Knowledge work

I’ve got some real estate. Here in my bag.

by Paul Carder on August 22, 2017

by @paulcarder

“America”, (Simon & Garfunkel, 1968)

Let us be lovers,
We’ll marry our fortunes together.
I’ve got some real estate
Here in my bag.

Whatever meaning you may attribute to this beautiful song, to me it reflects a very human feeling of searching, of travelling….of movement even. The need to ‘get away’, to explore, and find new things. Perhaps, to find meaning.

[without getting too political, “to look for America” will be a quest troubling many people right now! One cannot help think Paul Simon will feel more empty and aching now even than in the song.]

Who needs real estate? Who needs more than a bag, a pack of cigarettes, one of Mrs. Wagner’s pies, to walk off and look for America? …a bottle of water perhaps. And obviously a smartphone.

Imagine the words of the song now, almost 50 years later:

“Kathy”, I said,
As we boarded a Greyhound in Pittsburgh,
have you got a good WiFi signal?

The cashless, wireless kid on the Greyhound bus today, off “to look for America” has very different real estate in his or her bag. You will have seen the graffiti’d amendment to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, with WiFi added as the new basic need above all others…it feels like that sometimes.

Providing she has money in the bank, somewhere in the world, and a WiFi signal on the smartphone, she can acquire all manner of ‘real estate’ …fleetingly, temporarily, for a few hours or a few days.

Counting the cars
On the New Jersey Turnpike

The contemporary young Simon, and his Kathy, have no need of a car. They can ‘buy’ an Uber for a few minutes when they need it. Or hire a car for a few days, to drive up the coast perhaps. They can ‘buy’ an AirBnB room for a night, or a week. Or a whole house, for all their friends to meet. Real estate, in the bag, on the iPhone.

Now they want to work like this too…..

And why not? If you live like this, why not work like this too? It is the sharing economy, the experience economy. Owning things is for your parents. Smart people are now buying memories, not ‘stuff’.

The technologists are busy creating platforms and Apps for us to book anything, almost anytime, and almost anywhere. Their business developers are connecting all manner of assets with their Apps …putting the customer together with whatever they need, when they need it.

Early pioneers of corporate real estate used to say most organizations are ‘in real estate’ by default. Not any longer.

Every year, there is less need for any organization to be ‘in real estate’ in any way at all.

Corporate and commercial real estate operators may all be working for ‘booking platforms’ before much longer. A few organizations will still build their own HQ, and hold a few leases on ‘core’ parts of the portfolio. But everything else will surely be ‘bookable’.

Every Monday morning will be a little like that young couple on the Greyhound bus; a journey, a new day, a new place (or favourite old place). Somewhere you want to go, with people you want to be with. If you are a knowledge-worker, of course. If your work is talking, creating, writing, and connected to a device.

I hope. And we all need that right now.

{ 0 comments }

by @paulcarder (References at footer)

You are probably quite familiar with the term “evidence-based design” (or EBD) as a corporate real estate, FM or workplace professional. In fact, there is a new EBD Journal. You may not have heard of “evidence-based management”, but it is a logical extension of practice started in healthcare, where ‘evidence’ to support decisions is clearly vital, and must be based on science (not just opinion). I’m sure we have all witnessed management decisions seemingly made on the basis of personal choice, politics, or fad. So, bringing sound evidence in to support management decision-making must be a good thing.

Denise M. Rousseau, Ph.D., is the H.J. Heinz II University Professor of Organizational Behavior Management Collaborative at Carnegie Mellon University, and editor of one of a number of books on the subject, including “The Oxford Handbook of Evidence-based Management”.

Denise Rousseau and Eric Barends (2011) applied the principles to human resource management (HR), and open their paper on ‘becoming an evidence-based HR practitioner’ with a useful definition:

Evidence-based HR (EBHR) is a decision-making process combining critical thinking with use of the best
available scientific evidence and business information.

It seems to me that this practice could (and should) be applied to Facilities Management (FM).

Evidence-based FM

There has been much discussion in recent years about the similarities between HR and FM, and the need for the two disciplines to work more closely together in organisations. This lengthy extract from Rousseau & Barends (2011), I believe, could equally have been written about FM:

Managers have diverse disciplinary backgrounds. HR practitioners have no single credential that authorises their expertise, and the occupation is open to those with no degree and those with several. There are no regulatory requirements regarding the education or knowledge an individual must have to become a manager or an HR professional. The HR industry associations SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) and CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) administer examinations to certify member expertise. At present, the SHRM exam is not highly evidence-based, instead supporting industry standard practice. In contrast, CIPD (active in Ireland, Britain and elsewhere in Europe) focuses more on science-based knowledge and aligns with masters’ level university programmes throughout Europe.

