March 01, 2018

How Real Time Personalization enables facility managers to cope with diversity in the work environment

In one of my previous blogs, I addressed three developments that are causing the real estate and facility management domain to change: economic developments, demographic developments and technological developments. I also pointed out that these three developments create ten trends that will become reality in 2022. In this blog, I want to specifically focus on one of these ten trends: diversity in the workplace, cultures and generations. Because of this, I decided to elaborate on a concept called Real Time Personalization, which enables you to integrate this diversity.

Webinar - ‘Internet of Things: from buzzword to opportunity'

For the last few years, the “Internet of Things” and “Smart Buildings” have both been buzzwords on everyone’s lips. Within the field of Facility and Real Estate Management, the discussion focuses on how to make the workplace more cost efficient, effective, and customer-oriented.

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Diversity in the work environment

Increased human diversity will have a strong impact on the way that we work. By 2022, more and more people from different generations, backgrounds and cultures will be working together in one working environment. This culturally diversified workplace is stimulated by demographic developments such as labor migration within or across continents, which consequently brings more diversity in languages, religions and habits.

When I relate this to Planon, a simple example of how this affects facility processes is, for example, when my colleagues from India are coming over to headquarters in Nijmegen and our company restaurant adjusts the menu to meet their preferences.

Different generations, different preferences

The work environment will also change due to the unique needs different generations have. By 2022, most of the baby boomer generation (those born between 1945 and 1955) will have retired. However, the different combination of different generations at the workplace will only increase. This has to do with the current group of people in the forty to fifty-year age bracket that will have to work longer, while the group of millennials (those born between 1985 and 2000) that have entered the labor market will only grow larger and larger. According to a study by Wim Pullen, published in Work & Place (2014), the preferences people have regarding the work environment differ across ages. This study shows that people prefer a more flexible office when they are younger, while their preference shifts towards a more cellular office as they grow older.

During our webinar ”How technology enables Real Time Personalization in the workplace” we asked attendees across multiple countries how important they believe the workplace is for millennials.

More than just ”nice to have”

Even though one-third of the people believe a good workplace is just ”nice to have” for millennials, the majority of our attendees endorse the fact that the group of millennials consider the quality of the workplace to be very important. This is also confirmed by a study by CBRE, which was already quoted by my colleague Geert-Jan Blom. This study showed that 78% of millennials find the working environment to be important when choosing an employer. They consider supplementary facilities such as a relaxation area, coffee-bar or the provision of greenery important. Even 69% of the respondents are prepared to make concessions on other secondary conditions of employment. It goes without saying that because of these findings facility managers should take the specific needs and preferences of this group of employees very seriously.

One size does NOT fit all

As a result of demographic developments, it’s apparent that a ”one size fits all” concept can no longer be applied to the domain of facility management. On the one hand, there will always be a certain level of corporate governance regarding company objectives and standards, and regulations. But on the other hand, the need to personalize and fulfill individual needs will strongly increase. How should facility managers bring these together to increase productivity and the level of employee wellbeing? Before we can answer that question, it is important to see how organizations currently align services supply with changing workforce needs, which is exactly what we asked our attendees during the webinar:

Surprisingly to me, 38% of attendees currently seem to work on an ad-hoc basis. Although the FM industry has been professionalizing for many years now, organizations that have implemented Service Level Agreements (25%) or have a dedicated Demand Management role (17%) are in a minority. Working on an ad-hoc basis is merely reactive, while working with SLAs and Demand Management guarantees better alignment of demand and supply and helps facility managers to deal with the complexity of changes within the organization.

Real Time Personalization in the workplace

To deal with the combination of corporate governance and a strong individualization of needs, organizations should start thinking of a concept called Real Time Personalization (RTP). Originally a Marketing term and mainly used in B2C business, RTP has the goal to offer services, content and information in a most personalized way. Think of consumer services such as Netflix or Amazon. Based on your personal preferences and previous behavior, you get access to relevant and personalized services. In the world of Integrated Workplace Management Systems (IWMS), we already recognize this principle in base concepts such as self-service, which gives employees access to services in an effortless way, e.g. to book a meeting room that fits their needs at a particular moment in time. When we look at new developments around RTP, special attention is needed for ”digital workplace assistants”. These devices already know your preferences, based on previous behavior and machine learning. They can for example manage an agenda, automatically sort your e-mail inbox or tell you which of your preferred meeting rooms still available. This allows them to make choices for you.

During the webinar, we asked attendees to provide feedback on the importance of RTP and whether their organization already has a strategy for this. These are the results:

Though the results are mixed, it is important to notice that none of the attendees considered it unimportant. Roughly one-third of attendees consider it as nice-to-have, one-third as very important, while the rest does not know ye. To me, this diversity in feedback proves that this concept is new to the FM industry and that together we all should practice and learn about it. To learn more about Planon’s vision on RTP, I recommend watching our webinar, which will help you to be well prepared for ever increasing diversity in the work environment.