workplace

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.

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The (not far) Away Day (part 5)

by Paul Carder on May 25, 2017

by @paulcarder

If you have been following the story so far, several managers are congregated in their corporate training facility, “to discuss what successful Workplace Management means to the Group Companies, who should lead it forward, and how”. It is the evening before the Away Day, and they have met variously in the bar, or passing through to their rooms. We have met Frankie (HR), Sam (FM), Jules (CRE), and Charlie (IT Strategy). As is often the case in large organisations, FM reports into CRE; Sam reports to Jules. But, nobody really knows how the plot is unfolding. Mostly because the HR Director, unusually, has called this Away Day, “so we actually talk to each other, and share information and experiences”. Why HR?

Frankie is meeting the HR Director, Rosh, in a nearby restaurant.

“I bumped into some colleagues from Real Estate in the bar” says Frankie, as they take their table. “There is some…well, intrigue, I guess you could say. They kinda think Workplace Management is their bag…wondering why HR is heading this Away Day”.

Rosh comes back quickly, with a slight air of excitement, “Yes, I’m sure there is! Intrigue, indeed. What do you think?” Rosh is a great mentor – teacher, even. To Frankie, it feels less a ‘manager-subordinate’ relationship than one of a post-grad and professor.

Frankie replies, “Well, I know that collaboration is the goal. Not just out there with our business partners and suppliers, but here, across the support functions. I know that the boss wants to get rid of ‘stove-pipes’, and to get all of the functions facing one direction…and I guess that means all fully aligned with each of the business units”.

Rosh smiles, looking up from the menu, “Yeah, pretty much. The new CEO wants us to give staff every tool they need to perform at their best achievable level. Think sports analogies. Firstly, we want people fit and well, in body and mind….as far as practicable, of course! So, ‘wellness’ will be mentioned a lot. Secondly, we will ensure that everyone in the organisation goes through a review of their skills, and is offered training, or sponsorship on courses where required. We do a lot of that anyway, but it will be pushed harder. And thirdly, the ‘places’ we want people to work from will support them fully”.  

“We have made a good start on the first two”, said Frankie, “but, what is our role, as HR, in ‘places’? That’s Corporate Real Estate, and FM. Are you saying….”

“Yes, I’m saying that will be part of my new remit” smiled Rosh, “We will all be on a steep learning curve.”

Frankie looked a little surprised, “I could ask a lot of questions…why? how?” she smiled. A confused smile.

“Don’t worry. We’re not actually going to be ‘doing’ the CRE stuff”, Rosh replied, “But, this is going to be an organizational transformation. It will not be comfortable, for many of the support functions. Selling it to staff in the right way is going to be critical. Hence, our experience of large change management projects will be what is needed right now.”

Frankie was not convinced, yet at least, “I get that…but how are we going to effectively lead a function like CRE, that we have little knowledge of?” 

“Ah, you under-estimate what you know!” replied Rosh, laying the menu down, “think about it. One of our key goals is employee attraction…and retention. We’re in a competitive market. Unemployment in our sector is virtually zero. Everyone is offering similar…good…salaries and benefits. What can we do to differentiate ourselves, as an employer of choice?”

Frankie grinned, “Well you’ve kinda given that away …its ‘Places’, obviously …but I still can’t quite see how?”

“OK”, Rosh continued, “well, the CEO’s view is that the ‘places’ we ask people to work from are one of the last areas of effective ’employee benefit’…if, as we think is true…people decide to join us…or stay with us…because the experience of working in our places is better than they would get elsewhere. And we should know, as we measure this. But we need to do more, to understand why, and how we can continuously improve. And that is what we manage, and how we brief and guide the Workplace Managers.”

“I get it…I like it” said Frankie, “it is more the strategy and targets that we lead from. We don’t do the technical stuff…CRE does that…but we make sure that what they do is fully aligned with our ‘people’ strategies”.

“Exactly. And you are now part of the new People & Place function”, Rosh smiled, “HR is no more. The CEO hates the term…People!!…we employ people!! ..not Human Resources.”

“What do you think of the menu?” Rosh asked.

Frankie wasn’t sure how to answer. The dinner menu? Or the menu for tomorrow’s Away Day. Dinner was going to go down far better, she thought.   