If you swapped ‘HR’ for ‘FM’,…’SHRM’ for ‘IFMA’,…and ‘CIPD’ for ‘RICS’ this statement could almost be written about FM. So, what is good for HR could be good for FM.

Example: knowledge-worker productivity

One leading consultancy in the UK, Advanced Workplace Associates (AWA) has been digging into this subject, with their research partners, the Center for Evidence-Based Management (CEBMa). Together, using an evidence-based management approach, they have identified what they call “the 6 factors of knowledge worker productivity” (AWA, 2015). This has been a thorny subject for many years, with a lot of opinions being traded, but often without a scientific approach. AWA and CEBMa have put aside opinion, and reviewed 161 papers, after screening for relevance excluding 102, leaving 59 relevant studies.

(nb., you can read the full process in Barends, Plum & Mawson (2015) listed below. This is part of Eric Barends’ published PhD thesis, and therefore detailed and robust).

Having worked with a few consultancies and service providers in the FM sector, this level of robust analysis of scientific evidence is rare, in my opinion. And could mark the start of a movement towards ‘evidence-based FM’, if the approach was copied by others in the sector.

The team set out to answer the following key questions:

1.What is “knowledge work”?

2.Which of the factors that have an impact on the performance of knowledge workers are most widely studied and what is known of their effect?

3.How do these factors enhance the performance of knowledge workers and how can they be measured? In addition, what are the implications of the findings for management practice?

Reviewers from CEBMa conducted a Rapid Evidence Assessment (REA) of the available scientific literature and AWA used its knowledge and experience to translate the academic findings into practical guidelines.

Results: practical guidelines

Eric Barends (2015) PhD thesis, Chapter 5, Annex 1 lists the practical measures (in the form of a useful questionnaire) derived from the scientific literature: Measuring the 6 factors

(The level of each factor can be scored as follows: Strongly agree = 5; Somewhat agree = 4; Neither agree or disagree = 3; Somewhat disagree = 2; Strongly disagree = 1. When the aggregate team score is low (e.g. below 3.5), this is a strong indication for low team performance)

When reviewing the 6 factors below, an FM/Workplace manager could useful consider how the physical working environment provided, and the facilities and services in the FM provision, may help to raise the score to 4 or 5. 

Factor 1: Social Cohesion

1.Members of our team like to spend time together outside of work hours

2.Members of our team get along with each other

3.Members of our team would rather get together as a team than go out on their own

4.Members of our team defend each other from criticism by outsiders

5.Members of our team help each other on the job

Factor 2: Perceived supervisory support

1.My supervisor is willing to extend him-or herself in order to help me perform my job the best of my ability

2.My supervisor takes pride in my accomplishments at work

3.My supervisor tries to make my job as interesting as possible

4.The organization values my contribution to its well-being

5.The organization strongly considers my goals and values

6.The organization really cares about my well-being

Factor 3: Information sharing and TMS (transactive memory system)

1.Our team members share their work reports and official documents with other team members.

2.Our team members share their experience or know-how with other team members.

3.Information to make key decisions is freely shared among the members of the team

4.Our team members trust that other members’ knowledge is credible.

5.Our team members are confident of relying on the information that other team members bring to the discussion.

Factor 4: Vision and goal clarity

1.This team has clearly defined goals

2.Our team goals are clear to everyone who works here

3.It is easy to explain the goals of this team to outsiders

4.I have specific, clear goals to aim for in my job

5.If I have more than one goal to accomplish, I know which ones are most important and which are least important.

Factor 5: External communication

1.Our team members use information obtained from external teams everyday

2.Our team is contacted by outside teams for knowledge and information

3.Our team scans the external environment for ideas and solutions

Factor 6: Trust

Horizontal trust

1.Our team members withhold information from each other

2.Our team members withhold information from the management

3.Our team members in general trust each other

Vertical trust

1.The management trusts the team to do their work well

2.The team members can trust the information that comes from the management

3.The management withholds important information from the team members

4.The team members are able to express their views and feelings towards management

Application to FM and Workplace/management

It can be readily seen how the evidence from the almost 60 papers reviewed in detail has delivered these ‘6 factors’ as set out above, and how a consultant or in-house change manager could drop these factors into a spreadsheet tool and create a useful survey tool.

