Greg Matter, Vice President, JLL
At this year’s South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive festival, the shortening of product life-cycles, funding and recruitment were identified as some of the top challenges facing tech firms and start-ups. Although the terminology may differ, these challenges are universal across industries: developing a constant stream of innovative products that provide a competitive advantage; recruiting top talent to keep the innovation pipeline full; and leveraging incremental capital to enhance these activities.
Tech firms have worked out that developing the right workplace and site selection strategies for real estate can be a key weapon in the war for talent. Consider the recruitment of top talent:
Tech firms have developed some extremely inventive workplace practices that attract talent, as shown in this recent New York Times article. For tech companies, a strategically designed workplace is not just a “nice to have,” it’s table-stakes for attracting talent. The workplace-recruitment connection is heading that way for other industries too.
With Millennials poised to make up half of the global workforce by 2020, and three quarters of it by 2030, all industries will be required to adopt innovative workplace strategies to accommodate diverse multi-generational work styles in the near future. To exacerbate this demographic trend, industries from media to healthcare to manufacturing are now fully technology-enabled, and stand to gain from similar real estate strategies.
Indeed, the topic resonated across panels at this year’s SXSW conference, with start-up stars and hot venture capitalists alike extolling the role of real estate in conveying and differentiating their brands in the talent wars. And when the priority is clear from the CEO, leaders in IT, HR, procurement, and even travel departments are coming together with real estate professionals to redefine the workplace.
Creating a High-Value Work Environment
Whether you are CEO for a feisty startup, or a time-tested Fortune 500, dangling the ‘right’ workspace carrot can influence a desirable candidate’s decision to accept your job offer.
Take your workplace to the next level with these forward-thinking strategies that can drive recruitment and retention.
1. Play the geography game and win people power. Mobility may be king, but having a home base, especially in your sector’s hottest markets, is still vital for brand identity and employee engagement. And with rapid growth spurring the need to access multiple talent pools, some companies are finding it useful to establish roots in more than one promising market. For example, tech hubs like Silicon Valley, San Francisco and Seattle beckon new talent. Complementing those locations with satellite offices in places where the tech scene is ramping up can round out the strategy with lower costs of labor and office space. Emerging locations, according to JLL research, include Atlanta, Las Vegas, and Indianapolis for the tech industry.
2. If you build it smarter, they will come. The era of the cubicle may seem long gone, but it still reigns supreme in many offices. The first steps for attracting talent are, one, ditch cube culture. Two, invest in a workplace environment that conveys a sense of company identity from the get-go, demonstrates a commitment to flexibility and, simply put, looks like an appealing place to work. This means reworking space strategy to offer diverse settings and amenities within the larger facility or campus to empower employee choice.
3. Reconfigure workspace to foster collaboration and avoid the office-space blahs. Cultivating a collaborative spirit can be tricky. For years, removing office walls and doors to make way for an open-floor plan seemed like the shortest route to collaboration. Now, however, workplace strategists are finding that mixing in concentration spaces with collaborative areas is a recipe for success. All in all, an office buzzing with conversation—while providing various opt-out spaces as desired—is a recruitment “yes.”
4. Support mobility during travel—without just mapping out the local Starbucks. Why should employee travel plans end with meals and a bed? Services such as fully connected offices in incubators, shared spaces and other environments are steadily becoming more available for traveling employees in most major cities through “on-the-fly” services like LiquidSpace. Rather than leaving them to fend for themselves, the ability to offer your employees a pleasant, professional office-for-a-day is a value-add to employee travel.
5. Create a flexible work network in the company’s own backyard. Third-space options are valuable locally, too. Let’s say an employee has a meeting on the other side of town, or a personal appointment that would cut into the workday if they did their regular commute. The more productive option for all parties is to allow them to work offsite—but this no longer has to mean simply allowing work-from-home or co-work-from-café days.
Now you can add an important layer of security and privacy to their workday by investing in proworking solutions that focus on balancing structure with mobility. These include a variety of strategies, including leasing a smaller location across town, or offering third-party locations such as a daily or weekly rental of another company’s unused space.
Within a structured, organized program, employees could work closer to home on some days, work near clients, enjoy a change of scenery, or use a temporary office location to create the synergies that come from working alongside other professionals who may not share a home-base office. Bonus: that big conference call won’t be punctuated with the unmistakable sound of a steamy cappuccino being perfected.
In addition to attracting top candidates, providing productive environments wherever employees need to be, is also good sense in terms of today’s ever-shortening product lifecycle. As trending items like wearables, apps, and mobiles take off across all business sectors, flexible, scalable real estate solutions are becoming fundamental to business success.
Developing a strategy that puts your capital to better use and scores top talent? Double score.
About the Author
Greg Matter is VP and head of the technology group at the commercial real estate firm, JLL