impacting employee retention or guest satisfaction.

Sales forecasting uses historical sales data and current market conditions to project sales in comparable time periods. Sales forecasting empowers your scheduling managers to make schedules based on data, rather than “what we always do” guesses. 

Your data can also showcase trends and help you refine labor costs over time. Granular info like labor spend by day part or by role can allow you to evaluate where tweaks are needed based on labor cost as a percentage of sales goals.

Look for Operational Efficiencies

Facilities management requires tracking many moving pieces and completing repetitive tasks. The more operational efficiencies you add in through all-in-one facility management software, the more you can streamline labor costs.

For instance, mobile-first facilities management technology can add time savings for your staff. Not only can you place service requests on the go, you can also increase accuracy by including photos, videos and manuals to work orders. With approvals, proposals, and invoices accessible via mobile, your team can find new efficiencies in their workload without adding new labor costs.

Facilities data and analytics software can add in other efficiencies in areas like equipment status tracking. A central dashboard can track real-time equipment costs, repair and maintenance costs, and warranty info. By proactively staying on top of the equipment life cycle, your staff can easily calculate whether to repair or replace without a time-consuming (and uncertain) manual process.

Automate Wherever Possible

Finally, using facilities management software to automate operations creates direct labor efficiencies and also improves the accuracy and relevance of your equipment data. 

As an example, automation can help streamline work order management, building a smooth system for creating, assigning, and tracking work orders. Managers can be prompted through customized workflows to quickly approve work orders and invoices. Facilities software can also automate equipment warranty monitoring, even diving down to varying levels of manufacturer, service provider, and component part warranties.

Overall, automation can streamline staff responsibilities, using custom workflows to remind key staff about scheduling preventive equipment maintenance services, reducing downtime and increasing equipment lifespan.

Addressing Labor in the Long-Term

While some components of your labor strategy are urgent in the short-term, there are also big-picture priorities across your facility to consider in your strategy.

Prioritize Continuity in Operations

Although it isn’t ideal, operators should be preparing to potentially experience elevated levels of turnover for an extended period of time. To ensure minimal disruptions, make sure to plan for continuity in your operations.

Your technology tools are a central part of this strategy. A Computerized Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS) can ensure your team is tracking facilities spend, assets, and warranties in one central, secure location. No matter any turnover, this data is searchable and accessible.

With the right facilities management software, staff and leadership can get a complete understanding of facility spend and service history, broken down into asset, location, or repair type. A centralized, up-to-date database is key to absorb any potential turnover disruptions in your team.

Involve Leadership in Strategy

Finally, with the current labor market, staffing is no longer a concern just for the facilities-level managers. Addressing the labor shortage should be considered a major operational priority for facilities leaders, from the location-level all the way up to company leadership. Just as leadership and management set the tone for a healthy culture, the team is also able to influence the overall labor approach.

From the C-Suite throughout the rest of the organization, consider making hiring, retention, and staffing a visible priority and resource appropriately. Leadership can direct investment to new hiring and retention initiatives, or take the lead in supporting the shift to new facilities management software tools and solutions.

Desk office, working as a team

Find Success in a Challenging Labor Market

There are many different strategies to address today’s labor challenges. But with a focus on staffing efforts, technology efficiencies, and long-term thinking, your facility can turn these challenges into more streamlined, efficient operations and a thriving team culture.  

If you are exploring how facility management software can help your company navigate today’s challenges, consider exploring a facility management software solution such as Ecotrak. Using a Computerized Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS) can empower your staff to thrive and help you add new automations and efficiencies into your facilities operations.

Request a demo of Ecotrak today.

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