It is less easy to see how an FM/Workplace manager could use these ‘6 factors’ directly. But it does provide a sound list of the factors which affect knowledge worker productivity, working in organisations and teams. However directly applicable, the advantage of this evidence-based approach, above the many lists created by knowledgeable consultants and FM practitioners, is that the ‘6 factors’ above can be traced back to scientific evidence from peer-reviewed academic journals.

Academic partnerships to create new knowledge in FM

What is set out above is a great example of a consultancy partnering with academics, to bring robust academic findings into FM and Workplace practice. It would be good for the developing FM profession to see far more of these academic-practitioner partnerships, which would deliver knowledge into FM practice. There is a large amount of peer-reviewed academic knowledge ‘locked away’ in academic journals which, as AWA and CEBMa have shown, can be collated and transferred into practice.

 

References

Advanced Workplace Associates, AWA (2015) “The 6 factors of knowledge worker productivity” available at: http://www.advanced-workplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/6_Factors_Paper.pdf

Barends, E.G.R., Plum, K., & Mawson, A. (2015). “The Added Value of Rapid Evidence Assessments for Managers and Organizations“; in Barends, E (2015) In Search of Evidence Empirical findings and professional perspectives on evidence-based management, PhD Thesis, VU University of Amsterdam, pp. 93-120. available at http://hdl.handle.net/1871/53248.

Rousseau, D. M. and Barends, E. G. R. (2011), Becoming an evidence-based HR practitioner. Human Resource Management Journal, 21: 221–235 available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/227792752_Becoming_an_evidence-based_HR_practitioner

Rousseau, D. M. (2012), The Oxford Handbook of Evidence-based Management, Oxford University Press.

{ 0 comments }

Robots, work and place

by Paul Carder on November 7, 2015

It’s the weekend. I’m not paid by UWE Bristol (my ‘day-job’) to think at the weekend. I can stop working (attending meetings, teaching, writing emails). But I can’t stop thinking – it’s going to happen anyway. As Descartes wrote, “I think therefore I am”. This is part of the challenge of understanding what “work” actually is, for the few of us (knowledge workers¹) – most of the world is still sweating and grafting a living. They know when they have stopped work, downed tools, or whatever their terminology may be. We, knowledge workers, are probably almost as alien to some of the people doing ‘real work’ as robots are to me. All humans are sentient beings, and the robot is not. But the supposed equality of all sentient life forms would be lost, during working hours at least, on the person threading beads onto a string in India, for a rich person’s child to buy on holiday. These poor workers are robots in human form, in a sad and real sense, not like the androids of science fiction.

I have never taken much interest in robots until now, possibly as I have had little interest in what they do. But now I find myself interested in what they do not do! Robots don’t think. They are computers, with useful appendages. Robots are told (programmed) what to do, and they only do that thing when someone tells them to do so. That strikes me as being very similar to much of what we once thought of as ‘work’. Much of this work does not require a sentient life form – and the more sentient the individual is, the more likely their mind will wander, and errors will occur. Robots don’t think, so they do not get bored. So, we humans have creatively made robots which can, on the one hand take mindless soul-destroying work away from people (for a Forbes debate on this issue see this link²), and on the other hand remove their livelihood …a double-edged sword, if ever there was one….

But wait… what is this I am reading in the Guardian newspaper³ today? Robots can think! The article says:

“…the development of artificial intelligence means computers are increasingly able to “think”, performing analytical tasks once seen as requiring human judgment.”

Much of the newspaper’s article draws on a 300-page report, revealed exclusively to the Guardian, in which analysts from Bank of America Merrill Lynch “draw on the latest research to outline the impact of what they regard as a fourth industrial revolution, after steam, mass production and electronics”.

I have picked out two types of work discussed by the Guardian, which would not have been considered (by most people, I would guess) to be a possibility for robot-replacement: financial advisers and doctors.

“Financial advisers Bespoke financial advice seems like the epitome of a “personal” service; but it could soon be replaced by increasingly sophisticated algorithms that can tailor their responses to an individual’s circumstances.”

The implication here for ‘places’ is unclear, but we could imagine some scenarios. Informed users accessing the financial advice via their connected device, anywhere. Less informed users still needing to visit a financial adviser, to talk through the process (but perhaps not in the next generation?). And more work for software companies, located anywhere. In many cases, the user and the service provider (in this case, the adviser) do not need to meet, and the activity can be asynchronous. Will financial advisers offices and retail outlets be needed?

