May 06, 2022
By Kate Camerlin

How Facilities Teams in Higher Ed Can Use Tech Solutions to Support Talent

Facilities managers at colleges and universities are becoming strategic partners as executive teams look for new ways to support students and faculty.

One factor driving the increased visibility of facilities departments is the continued importance of recruiting and retaining students and staff. Facilities teams used to be behind the scenes, their offices located in basements or out-of-the-way spaces. However, the role that excellent campus experiences play in recruiting and engaging students has never been more important, and facilities managers are becoming increasingly high-profile.

This is especially true now, when faculty retention is a critical issue, employees have more options for where they work, and students have more choices for how they learn. Because of this, the physical experiences that a university offers are critical for attracting and retaining talent—including ensuring the buildings and grounds feel well-kept, accessible, and modern. When universities invest in their facilities, they’re ensuring students and staff feel welcome and safe, and they’re fostering a sense of school pride and community that drives engagement and recruitment.

Accordingly, facilities management is no longer focused on just maintaining buildings and equipment. It’s shifting to emphasize the overall experience of students and staff. This includes supporting key trends in teaching (such as project-based and remote learning), along with campus-wide innovations like sensor and utilization data, personalization, new transportation systems, and more.

It’s no wonder that facilities departments are adopting technology solutions to help address these trends and improve the experience of all students and staff on campuses.

Current Trends 

The first trend that facilities teams need to consider when supporting faculty is the increased emphasis on project-based and collaborative learning. Instead of a single, auditorium-style layout, classrooms need to be designed in a way that is optimally suited for various teaching styles. Professors should have the flexibility to restructure the rooms to accommodate group work and other assignments. This means facilities teams need to make sure classrooms are flexible and dynamic, incorporating different desks, chairs, workspaces, and brainstorming areas into the learning spaces.

Additionally, teams need to be able to support remote learning. Facilities managers play a role in tracking and managing A/V equipment like smart screens, mics, and cameras, ensuring the equipment is present and available.

Future Innovations

Sensors are increasingly helping facilities teams monitor how students and staff use buildings and rooms—particularly in common spaces. Teams can see which areas are used most frequently in order to identify where to expand or reallocate space.

Sensors can also be used to free up reserved space; for example, if a student reserves a room but has a change of plans, sensors can detect the empty room and free up the space so someone else can use it. Departments can even use this technology in research labs for reserved equipment or other working spaces.

We’re also accelerating toward a much more personalized campus experience—for instance, in the next 5-10 years, colleges could begin adopting wearable technology that helps students navigate campus, reminds them of classes, or even enables them to order tickets to a game. This creates a tailored experience, engaging students in campus life and assisting them when they need it. The facilities team would play a major role in supporting this by creating wayfinding stations and working with IT departments to truly integrate this technology into their buildings.

Additionally, in the coming years, facilities teams might rely more heavily on an outsourcing model to reduce costs—meaning they’d use third-party companies to help with custodial and other tasks. This makes it vital to have vendor management systems in place so facilities managers can ensure contractors are meeting their agreed-upon SLAs and campuses are as well-maintained and functional as ever.

Lastly,  innovations in campus transportation systems might help transform campuses over the next ten years. Autonomous vehicles will streamline how students make their way across campus, and by reducing the number of drivers, universities can reduce costs and increase safety. Additionally, electric vehicle adoption can help universities reduce their carbon footprint. In both cases, facilities teams will play key roles. They’ll help manage and track these fleet vehicles, and they’ll work with real estate teams to identify where to place charging stations and kiosks.

How Facilities Teams Manage These Innovations

The campus experience is changing, and facilities teams need to adopt the right technology to help support students and faculty.

This includes implementing flexible solutions that enable teams to track all sorts of equipment (like new desks and smartboards for collaborative learning, A/V equipment for remote learning, and autonomous and electric fleet vehicles) alongside space utilization metrics.

However, this connected experience isn’t always currently a reality on campuses. Often, facilities teams will adopt one tech solution, such as a basic computerized maintenance management system with a work order ticketing solution. The space and real estate teams will then adopt another (often more robust) enterprise-grade platform that supports chargebacks, enabling departments to recoup space costs. Lastly, the IT teams will use yet another platform (often ServiceNow™) to track their equipment and information.

This means there’s an opportunity to bring a single experience across departments, so the facilities, real estate, and IT teams use the same platform. This single solution enables everyone to share metrics and data, so they can make better, more informed decisions about building costs, planned and corrective maintenance, and where and how to renovate the campus.

Not only that, but students and faculty get a more connected campus experience, as well. They can use the same platform whether they need to create a work ticket for a broken light, a laptop issue, or even a student loan question—meaning their issue is resolved faster.

Becoming Strategic Business Partners

Facilities managers are increasingly being called on to help make long-term, strategic business decisions across campuses.

Technology solutions can help facilities teams support students and staff, creating better experiences that match new expectations and trends. These trends include restructuring classrooms for project-based and remote learning, and incorporating sensors, personalization, and new modes of campus transportation to create engaging, optimized campus experiences.

To manage all this, facilities teams need to adopt flexible, modern software solutions that enable them to track equipment alongside other business data, and ultimately, create excellent campus experiences that drive retention and recruitment.

Nuvolo Connected Workplace is a next-generation integrated workplace management system (IWMS) and computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) Built on NOW. It enables you to connect all your data in one place, so you can optimize faculty and student experience while gathering key insights that help inform all decisions campus-wide.

Interested in learning more? Explore Connected Workplace, or watch a demo.