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HR > Finance > CRE > FM

by Paul Carder on July 22, 2016

by @paulcarder

This is a simple post. It is intended to cause a good-natured argument amongst professionals.

I’m more interested in how things are achieved, by whom, than perhaps by the end result. Take workplace transformation as an example. I’m not an architect or interior designer. Pictures of cool new spaces don’t especially interest me. I gave up sitting in ball pools when my children grew out of them. Like my good friend Mark Eltringham, I agree that “the reality is that for the majority of people, the office of the future will be a sober and nuanced evolution of the office of the present“. People like to feel that they are being treated well, their comfort and happiness is somewhat important to their employer, and they see money being spent on their new environment. But trends, fads, gimmicks and aesthetics are very personal – one will never please everyone, so I take little interest.

What really interests me (and many of my colleagues in the OJL network) is how organisations cascade their strategic aims to the various “workplace” professionals in their team. And how that team organizes itself to deliver spaces and services which are aligned and support the organization’s goals.

In the past (vague, I know… lets say, 10-15 years ago +), we all talked about the Finance Director (or CFO), and what she wanted to achieve. Buildings, and fleets of buildings (real estate portfolios) were, and still are of course, a significant expense to most organizations. Cost reduction was king, and therefore the CFO was the focus. Corporate Real Estate (CRE) grew out of the 1980’s onwards, and became the lead function in managing real estate. Facilities Management (FM) was operational, and mostly reported into CRE.

Of course, the CFO’s office is still involved, especially in large capital programmes. But the fat on the bone of real estate portfolios has largely been well trimmed in many (most?) organizations. CRE leaders have realized that tinkering with FM costs is the proverbial water in the wind. The larger cost savings come via portfolio rationalization (as do energy savings, by default). Much of that has been done too. What’s left is ‘fine tuning’ of buildings, to operate as closely to the ideal of the efficient factory (sweating the assets) or the efficiency of the airport, with people coming and going, checking in and checking out, throughout every day. Hot desking – or at least, fairly warm!

In the present, the focus has shifted to the Human Resources function (CHRO, if you must). Especially now that the economy in many regions has slowly dragged itself out of the deep financial malaise we all felt since 2008/9. Organizations are moving from survival mode, back to competing. And competing for ‘talent’ is once again a hot topic. As is getting the most out of people and resources (productivity) once an organization has successfully recruited people.

HR has grown in strength and influence (imho), and in many cases has become more strategic and future-oriented than it was in the past. Tools such as ’employee engagement metrics’ provide hard data (there is literature supporting, and criticizing, most employee engagement efforts – but there is no denying it is everywhere). People are expensive, and if we know what makes them ‘tick’ then HR can drive transformations in many areas of the organization. Workplace is one area. It is believed (at long last) to make a difference to how people work.

So HR is currently greater than Finance,

…Finance is greater than CRE (Workplace still has to stick to financial constraints of course),

…and CRE is greater than FM.

HR > Finance > CRE > FM

For now, at least.

FM is still operational. This twitter discussion this afternoon convinced me of that. Once again. I don’t see much change from the picture Jim Ware and I painted in the RICS-sponsored “Raising The Bar” (RTB) reports we delivered in 2012 and 2014.

We are starting work now on the third RTB study, thanks to RICS continued support. So if you violently disagree with what I have written above, do please comment below. Or email me, or Jim. We would love to hear from you.

paul.carder@occupiersjournal.com

or jim.ware@occupiersjournal.com

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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.

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A sojourn into biology, rewards, and place

by Paul Carder on January 2, 2016

by @paulcarder

For the time-poor, here: The memory of the great place where you went, replays (fast) whilst you sleep, and is stimulating the memory of what you learned. So avoid crap places/spaces if you want people to remember stuff…. OK, that’s lost a few people… a poor life this, if full of care, we have no time…

For the benefit of the reader who may wish to follow this little diversion into ‘real science’, I will provide a routemap via Google Scholar (which, in itself, if you have not used it, is an absolute treasure trove). So…in Google Scholar, click on “advanced search” (a drop down menu), and in the first box labelled “with all of the words” type the two words reward and place.