“Doctors Some 570,000 “robo-surgery” operations were performed last year. Oncologists at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York have used IBM’s Watson supercomputer, which can read 1m textbooks in three seconds, to help them with diagnosis. Other medical applications of computer technology involve everything from microscopic cameras to “robotic controlled catheters””

Again, the implication here for ‘places’ is also unclear at this time. The medical service ‘user’ would generally need to be at a specific place (a hospital, or somewhere with the appropriate facilities). But the doctor may be elsewhere. In some cases the ‘user’ would be at home, or still at the scene of an emergency. These things already happen: kidney dialysis patients can have home-treatment machines, and paramedics can treat patients at the emergency scene using head-sets connected to a doctor back at base in the hospital.

Robots change work changes places

The two scenarios above are examples of how the physical places that have become familiar may change, or the proportion of use of places may change, through the increased use of robots. Fewer financial advisers (if that is the way things go) will mean reduced demand for office space. Other new service offerings may replace the old, and office demand would normalize. Conversely, we will always need doctors, but they may not work in the same way, or in the same places at the same times as they do today.

The one area which seems reasonably clear and certain is that there will be growing work for the location-independent digital employees. For example, the software ‘coders’, technologists and data analysts, who together make the computer-driven technologies work smoothly. Where will they work, and in what kind of places? Largely in offices, labs and service-centres; more of the same. Potentially, this ever-growing group of digital employees could mostly be located anywhere. Except where the service user and service provider are working on time-critical activity, like the doctor and paramedic. Whomever is supporting them will need to feel close by, even if they are not physically close. Whereas, a non-critical online transaction, such as the financial advisory applications discussed, could be delivered from anywhere in the same way as much of back-office of financial services is already delivered.

The corporate occupier will be most affected by where the corporation finds and recruits these growing numbers of digital employees. Where are they being educated and trained? This is a concern for politicians and executives at the highest levels – will your country deliver enough people with these advanced digital skills? Will they come to where you are now? Or will you have to build new facilities for them in places where they want to be? Spaces to think? I think, therefore I am…I want…I demand…  Robots would be so much less demanding – but quite boring!

Refs:

1. The Work Foundation (2009), Knowledge workers and knowledge work: A knowledge economy programme report, London, UK.

2. Vanian, J. (2015), Robots: Will They Steal Your Job? Fortune, 4th November

3. The Guardian (2015), Robot revolution: rise of ‘thinking’ machines could exacerbate inequality, Thursday 5th November.

 

{ 1 comment }

The changing nature of jobs (ILO report)

by Paul Carder on July 24, 2015

URL: http://www.ilo.org/global/research/global-reports/weso/2015-changing-nature-of-jobs/lang–en/index.htm

Thanks to our friend Wim Pullen at TU Delft for bringing this report to our attention. It is essential reading for any professional with an interest in work, employment, and how it is changing around the world.

You, like us, probably specialize in thinking about work vis-a-vis place; or workplaces, and the many combinations or work and place. But, how much do we consider the fundamental changes happening in the world of ‘work’ itself?

In the key findings, the report says “Only one quarter of workers worldwide is estimated to have a stable employment relationship, according to a new report by the International Labour Organization (ILO)”. That is a shocking statistic. Some will argue, a lack of a “stable” employment relationship is better than no work at all. We are not here to argue the point. But, just to consider the small world in which we (and probably you) as “workplace strategists” actually live and work.

In context, my recent blog “It’s five o’clock somewhere” seems like a small, privileged world. As does most of the other musing around work-life balance, flexible working, and finding hours of work that “suit” people. It is worth remembering, that we are all in a fortunate minority.

Just saying…..

Take care, Paul @paulcarder

{ 0 comments }

PLACEMAKER: a cure for commuting

by Paul Carder on December 12, 2014

By @paulcarderhttps://www.linkedin.com/in/paulcarder

Type the words “cure for commuting” into Google, you will find 6,580 results. Type the words “cure for stress” into Google, you will find 212,000 results. And so on…. “cure for cancer”, finds 656,000 results

[and “cure for” (anything), finds 34.4 million results]. So we are looking for many cures for many issues. It is a very human facet, to seek to find cures to make the lives of other people more bearable.

Almost 100 times more focus (simplistically using Google as a lense on the world) goes on cancer than it does on commuting. More than 1 in 3 people in the UK will develop some form of cancer during their lifetime. Again in the UK, Cancer is the biggest fear but 34 per cent put it down to fate. Cancer is scary – it can kill you. Though thanks to great research, a lower proportion of people are dying as more cures are discovered, and as new drugs come on line.

Commuting is a cancer on modern life

Commuting is not really comparable to cancer, is it? Really? Come on – its not going to kill you, is it? …is it?

