Blog / Covid-19 Resources

Addressing the Labor Crunch Through Outsourced Facility Strategies

Thursday, June 24, 2021

The relief and excitement businesses and communities feel now that daily living is “fully open” cannot be overstated. With that positive development and a strengthening economy has come a labor shortage and accompanying wage-pressure challenges across industries and job titles. From hourly workers to management, manufacturing, retail, hospitality, logistics, and many other industries are feeling the squeeze of finding staff to fuel the recovery period.

More than 9.3 million jobs remain unfilled across the United States. The most recent U.S. Department of Labor Jobs Opening and Labor Turnover Survey finds that job opening increases included “391,000 in leisure and hospitality, 108,000 in trade and transportation and 102,000 in manufacturing...yet new hires increased by a mere 69,000. Employers filled about one in 15 new positions.” (The Great American Labor Shortage: The Wall Street Journal)

While many solutions are focused on raising hourly wages, offering signing bonuses, and other incentives, these are proving to be not as effective because employers competing for labor are all using similar tactics. The reality is that companies can employ a wider array of strategies to address the labor shortage in both the short and the long term.

Outsourcing facility services can be a central component of addressing the labor challenge. By outsourcing the execution and management of many facility services functions, organizations enable their employees to focus on core job functions, their managers to gain more time for strategic initiatives, and the business to improve the overall quality and efficiency of their facility programs.

Focus On Core Expertise

While cleaning and maintenance is a vital part of any business operation, it probably is not a core product or expertise. Many companies make the mistake of working with in-house teams to deliver these services, thinking that they have more control and cost-savings. However, the opposite is usually true. By focusing on the organization’s core expertise, managers and employees alike perform more efficiently. Current business and strategic initiatives can both be executed. The results are more effective management, reduced employee turnover, and the optimized delivery of services and goods.

Work Regionally and Nationally

All employment challenges are by their very nature, local. However, the solution doesn’t have to be. Working with a facility service partner that can tailor solutions at scale means that compliance standards, recruiting strategies, and quality are all maximized across multiple sites. A national partner ensures that individual locations aren’t struggling to maintain these standards; they are being met more efficiently by a partner that can apply a single strategy across an entire enterprise.

A strategy at scale also frees up individual managers to spend time focusing on solving problems for customers and implementing long-term strategies for growth. And it’s important to remember that national scale doesn’t mean losing the local touch. KBS has a deep local network that enables the joint benefits of scale and local expertise.

Leverage Innovative Partnerships

While it may seem that operations can do little in the face of rising wages, facility services have seen major technological innovations that can help alleviate some labor issues. Working with a partner that can leverage these technologies can help answer these challenges in two ways.

First, automated and semi-automated technologies increase the scope of tasks performed with the same number of hours, effectively enabling them to do more with less. Secondly, innovation can help reduce costs in terms of chemicals and other cleaning consumables.

For example, the KBS Innovation Center recently worked with a national retailer to introduce new cleaning equipment that significantly increased floor cleaning coverage while reducing the use of chemicals and water. The results are an innovative solution that increases productivity, reducing the hours needed to clean while also freeing up money to support higher wages.

Bundle Services

Combining services is another key to meeting labor challenges. Bundling outsourced facility services -- such as cleaning, staffing, exterior services, parking lot maintenance, and a wide range of specialty and trade services -- helps reduce not only the pressure to hire and complete those tasks but also alleviates the management burden to fill those positions in house and manage those tasks. In addition, bundled services can also reduce costs which, again, frees up funding to support higher wages and increased hours.

Raise Standards, Lower Costs

Finally, it’s important to highlight that cleaning will be a key differentiator during the recovery. COVID-19 has dramatically changed employee and customer expectations around the operational health of facilities. Outsourced facility service professionals are trained to handle optimized cleaning and maintenance that impact customer and employee perception of safety. In short, an outsourced strategy equips an organization with tools to meet these heightened expectations despite labor constraints.

An outsourced services strategy is important not just in addressing the current labor climate; it will prove to be a crucial long-term strategy worth implementing. Competing on wages and incentives alone will not solve the problem. The winning combination of innovation, bundled services, and partnerships that can scale across multiple regions or even nationally allows organizations to focus on core expertise, raise standards, and lower costs. This can allow organizations in many industries to meet the current labor shortage and emerge stronger than ever.