[why? – because I have been researching whether ‘place'(s) etc., corporate space, has been linked to HR compensation and rewards. i.e., does anyone actually think about place as a “benefit” to employees. Then I went off on this tangent… I urge you to do this too… regularly].

So, alongside the text “where my words occur” make sure you toggle to “in the title of the article”. Today, it gave me 75 articles …by the time you try this, there may be more.

Next, alongside the text “without the words” type in the words dopamine, drug, foods and “conditioned place preference” (we’ll come back to that term in a later blog!). And search again…now you may be down to about 33 articles. I have listed just the one paper referenced in this blog, at the footer below.

What comes next is truly fascinating! Real hard science about the link (mostly in poor old rats, but hey…) between place and reward. Not our usual social science, based on opinion, discussion, surveys (which I love, and practice, as I was put off statistics at a young age) – no, the study of brain activity by biologists!

First on the list is Lansink et al (2009) who introduce their paper with this familiar feeling:

Thinking back to an exciting event often includes the scene in which the event took place. Associations between specific places and emotional events are consolidated in memory, but how this is achieved is currently unknown.

Their research took a step further. In discussing brain activity, they demonstrate that “a combination of spatial and emotional aspects of a learning experience is replayed in the hippocampus and the ventral striatum during sleep, which is likely to contribute to the consolidation and strengthening of memory traces”. In layman’s terms, my interpretation, the hippocampus is associated with spacial awareness (or ‘place’), and the ventral striatum is associated with emotion. What Lansink and colleagues discovered was that, during sleep, memories of a place can (and do) stimulate other memories, and consolidate these memories (Memory Consolidation Theory):

  …the hippocampus initiates and orchestrates replay in connected brain areas. In addition, sleep replay occurs at a time scale about ten times faster than during the actual experience, which makes it a mechanism suitable for strengthening synaptic connections associating place with reward

Put simply, say you go to a really great place – a stimulating environment – then you are engaged in some activity in which you learn (perhaps a presentation, or even just a discussion amongst peers… a meeting). Then you go home, later you sleep. Your brain double-taps like Special Ops! It fires the ‘place’ memory, quickly followed by the ’emotion’. And the sleep replay is on ‘fast-forward’ x 10. The memory of the place where you went, is stimulating the memory of what you learned.

How does this make you feel about your next team away-day? Maybe you’ll persuade the boss that it really is worth spending a bit more money (or just being creative, perhaps) in finding a great place to meet up.

….but not that “Training Room” with no windows, in the basement….your hippocampus will not talk to your ventral striatum if you go down there! And you’ll all forget whatever Rupert from Group Legal took half a day out from his golf practice to tell you about.

As a corporate placemaker, you know that place matters. So do clever rats, biologists (and lawyers).

 

Refs:

Lansink CS, Goltstein PM, Lankelma JV, McNaughton BL, Pennartz CMA (2009) Hippocampus Leads Ventral Striatum in Replay of Place-Reward Information. PLoS Biol 7(8): e1000173. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1000173

 

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Towards the Corporate Placemaker in 2016

by Paul Carder on December 23, 2015

by @paulcarder

I have been studying and thinking about this concept of the Corporate Placemaker for some time now. I trace it back to our work on Raising The Bar, a global study for the RICS which, after more than 140 years of history, seemed to coincide with their awakening to the importance of Facilities Management (FM). But, take a look at the link path, and it is Home/Property/FacilitiesManagement. So, FM is still a subset of property (real estate, or ‘real property’). But, is it?

I can categorically state (as we are dealing in how to ‘categorize’) that whatever we decide the “corporate placemaker” may be, it is not just property/ real estate or facilities management. Property (real estate) is heavily biased towards ownership (as its very name suggests), and maximizing the benefits of ownership of some physical asset. It can easily be seen how little the real estate market and professions care about the ‘use value’ of property by the comparatively tiny proportion of media dedicated to the subject (a key reason for our launch of Work&Place, our journal, in 2012). And facilities management is such a nebulous term which I sincerely hope can be eventually replaced with something clear and meaningful.

I think we are all searching for what to call real estate and facilities management, working together, are we not? Corporate Real Estate is represented in research, with Corporate Real Estate Journal (Henry Stewart Publications), and Journal of Corporate Real Estate (Emerald). But what is the “subject area”? – Property Management & Built Environment. As is also Facilities and Journal of Facilities Management (both Emerald).