Not in the same way, of course not (though stress is a killer) – but commuting is a ‘cancer’ on modern life. In fact, it has been for generations now, and it is getting worse. You do not even need to be in a gridlocked metropolis to experience commuting pain. It seems that every city and town has its commuting problems these days.

Yet not many people, or organisations, seem to be looking for a “cure for commuting”, relative to all the other ills of the world. We all seem to be putting a sticking plaster over a nasty-looking growth, and hoping that will make it better. It is not working. It never will. It needs to go under the knife.

In fact, if you take away from the search term “cure for commuting” the words “stress”, or “chaos”, or “blues”, or “problems”, there are very few references remaining. Urban transport planners are looking to make commuting easier, less stressful and perhaps less chaotic in some places. But they are generally not looking for a cure itself. Most people seem to assume that commuting has to happen, and therefore all one can do is to make it less painful. It has become almost like a form of palliative care….i.e., sorry, we can’t cure your disease, but we’ll try to make your life bearable. We’ll take away the pain, but we know you’ll still have to suffer.

Work and life do not need to be separated in this way. Commuting is not inevitable, nor can it continue in its current form. It is bad in many western cities – it is far worse in many recently developed or developing countries. We may complain in London or Melbourne about traffic, but we have public transport.

Johannesburg is a commuting nightmare. The Gautrain airport service won an award this year for its airport service (Sandton to OR Tambo International). But that does not help the many thousands of daily commuters with no option but to sit in traffic for hours every day.

Some of the most ‘developed’ cities are hardly better than developing countries. This article from LSE Cities describes similarities between Los Angeles and São Paulo where “a much smaller area is accessible by public transport compared to the car”.

The cure for commuting is not binary, either-or, but rather either-and

All working people must commute sometimes. We all need to travel, from where we live, to where we need to be with other people. We just do not need to do so every day, without questioning the rationale.

Real estate professionals need to consider how many different options can be created to help people to work where they find it most effective. Some of these options are as follows:

  • working at home
  • working nearer to home (as Tom Ball, CEO of neardesk.com is pioneering) in work ‘hubs’
  • working at partner/client offices, nearer to where you live
  • companies providing their own small workhubs, which are more regionally distributed
  • and…of course, sometimes you really must be in the corporate office, at certain times

The problem occurs, of course, where the latter is the daily default option – and where the other options are not available, nor considered.

The cure for commuting needs visionary leadership, by corporate executives

Transport planners fight for resources to make commuting more bearable for the millions of people who must commute daily. But the cure for commuting, for many thousands of people who could make use of one of the other options listed above, must be led by visionary executives.

If a CEO makes a decision to implement various work and place options, as above – making clear that ‘the office’ is not the only (or default) option – hundreds of people can begin to get some precious time back. Their lives will improve.

In fact, so will their engagement levels; so it is a win-win for corporation and employee. Gallup’s “State of the American Workplace”  discovered that 70% of U.S. workers are not engaged or actively disengaged at work. And when looking at what leaders can do to improve employee engagement and performance in their companies, trust was a key factor. And trusting employees to work remotely from their company office was cited as one way of improving employee engagement.

Build it, test it…do it again

As real estate professionals, working with occupiers of space, especially for growing numbers of knowledge-workers, we need to test out these workplace options. We need to build work-hubs closer to where people live – perhaps in their local main shopping street. We need to seek out those who are already doing this, and form partnerships and alliances.

Imagine a world where most employees could, for part of their working week, walk or cycle to their local ‘hub’. Not just the haphazard arrangement some people are forced to use today – taking their laptop to a coffee shop. But, a fully-functioning workplace, with people from many organisations, co-working together in their own town (or part of a city).

The challenge – as ever – is changing the mindset of executives and managers!

This is the one we all must work on! But the more facilities that are provided, to work effectively without the need for commuting, the more people will use them. And slowly, senior executives will see that they are not the domain of the work-shy, but rather they are used by highly engaged and committed employees who have just ‘seen a different way’.

If you own or manage a workhub, perhaps the way forward would be to try everything you can to entice CEOs to use your ‘hub’. Then they may just bring their people with them! We hope….

{ 0 comments }

by Paul Carder (paul.carder@occupiersjournal.com); Twitter: @paulcarder

When Terry Hall of Fun Boy Three brought Bananarama in as backing vocals in 1982, to release “It ain’t what you do, its the way that you do it”, he couldn’t have foreseen it being quoted in a blog about work, work-styles and workplaces! But here it is, and its true – its the way that you do it, that’s what gets results. Organizations of all kinds are about getting results, for their investors, customers, charitable donators, voters, or any other group of stakeholders. So, one has to question why managers so often feel the need not only to allocate work (‘what’ you do), but also to manage the location and process (the ‘way’ that you do it). Managing the ‘way’ that work is done, especially for highly skilled knowledge-workers, restricts their ability to tailor their work output to their own personal circumstances and preferences. Everyone is different. Why expect them to all work in the same place, in the same way? Its like giving them a car, but fixing the seat height, the steering column, the mirrors, giving them a one-speed gearbox and a speed restrictor…..the car would soon be returned to the leasing company! Why do we do it with workplaces?

