Guide

How Corporate Real Estate Professionals Can Succeed in the Age of the Customer

Corporate Real Estate (CRE) professionals, whether in-sourced or outsourced, are striving to continually create and maintain workspaces that attract the best candidates.

In the last 15-20 years, modern offices have evolved from bland, boring cube farms, to colorful, varied work environments that seem like employee playgrounds.

Compare the endless, identical cubes in the movie “Office Space” to the open, collegial workspaces in the fictional company Hooli’s headquarters.

This change in workspaces directly ties to the massive shift in power from large corporate employers to the candidates they seek to employ. Gone are the days of simply creating jobs, providing a place to work, and expecting a deluge of qualified applicants.

Today, employers battle not only each other for top talent but also non-traditional work arrangements like freelancing and online marketplace sales. And it isn’t just recruiters on the front lines. Corporate real estate (CRE) professionals, whether in-sourced or outsourced, are striving to continually create and maintain workspaces that attract the best candidates.

So how can CRE professionals play a part in an outstanding customer experience? In order to attract and retain the top talent in any given field, CRE professionals must employ a number of strategies to optimize the customer experience in the workplace. And the customer (in this case) is both the employee and the corporation!

First things first: facilities management must be optimized.

Aside from the visual layout of an office, one of the first things any visitor (employee or not) will notice is cleanliness.

  • Is the floor free of debris?
  • Do the windows have fingerprints or smudges?
  • Are the bathrooms clean, with toilet paper stocked and full soap dispensers?

The same types of questions apply to kitchens, cafeterias, and even outdoor landscaping.

Employees aren’t the only ones who benefit from well-maintained work environments, either. Employers may not know it, but slacking on facilities management can cost them big in terms of employee productivity.

A study conducted by the Centre for Economics and Business Research found that Australian businesses lose $11.4 billion per year due to workplace cleanliness issues. A little more than half ($6 billion) of that total includes losses accumulating from employees avoiding soiled work areas - like waiting for the cleanest toilet and going out for coffee rather than using a dirty kitchen.

Office expansions require detailed, careful planning.

In addition to facilities management, CRE professionals are responsible for planning any additions to current office space. That means designing how work areas will be set up, keeping the project on time, and most importantly (to the corporation, anyway) staying within the required budget.  

This means CRE professionals need to know which business units and corresponding teams will work in the new space. What does their workspace look like today? Should the new layout be the same, or are there additional requirements for the new office?

And if the company is hiring more staff to fill the new space, it needs to be ready on time to accommodate those new employees. No one wants to sit 2- or 3-to-a-cube while waiting for a delayed buildout. Once the agreed upon Tenant Improvement project timeline has expired, the corporation is responsible for rent - regardless of whether or not the space can be occupied.

CRE professionals are also under pressure to stay at or under budget for the project, especially with private office construction in the U.S. topping out at $60 billion in 2017. If any mistakes are made along the way (like cube walls covering large windows), the corporation incurs the cost of resolving them to meet the new workspace requirements.

Workplace optimization is a constant process...

As anyone who owns a home knows, facilities management is ongoing. There’s always something to be cleaned or repaired. But what about the optimization of existing workplaces? This is an area where CRE professionals can really demonstrate their value.

Maybe a business isn’t hiring enough headcount to warrant new office space, but the type of employees they are hiring is always changing. The company’s work requirements may have changed drastically from what they were a year ago. Smaller offices could be converted to phone booths, for example.  Or maybe the company’s work style has changed from everyone working in the office 5 days per week to some percentage of remote employees or home workers.

Regardless of what the change is, CRE professionals can use workplace studies to understand what’s happening in the work environment today and what needs attention. With that information, they can make adjustments to meet employee needs and then start the process over. And in order for any changes to have a real impact, they have to happen soon - not years down the road.

...and corporate real estate strategy is critical, too.

Employee desires aren’t the only factors that play into decisions about work areas and new real estate investments. CRE professionals must also be mindful of sweeping impacts on the corporation, like:

  • What if two business units in different locations have made requests for upgraded workspaces, and only one gets what they asked for?
  • Will a new location be able to attract the level and type of talent the corporation needs to meet its goals?
  • And lastly, will the expansion have an effect on the company’s financial standing?

When you’re dealing with construction projects that cost millions of dollars, it’s critical to understand the entire corporate landscape before making a decision.

Execution management tools can support corporate real estate professionals in making real-time, informed decisions.

In order to manage all these moving pieces, CRE professionals need real-time, automated tools that help them proactively assess scenarios and keep problems from slipping through the cracks. Proactive workflows and detailed dashboards can provide the visibility they need to stay ahead.

Facilities Management

Building audits, cleaning inspections, safety inspections, and preventative maintenance checks are all facilities management tasks that can be supported by an execution management platform.

Project Management

Deliverables for office expansions can be tracked through an execution management platform as well. CRE professionals can request status updates from general contractors or subcontractors to insure timeliness and budget compliance.

Execution Management

Execution management tools can also serve as the backdrop for workplace optimization and strategic real estate planning. CRE professionals can conduct and store workplace studies and other relevant planning data in the platform for easy future modeling.

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