But what of place in the context of organizations, and the people who use spaces and places for some other reason than for the asset? There is a Journal of Place Management and Development (again, by Emerald), supported by the Institute of Place Management, a body that “supports people committed to developing, managing and making places better”. Sounds promising. And the concepts are promising for the future – such as marketing and branding of places (corporate marketing take note!), the consumption of place (yes, that is what occupiers do!), and place competitiveness (again, a subject of interest to HR and corporate executives in deciding how to support their efforts to win the ‘war for talent’). But, before I get you too excited, this whole subject is about cities and town centres generally. Take a look at one of the leading Masters courses in this field and that is immediately apparent. However, this course is positioned in the department of Marketing, Operations and Digital Business at MMU Faculty of Business and Law, which is a good start! It is all about the use of places, not the built environment as an asset.

Still, nothing yet for the use of places by organizations and their people. Research and teaching has yet to make much impact on the ‘supply-side centric’ thinking which abounds in the real estate and built environment disciplines. The world of the occupier, or ‘demand-side’, is under-represented.

This is why I am so focused on the term (and hopefully the emerging discipline of) the “corporate placemaker”. I hope you can see where I am coming from. This is wider than corporate real estate and facilities management. It must pick up some of the social sciences and business administration disciplines covered by “place management” above, but focus on corporate places rather than city public spaces and town centre management.

In fact, my PhD study is grappling with exactly what it is to be a corporate “placemaker”. Leading placemaking for an organization, rather than wider society in urban spaces. The subject areas are diverse, and may include the following:

  • Organizations, Occupations and Work – sociological change, and the future of work;
  • The ‘draw’ of places – perhaps ‘place appeal’?;
  • The psychology of environment and behaviour (org. psych.);
  • Strategy and competition (esp. in competing for talent, a key HR issue)
  • Brand and image – marketing – the impact of place;
  • The consumerization of everything – including ‘the place to be’ on any one day;
  • The experience economy – not just place, but service, and experience;
  • The health & wellness debate: stress, work-life balance and related issues;
  • Workplace economics – cost vs value, taking all the above into account;
  • Corporate places, home, and ‘third places’; coworking; hubs; collaboration; innovation;
  • Home or away? – the only real human options (i.e., everyone choses either to stay at home, or to go somewhere… the default in the future may be to stay put! or work closer to where we live)
  • Management, procurement and delivery of places for corporations, employees, and their networks.
  • Relationships between the ‘placemaker’ team and the rest of the corporation & stakeholders.
  • The future provision of corporate places – new market entrants?;
  • A sustainable, low-carbon, low-stress future; we cannot continue the way we are today!

What would you call the management discipline which encompasses all of the above? The multi-faceted and strategically-minded role in large organizations, which moves between Group HR, operations, marketing, IT infrastructure planning, corporate real estate and facilities management?

(clue: the answer is not Facilities Manager. Though there is nothing to say that a good strategic-thinking FM could not develop into this role! But then, so could a good HR manager….)

 

Happy Christmas all… and our very best wishes for 2016.

 

Paul Carder

Co-Founder, Occupiers Journal Limited

paul.carder@occupiersjournal.com

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A huge coworking hub in middle-America

by Paul Carder on November 30, 2015

The marketing blurb for Timothy Sprinkle’s 2015 book, “Screw the Valley“, says:

The most exciting high-tech startups are escaping the expensive and inbred environment of Silicon Valley. Welcome to the future.

Really? To where? …NYC? – yes. Austin, TX? – well, yes, less obvious maybe to those outside the US, but it is a fairly popular place. …Kansas City? …really?

The 2015 book’s blurb continues:

Entrepreneurs know they must embrace innovation to excel—starting with where they locate their new venture. Fortunately, budding companies seeking fertile ground have more options today than ever before. Screw the Valley calls on today’s entrepreneurs and aspiring business owners to forget California and explore other options across the country—cities that offer more room to breathe, easier access to funding and talented workers, fewer heads to butt, and less money down the drain

Timothy Sprinkle visits seven areas that “offer a superior landscape for tech startups” – Detroit, New York City, Las Vegas, Austin, Kansas City, Raleigh-Durham, and Boulder. He explains “the startup potential” in each city, detailing which industries are thriving where, and highlighting “the unique appeal and character of each location”.