The PLACEMAKER, in those circumstances, also has two hands firmly tied. Their skill-set includes finding the best work locations, flexible providers, great service experience, and supporting the individual in whatever way they chose to work. But, the PLACEMAKER may only be allowed to use the one element of that toolkit – the large, standardized, pre-set, corporate office, in the centre of the city. Or worse, not even in an interesting city! The corporate office could be in a nondescript business park, where the only respite from monotony is the entrepreneurial woman from the nearby town who brings a van-load of assorted sandwiches at mid-morning. Or a smoke in the purpose-built smoking shelter, with your other buddies, also ostracized like citizens of the Athenian democracy (albeit not for ten years, just for ten minutes). Yes, I have been one of their number….

In one of our OJ network discussions this week, Marcus Bowen (our man in Hong Kong) raised a very interesting point. It is an unrestricted gulp of fresh air to be PLACEMAKER to the ScrumMasters in the software development industries. They do not suffer from these restrictions. The much sought-after (and expensive) ScrumMaster will fly into a hub like Hong Kong, or Singapore, all pre-arranged and planned by a multi-skilled PLACEMAKER. The ScrumMaster and her team will have done a lot of preparation work remotely, in one of many different personally-suited work settings. But then, at some point, they need ‘face time’. They need that frenetic activity – a short, intensive work period – to get over that creative hurdle. Maybe three or four days – they will be too tired to do more.

Before they get to the Scrum, the group of software developers will have been using remote team-working tools; sharing a work-space in real time, but not real proximity. They may ‘sit’ next to each other, online – but in reality could be a mile or a thousand miles apart. It makes no difference. The PLACEMAKER will be there, wherever, to provide (maybe through a third party) the place, and the space, and the service experience which supports productive work.

I hear some readers saying, ‘here we go again – this is all about knowledge workers!’ The laptop and tablet-carrying free agents of the contemporary workplace. Highly paid and highly skilled people, whose needs have to be pandered to. But, it is no longer true, is it? We would have said, medical doctors need to be in hospitals. But paramedics with helmet-mounted cameras now routinely get advice from a doctor who could be anywhere.  We would have said, teachers need to be in schools and colleges – they may be, but their students can be anywhere with a webcam. Or vice-versa. The man (it is usually a man) digging up the road will be there, until someone invents a machine that can do his job all day without leaning on his shovel for ten minutes every hour. The person fitting caps on toothpaste tubes will equally be physically located on a bench, day in day out, until similarly someone invents a machine with equivalent dexterity. But, these jobs, in fixed locations, are reducing in numbers every time there is a new innovation – and they are not being replaced.

Much has been talked about the future of the office (no….open your eyes….stay awake now) – its quite simple, it will be a bit of what we have today, and part working at home, plus many other locations and spaces which suit the individual at a specific time. Workplace becomes workplaces. Corporate real estate teams will be providing an agile service to the workforce, not a fixed ‘product’, in a fixed place. Facilities management will become more about managing the work experience, of place, space and customer services – but as those places are spread around, to suit the individual more than the corporation, this new higher-level facilities management will be provided by the PLACEMAKER. The developer, the entrepreneur with an interesting ‘place’ where people just really want to work. The bus stops here – all change please, all change….

{ 5 comments }

Every human being is different – that fact needs no referencing. Yet, people work in groups, and multiple groups become organisations. The larger the organisation, the more generalization has traditionally been needed to provide fair and equal support for every individual person in that organisation.

But, for how long will that be the case in the world of ‘Big Data’?

Seth Godin’s blog today made me think. Have a read (my extract):

“….different employees–we have the choice to treat them as individuals. Not only do they need different things, but they offer differing amounts of value to you and to your project. The moment your policy interferes with their uniqueness, the policy has cost you something.

We used to have no choice. There was only one set of data for the student body, one way to put things on the shelf of the local market, one opportunity to talk to the entire audience…

One of the biggest unfilled promises of the digital age is the opportunity to go beyond demographics and census data. Personalization….is a chance to differentiate at a human scale, to use behaviour as the most important clue about what people want and more important, what they need….Instead of reserving this special treatment for a few outliers, though, we ought to consider what happens if we offer it to all of those we value.

