Why Facility Management Companies Need to (Seriously) Rethink Employee Engagement

The people keeping your office sparkling clean and whipping up your canteen lunch aren’t happy. Here’s why and three tips on how management and HR should address the issue.

1.7% of the entire global workforce. That’s how many people actually work in Facility Management. That is A LOT of people. But Facility Management is also a big industry, and a profitable one at that. The global market is valued at 1.15 trillion US dollars!

But as a big employer, you have big responsibilities. And something is telling us, that when it comes to employee engagement, there is room for improvement – to put it mildly. Gallup’s “State of the Global Workplace” report paints a clear picture of severe employee engagement issues in non-desk industries such as Facility Management. When we look at the “Service Workers” categories only 18% say they are engaged, 64% are not engaged and the remaining 18% describe themselves as “actively disengaged”.

Low engagement is a costly affair

Employee turnover is a huge issue in the industry as it obviously costs a lot of money to constantly hire, train and onboard new employees. And not only is low engagement sending money down the drain when it comes to recruitment and training it is also dangerous and severe on other levels: Disengaged workers had 37% higher absenteeism, 49% more accidents, and 60% more errors and defects according to Gallup.

It makes sense if you think about it. If you feel like your employer doesn’t care about you and perhaps doesn’t treat you as well as they should, that frustration is bound to result in sloppy behaviour that can have dire consequences. And there is an inherent challenge in the nature of how many FM employees work. A lot of them work on a customer site, without access to an intranet, email or other classic corporate communications channels. In some cases, employees can even have a hard time figuring out who their actual employer is, as they spend all their time at the customer site.

Can non-desk workers ever be as engaged as desk-workers?

But how do you take on a challenge like that? How do you make sure that the cleaners, kitchen staff, janitors thrive more, perform better and stay longer? The short answer is employee engagement. The longer answer comes here:

The numbers are pretty clear on the fact that “knowledge workers” in general are more engaged and satisfied than workers who perform routine tasks and that does make sense. If you have pursued a specific education and are working within that field, you probably have some sort of passion for it. But that can’t be the whole story, can it?

Even if somebody’s main motivation for taking a job is to make money they still want to feel part of a team, feel heard and appreciated and feel like they make a difference everyday. What HR and management teams in the Facility Management industry (and other industries where non-desk workers make up the majority) need to do, is to take a page from the book of other industries. Of course it doesn’t make sense to copy/paste the employee engagement strategy of a software firm with highly specialised experts, but there is definitely a lot of inspiration to be drawn.

Solving disengagement in the FM industry

Having worked with large FM organisations such as ISS, G4S, and Compass Group over the years, we uncovered three key starting points for FM companies that want to make a serious commitment to employee engagement

Communicate

Unless you are the awesome exception, your employees are most likely not getting the information they need to thrive and succeed. 84% of NDEs (non-desk employees) say that they don’t receive enough communication to perform the job effectively. Old school internal communication doesn’t cut it when it comes to FM employees that are busy on customer sites without access to a laptop or even company posters or info screens. Think mobile first and create short, efficient and visual content that gets the message across. And social! Give your people the chance to interact digitally across locations.

Train

Learning and development is just as important in the FM space as in other industries, but again, certain practical aspects might make traditional L&D less feasible. Good, cause who enjoyed hour long e-learning anyway?


Create some snackable learning material, quizzes and instruction videos that your people can interact with without being interrupted in their daily work. And don’t disregard the desire of your people to learn, develop and take on new challenges and responsibilities – give them room to grow!

Lead

When your employees are scattered across customer sites, it’s harder to measure the temperature among them than in an office building. But that doesn’t make it less important that you make the effort – it actually makes it much much more important. Again, technology is your friend. Make up for the lack of face time for comprehensive 1:1 sessions by sending out pulse surveys on their mobile and use the data to make your employee engagement and communication initiatives as strong and efficient as possible.

So to sum up, there are valid reasons why FM is a challenging industry when it comes to employee engagement but with the right approach and the digital tools to back it up, those challenges should never be an excuse for management or HR not to go the extra mile to put a smile on the faces of their employees.