The book’s blurb ends with this statement:

Bright ideas are not geographically limited, and innovation is happening every day in cities all over the country. It’s time to think outside the box when it comes to startup location. It’s time to say Screw the Valley.

It’s kind of like saying “if you can make it there, you can make it in the middle of nowhere…” (etc… to Sinatra’s music).

In “Screw the Valley: Kansas City Edition” (a brief extract of the main book) Sprinkle provides an overview of the assets and help available to Kansas City startups and #tech entrepreneurs. It appears that the “City of Fountains”, with its French-style boulevards, has many resources to offer businesses.

Sprinkle does, however, admit that Kansas City, “as a tech ecosystem, still has a branding problem”. He asks:

Why would anyone want to live in the middle of the Great Plains? Where do they work? What do they do for fun? Really, what’s the appeal? …As a State, Kansas has long been misunderstood…

Well, I can’t answer many of those questions. But, we can at least now see where some people will work in Kansas City. They are going back to school, almost literally.

The local Startland News reported that Sustainable Development Partners (KCSDP) purchased the Junior High School in January 2014. And that Kansas City Public Schools approved, in September, the sale of the High School to Sustainable Development Partners. The KCSDP website has more images and information relating to the Collaborative Innovation Hub.

The redevelopment scheme for the combined 300,000 square-feet of space will cost about $23 million. What was once Westport Junior High will become ‘home’ to non-for-profits, whilst the former Westport High School will be a space for tech and innovation.

On 18th November, Startland News ran this piece: The ‘world’s biggest coworking studio’ is coming to Kansas City. The KCSDP is partnering with coworking company Plexpod to deliver the facility.

In fact, it is not just a coworking studio:

the space will feature an array of amenities for entrepreneurs and the community as a whole, including office space, a business incubator, access to investors, an event space, a maker’s studio and more

The Startland News piece states that the Kansas City metro area already has 11 coworking spaces, but that “none will come close to rivaling the amenities and size offered at the Westport Commons project”. KCSDP reckons that “given current trends, Kansas City needs about 500,000 square-feet of coworking space to accommodate independent workers.” Wow! So coworking really has taken off in a big way.

But, can they create a place where people want to be, in those numbers, in an old school building? Most of the other coworking spaces, as the article notes, are about 5,000 square feet. Is there a reason for that, perhaps?

Do “huge” and “coworking go together? Do “huge” and “boutique hotel” go together?… I’d say, no. There is something about place which relates to scale.

I’d like to visit a year or two after it is up and running. Will the place have a ‘buzz’? Or will it feel big and corporate? It would be fascinating to read the objective views of a social network analysis study, sometime down the line. Will the operator assist that social network to develop, so the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts?

Or will people drift off to the 5,000 sq.ft. ‘buzzy’ coworking hubs? We’ll see, I guess…

@paulcarder

 

Further reading:

Bartels, L. M. (2006). What’s the Matter with What’s the Matter with Kansas?. Quarterly Journal of Political Science, 1(2), 201-226; available at: http://www.princeton.edu/~bartels/kansasqjps06.pdf

Frank, T. (2004). What’s the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America.
New York: Henry Holt & Company

Sprinkle, T. (2015). Screw the Valley: A Coast-to-Coast Tour of America’s New Tech Startup Culture: New York, Boulder, Austin, Raleigh, Detroit, Las Vegas, Kansas City. BenBella Books, Inc.

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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

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(by @paulcarder co-founder @occupiers)

London’s Financial Times reported this morning, “The worst London Underground strike in more than a decade saw millions of Londoners struggle to get to work”. It is chaos, here in the UK capital – the top global city in PwC’s Cities of Opportunity ranking. It is a sorry state of affairs, as in a scene reminiscent of 1970s union-crippled Britain, the “workers” representatives couldn’t agree with “the management”.

“Workers” and “management”…we thought we had overcome that particular divide in business and society, didn’t we? But, some people have a vested interest in keeping it very much alive. In the large, industrialized, unionized industries such as transport, it lives on.