The long tail of everything means that there’s something for everyone – a blog to read, a charity to donate to, a skill to learn. When you send everyone the same email, demand everyone learn from the same lesson plan or try to sell everyone the same service, you’ve missed it.”

What does this mean for workplace strategy?

Look at what happened in ICT – introduction (demand, not supply-driven) of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device). This is personalization of an individual’s handheld device provision (and away from the once-ubiquitous Blackberry for corporate employees).

What about accommodation – the individual’s workplace? When will we hear, “I don’t want that desk, I want to bring my own” or similar statements? Never, of course, but the same personalization may occur in a different way. An individual may say, “I don’t want that desk, I want to work in the office near my home”.

What are the choices available today?

Work at home, at a suitable place near home, at your employer’s office near home, at a transport hub (like the rail terminal – but not actually catching a train!), at another “third place” such as a serviced office (like Regus, or similar) or a coffee-shop…..

Or, if all else fails….or you are lonely and longing to see your colleagues….you can commute to the corporate office.

If workplace provision becomes a personal choice (which it already is for some, but not many), how many will regularly take the “if all else fails” option?

{ 0 comments }

Productivity is important at a macro-economic level. How much a country produces, measured by GDP, is still important.

Productivity at an organization level is also important, when measuring ‘output against inputs’, usually turnover and profitability.

But, unless an organization is a simple ‘producer’ (e.g., manufacturer of items for sale), then productivity is yesterday’s issue. This is now one of the key challenges for any non-manufacturing organization – and even many parts of the manufacturer, not directly working on the production process.

A government organization delivers output, not measurable in ‘units’. An advertising agency originates ideas, sometimes a spark of genius, or sometimes the result of a process of team brainstorming and analysis. The productivity of the work process is hard to measure – maybe impossible.

Traditional ‘productivity’ is about “stuff” made/time taken. So, time is the measure. But, non-manufacturing organizations do not work that way. How long the Creative Director takes to produce a new TV advert may become a problem if the project is running late. But, equally, the whole concept could come quickly as a flash of inspiration, as ideas bounce around a bright team of thinkers. Where does productivity come into that process?

Society (and therefore corporations delivering products to society; consumers) needs creativity. And, that creativity needs inspiration. It needs many other things also, as the process of innovation is not just about ideas. It needs knowledge, and people who are engaged in what they are doing – not just going through the motions. For more about the innovation process, read John Kao, who we heard speak at the CoreNet Global Summit San Diego in 2012 – certainly a process, but can it be measured by ‘productivity’?

Post-productive Places must inspire people to be creative. Places must also make people feel valued, and part of the organization, to be fully engaged in their work. Increasingly ‘places’ are also one element of the process to attract good people to work for an organization (or at the least, not to dissuade them from enquiring!). The result should be engaged people, working together in “places” designed (and managed) to inspire.

We need ways to measure the success of such places – but, it is not “productivity” as such – it is more about performance. Human performance, leading to team performance, leading to organizational performance.

Paul Carder (paul.carder@occupiersjournal.com); Twitter @occupiers

{ 0 comments }

To the heart of the suburban dinosaur

by Paul Carder on October 8, 2013

This article in GlobeSt.com caught my eye: “C & W brings Merck Headquarters to Market“. It might well have read “brings HQ to life”, as if it was a dying old mammal! The article’s author, Antoinette Martin, describes the leviathan one-million square-feet HQ as:

“another of the big-footed “suburban dinosaurs” emerging on to the commercial office market in New Jersey”.

I once spent a week in one of these weird space-stations that never took off to ‘boldly go…’ Far from being excited by being in a foreign country, and experiencing the culture, I was neither! Much like a free-range chicken going on vacation to a battery-hen farm, I was bored rigid. Much later, the term ‘cube-farm’ was coined by somebody, and such places have been mocked by Dilbert. The concept of mixed-use development was entirely missing – staying in a nearby hotel, there was nothing to do, and nowhere to go. It was not a ‘human’ place.

People just don’t want these places – corporations might like the efficiency, but ‘people’ don’t. And corporations are full of people! But, there is good news for the next generation……

Antoinette Martin notes that developers and planners have learned to become creative about re-use of such unique spaces, however, quotes Andrew Merin, a vice-chairman of C&W.

