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Uberisation of Facilities Management

Back in February ISS’ head of group marketing, Peter Ankerstjerne gave one of the most talked about lectures, focusing on what he termed the ‘uberisation’ of facilities management at the Workplace Futures Conference. This month FMJ sat down with Ankerstjerne to find out more and to get his views about a host of other issues facing the industry

Ankerstjerne joined ISS 22 years ago, since that point he has held a number of different positions, moving into his current role in 2007. During that time he has come up with some interesting talking points for the sector. He has pointed out that many of the major, trendsetting companies own no assets. For example Uber, AirBNB and Facebook. Ankerstjerne posits that something similar could happen in the FM industry in the future.

Uber, an app that allows you to submit a request for a driver, has caused controversy in several countries and is even banned in Berlin but the firm’s success has shown that consumers won’t hesitate to move away from traditional business models and practices.

Uberisation has also impacted the hotel industry, with AirBNB estimated to have cost hotels in New York City alone over $2billion since it launched. Netflix has had a similar impact on DVD rental firms and cinemas.

According to Peter Ankerstjerne something similar could be coming for the FM industry.

A few years down the line, the Dane says, companies might not employ any actual service individuals. “I can envision companies sharing service employees. People can go on the internet and book a a service employee, be it a cleaner a security guard or anything else. You could then rate those staff and let everyone else know about the quality of their work.

“Also if you look at the cost structure of that, it’s quite popular from a customer perspective, as you could use this model for flexing capacity, and also at least from first sight, from the employees’ perspective. I’m not saying that this certainly will happen but it is one possible scenario and the industry should give it some thought. Things like vetting processes, HSE standards and insurances would need to be looked at.

“This sort of crowd-sourcing is becoming more and more popular. It allows organisations to harness the collective resources of a large group of people through the Internet. There is no doubt that using this approach will provide access to more standardised services at lower cost. Short-term there is probably an upside for both the customers as well as the employees. However the long-term perspectives are largely unknown and could potentially be more daunting.”

Back in February, right as Ankerstjerne was speaking at the Workplace Futures Conference the Independent was reporting on the rise of this phenomenon. The paper reported that “Uber alone is used by more than 30,000 drivers… with more than 1.5 million regular passengers in London. Last summer it was valued at around $50 billion, making it the world’s most valuable tech start-up.”

A survey conducted by Ipsos Mori, found that more than five million people are now being paid for work through online platforms. It also found that “42 per cent of respondents – equivalent to more than 18.5 million people – said they have turned to apps and online services to find taxi drivers, builders, designers and accountants. Backers of these services, which last year PricewaterhouseCoopers [PwC] said could be worth as much as £9 billion to the economy by 2025, are reinventing employment.”

Professor Ursula Huws, an academic from University of Hertfordshire, who led the survey of more than 2,200 adults, commented in the article: “The size of this crowd-working army is surprising even to me and our findings confirm that policymakers and academic researchers have been caught on the hop by the explosion of what we might call platform labour.

“There is a real risk that the proliferation of online labour platforms will lead to an erosion of labour standards and employment rights, and hit tax revenues. It has been labelled the ‘sharing economy’, but many of those participating in it are doing so not for altruistic reasons or in their spare time but relying on it to earn a living.”

What will this involve? It could see people demanding that their offices become more like homes from home as they get used to working for themselves. It could lead to a far more independent workforce but there are many who fear it could lead to an end of paid vacation days, the living wage and stable careers. Not that this reinvention will go unchallenged of course. Uber has sparked protests across the world and AirBNB has had to fight against the whole history of subletting laws around renting out spare rooms. The only certain thing seems to be that the industry is going to change.

About Sarah OBeirne

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