Using benchmarking to develop your staffing plan

Many FMs have used benchmarking tools to develop or modify their staffing plan. It is easy to do and quite objective and analytical. If you are trying to justify additional positions, improve the skill set of the organization, or just want to reduce the amount of overtime hours, benchmarking can help.

Let’s look at some other staffing approaches first and see why benchmarking staffing levels is a better option:

  1. We need to add more staff since overtime is too high.
    This approach usually doesn’t work out too well since senior management can just tell you to use more contracted labor or let various work slip in the schedule.
  2. We need to add more staff since critical staff will be retiring.
    The usual senior management approach is to let them retire and we’ll see if they even need to be replaced.
  3. We are staffed so thinly that if anyone takes a vacation or is out sick we can’t operate the facilities.
    Really, that’s not believable. FMs can always call up contractors to supplement staff in an emergency situation.

Using benchmarking to set staffing levels has several advantages:

  1. You can show comparisons with other organizations in an objective, analytical way. This type of data is very supportable and difficult to argue against.
  2. Senior management and the staff-approving authority can readily understand the approach.
  3. The performance, using the overtime rate, can be measured on a monthly basis to show progress improvement throughout the year. The data should show that additional staffing leads to less overtime.

For this approach to work, you need at least two key metrics (KPIs) or three if security is part of your functional responsibility. We are talking about staffing levels so all data would be shown as:

(Area Maintained, Cleaned, or Secured) / FTEs (Full Time Equivalents)

The first KPI we should benchmark, and usually one of the most significant FM functions, is maintenance staffing. In Figure 1 below you can see our facility’s benchmarked maintenance staffing level shown in yellow and near the middle of the 1st quartile. The current FM organization uses a mix of internal staff and contractors and both are included in this metric that shows the area staffed per FTE maintenance worker at about 73,000 GSF (gross square feet). A meaningful benchmarking staffing level would be near the median at about one FTE per 60,000 GSF.

Figure 1 – Area Maintained per Full Time Maintenance Worker
Filters: Type of facility (Office)
Provided courtesy of FM BENCHMARKING

Clearly, this is an effective way to develop staffing levels in an analytical way that would provide successful results to improve performance.

One more important point to consider that is often overlooked by FMs. If space is added or removed from the portfolio during the year, your staffing levels should be adjusted. You shouldn’t be expected to “make do” with the existing staff when space is added and you should be willing to reduce staff or contracted labor if space is reduced.

Articles are based on data from FM BENCHMARKING, which until the pandemic had been the online benchmarking tool for facility managers and CREs. Data tracked by FM BENCHMARKING includes cost and labor data as well as best practices for more than 95% of typical facility costs. For questions about benchmarking, please contact Peter Kimmel on LinkedIn. Peter was one of the principals of FM BENCHMARKING and now is consulting in the industry.