“Every major corporate campus in New Jersey [USA] over the past three decades has either been re-purposed to meet the needs of a growing corporation’s new headquarters or positioned for innovative reuse”

The NAIOP in New Jersey [USA] discussed this issue: Panel of Experts Offers Solutions for Re-Imagining Suburban Offices

The title of NAIOP New Jersey’s March chapter meeting was “Dinosaurs or Diamonds? Re-Imagining New Jersey’s Suburban Office Spaces”. The link above talks of the “preference by a new generation to work in amenity-driven urban settings”. The discussion followed from a report (one of a series of Rutgers Regional Reports) by the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University, titled ‘Reinventing the New Jersey Economy,’ issued at the end of 2012.

In a presentation prior to the panel discussion, Dr James Hughes, co-author of the report, said “By 2007, a new era dawned, with iPads, tablets and iPhones unshackling workers, who were no longer geography- or cubicle-tied”. Clearly, commercial real estate provision has a lengthy ‘lag’ behind demand. But people don’t want to work in these million sq.ft. suburban dinosaurs any longer. The offspring of the baby boomers, “are tech-savvy and like urban settings,” Hughes said. “The suburban corridors won’t necessarily be gone, but times have changed.”

From suburban dinosaur to new “town centre” – a more human urban setting

The developer of an even larger site, the two million-square-foot, 472-acre former Bell Labs complex in Holmdel, N.J., which successor Alcatel Lucent vacated in 2007, discussed their plans. Somerset Development “will be making improvements to recreate it as a town centre”. The Bell Labs complex will include a mix of residences, including affordable housing, both inside and outside of the main building. The building’s signature 70-foot tall atrium will re-emerge as a pedestrian promenade. The heart of the project will be its retail component, anchored by a 65,000-square-foot supermarket. Other components will include a 400,000-square-foot medical facility encompassing a health and wellness center, surgery centre, and an assisted living centre. Finally, a hotel and conference centre, and educational facilities, will round out the rebirth of the historic Bell Labs complex.

The PR article gives several more examples of “re-positioning” these large ex-corporate Headquarters facilities.

The dinosaur becomes agile, and avoids extinction

Yes, this is a well-disguised story about agile working! And social changes that go around, and in between. Ten years ago, most people did not have fast and reliable technology to enable them to work wherever they liked. Now that most knowledge workers do have this technology, they have started to change their whole day! They can work from home, so they don’t see the point (or like the cost, and environmental impact) of commuting too far. If the employer wants to see them in the office, at least a few times a week, they had better make it easy to get to.

Even better…offer someone a job….and availability of a flat/condo just a 5-minute walk away….oh, and a couple of restaurants, a gym, a nursery. Its also near the rail-hub to get into the city on Friday night, or for the weekend.

Your HR Chief will, at some point, realize that this set-up is an attractive part of the employment proposition – it may attract, and even retain, many employees. They may even trade-off a slightly lower salary. Shareholders will like that!…and, the heart of the old suburban dinosaur will be beating again. The same old corporate profit motive, but just quite a lot more pleasant to live around, maybe….

{ 1 comment }

When: Thursday, March 7, at Noon Pacific Standard Time

Register:  https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/476196598

Please join me and my colleague, Pi Wen Looi of Novacrea Research, for a lunch-and-learn session to learn about “Leveraging Mobile Work to Engage Your Employees.” We’ll present our 2012 Mobile Workforce Survey findings and share ideas about how you can use these insights to engage and leverage your mobile workers.

We planned to conduct this webinar well before Marissa Mayer of Yahoo! issued her now-famous edict mandating all Yahoo! staff to “cease and desist” working from home and to come to the corporate office every day. But the buzz surrounding that decision makes this webinar all that much more timely.

This session is designed for anyone who manages Gen Y workers, remote workers, IT professionals who are involved with mobile technology, and knowledge workers who work on-the-go.

Past research on the mobile workforce has focused on either the technology needs of mobile workers or the challenges of managing a virtual workforce. Our newly designed Mobile Workforce Survey is the first study that takes an integrated look at both the hardware needs of mobile workers (e.g., mobile devices) and the factors that impact their organizational engagement and personal views about mobile and remote work.

Key Takeaways

  • How and where knowledge workers are getting their work done today
  • What tools they use to be productive
  • How their mobility is affecting their work and their professional and personal relationships
  • Tips for managing and engaging remote workers

Registration

Please click on the link below to register for the free webinar, which is being hosted by People-OnTheGo, a firm focused on workforce productivity and achievement.

https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/476196598

Details

Date: Thursday, March 7
Time: 12:00 noon PST
Place: Online

Pi Wen and I hope to “see” you on the webinar next Thursday. Feel free to invite your colleagues; the more the merrier!

{ 0 comments }