Workplace strategy

As someone who works locally while still tied to a larger organization, I have the opportunity to collaborate with specialty groups within CBRE. My colleagues, Karen Ellzey, executive managing director, and Carrie Thompson, senior managing director, are members of CBRE’s Global Workplace Solutions Management Consulting group. They have truly captured how workplace environments cater to the professional employee’s engagement with their employers, while aligning with C-suite strategies about core business models in the future.

In an internal CBRE essay on workplace strategy published in April 2016, the two explored the relationship between the concept and those affected by it, from leadership to entry level employees. Here is an excerpt from that essay:

“Workplace Strategy has become a high-profile part of the conversation around business, talent and the broader economy — a conversation often driven by headlines focused on “place” (think cool, alternative office environments and talent-grabbing amenities). And understandably so. These modern workplaces are featured on TV shows and style blogs and are helping redefine the traditional view of a cubicle-filled workplace. However, while being wowed by these undeniably cool office environments, we can overlook the “work” and “strategy” ingredients that comprise the concept of workplace strategy.

The right starting point is business strategy—understanding an organization’s “plan to win” in the marketplace.

But for the executives who manage workplace environments for some of the largest and most successful companies in the world, they arrive at “place” only after they have also thoughtfully considered the other ingredients of the terms – “work” and “strategy.” This discipline comes from the fact that those in the C-suite are expecting great outcomes from the workplace investments they are making.

For example, in CBRE’s inaugural Americas Occupier Survey, 57 percent of the 229 executives surveyed identified employee attraction and retention as the most important driver behind their company’s workplace strategy. Meanwhile, 85 percent said that they had used space restructuring to impact cost in the past year.

In short, workplace strategy has to deliver on multiple objectives.

“Today’s corporate real estate executive must balance new workforce desires with a realistic workplace strategy that brings talent and expense management into simultaneous focus,” according to the report. So even if the “place” grabs all the headlines, a disciplined approach is required to balance multiple objectives and deliver the exceptional outcomes C-suites are demanding.

The right starting point is business strategy — understanding an organization’s “plan to win” in the marketplace. These plans evolve constantly and real estate executives must translate them into more specific questions that real estate can solve.

Translating business needs into the right workplace solution is important work. Even if corporate real estate executives are not responding to a new shift in their business, the best among them are never developing workplace strategy in a vacuum.

One organization’s plan to win will not be another’s. Flexible, activity-based work environments may be just the ticket for one company, while well-appointed, traditional offices may still be the winning formula for another. But whatever the answer, the important point is that workplace strategy never starts with the debate about open plan vs. traditional, or amenity-rich vs. barebones, or CBD vs. suburb, or how many square feet per person. What matters is each company’s unique strategy, its plan to win and how that plan translates into the approach to talent, market presence and workplace environments.

In Greater Lansing

The Lansing market also embodies this thought process. Locally we have seen companies place a greater focus on workplace environment as a means to attract and retain talent across demographics, while area municipalities and economic development groups are similarly focused on infrastructure and amenity enhancements that compliment attractive workplace environments.

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