Only last year, UNITE union leader Len McCluskey addressed his supporters in Liverpool as “sisters and brothers” like some mid-20th century socialist (which, of course, he is). This, despite UNITE’s website claiming “Unite is the union for the 21st century meeting the great challenges facing working people in the 21st century”. Oh, we laughed…or would, if it was at all funny. Which, if you were in the queues forming as early as 06.30 this morning, would be far from humorous.

Of course, as we all know, one of the “great challenges facing working people in the 21st century” is their journey to and from “work” – their commute. Unless they happen to be working for an organization which has embraced agile working. Those employees, freelancers, consultants and service providers, are smiling ever-so-slightly smugly today in and around London.

I was only explaining to my eldest daughter, 16, at the weekend, how very many ways we have to communicate (and even meet ‘virtually’) today. Many at no cost, or very little cost – certainly in comparison to the rising cost (and pollution) of travel. When I was her age, we had to either travel to meet, or use the telephone. Even mobile phones were large, heavy and very expensive. Only 1980’s “yuppies” had “mobile” phones – remember these 8 technologies in the 80s 🙂

I don’t know what you use, but I have a smartphone, email, LinkedIn messaging, Twitter DM, skype (for video calls), BlueJeans and GoToMeeting for sharing presentation slides and other materials. I don’t really need to go anywhere. I do, because I like meeting people…but mostly, I don’t have to do that.

So, “sisters and brothers” (whether “worker” or “management” – all together now), lets all spread the word that agile working is the answer to this daily commuting hell. And it is sensible corporate mitigation of the risk of various (and regular) disruptions, whether transport-related, security threats, inclement weather, or whatever.

Every “worker” should, if their job allows, have the opportunity to ‘go agile’ as and when their normal daily routine is disrupted. But, organizations need to plan for this, and give their people the tools to ‘go agile’.

You can’t suddenly ‘go agile’ at 06.30 whilst standing in the queue for the Underground….

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I come from the far west of England; the rugby-loving county of Cornwall. Because I was large, I had to play, but was never much good. My second-row buddy went on to play for Scotland and the British Lions, but I took up music lessons 🙂 Anyway, we had a saying when Cornwall reached the County finals, “last one over the Tamar Bridge, turn out the lights”, as busloads of Cornish traveled to support the county side!

If you are wondering what relevance this has to anything you may usually expect to read here, it just reminded me of the current direction of travel for office occupiers. i.e., out of the office – like we sped out of the county.

There was, in fact, far more drawing us back to our beloved county of Cornwall than there is for most daily occupants of offices. Aside from the Googles and Facebooks of our occupier friends, and some of the large employers that spend serious money on great workplaces, for many others the office is a dull place. You only have to see the hoards of people walking from their soulless business park to the local supermarket to buy today’s “Meal Deal” to understand how dull life can be for those unfortunate people.

No wonder, therefore, that cool cafes and co-working hubs are busier than ever. The legions of freelancers and entrepreneurs are being joined by corporate employees who just prefer somewhere better to work. I was talking to Neardesk last week, and they are experiencing ever-rising demand from people wanting to work closer to home. Not at home: that doesn’t work for everyone (many of us just want the separation of work and home life; or have too much home life going on to concentrate). But near to home, with a short commute, good coffee, and interesting people who don’t really care if you sit on the sofa and read the newspaper for a while. Nobody is watching – they’re amongst friends (or total strangers – either way, no bosses hovering).

If you don’t have to be at the office, why would you go? It may be in a great location, and you may want to go for lunch with the girl (or guy) from accounts. But, otherwise, why not wade through your emails at a desk closer to home, and actually get home before the kids are so tired that they just want to go to sleep. Or fit in that round of golf, now that the summer evenings are here? (not for me that one – golf is a good walk spoiled – certainly for my dog!). Or take some time cooking, instead of buying a pizza at 9pm. Or…or…whatever. Take some time back.

There will always be offices. But, we just don’t need to go there every day. And agile working means desk-sharing ratios can rise, so the expanding company does not necessarily need to take on more office space. Some call it space-less growth.

So, every 4th floor you occupy could be released, if more people stayed near home one or two days a week, and let someone else use their desk on those days. Or, every 4th office building – if you occupy a portfolio within a commuting catchment area.

If you manage the 4th office, switch off the lease on your way out….

Paul

@paulcarder

@occupiers

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