There’s nothing so unsteady as a steady job anymore. Macro-economic pressures and uncertainties, deep technological change and a generational shift in attitudes (enforced or desired) are contributing to the rewriting of people’s relationship with work. Experience and employability have become more important than status or longevity.
Recognising and acting on these shifts is fundamentally important for those who own the places in which today’s companies operate; especially those companies whose capital is intellectual, whose ‘assets’ walk in and out each day.
For such companies, space is arguably the most generic part of the offer, even in today’s evolving workplace sector; creating competitive differentiation is not merely about just having a swanky or industrial-cool fit out. Commercial real estate providers need increasingly to tap into the psychology and motivations of future occupiers and their employees by becoming curators of experience not merely purveyors of space.
The old adage of ‘location, location, location’ needs to be complemented by ‘experience, experience, experience’. This change in emphasis is recognised by those creating places where people will live, notably the emerging PRS players.
This parallel of course goes further. The fact that people spend more daytime hours in the workplace than at home was not lost in the branding of one forward-thinking workplace provider, namely Second Home.
Compared to other sectors, the real-estate industry is uniquely poor at undertaking customer research. How many companies genuinely start with the customer and actually ask them what they may want? Insights from customer research rarely feature in this process.
What type of companies and individuals do you wish to attract? How will you shape your offering to fit their needs? Answering these two questions can help to define what a place could offer, not just in terms of the physical attributes and aesthetics but importantly how people will experience what the place stands for beyond the superficial or generic.
Lessons can be learned from players in other sectors – for example, the multiplicity of the campus concept beloved by companies such as Google or Microsoft, or from the customer focus of the hospitality sector. The success of groups such as Soho House and The Ace Hotel is partly due to their explicit focus on a clear market segment, in their case the creative industries. They have built a strong community as a result. They work hard to support those communities through enhancing their experience. Whilst rooftop pools and running tracks are the “poster boys”, less ostentatious examples are arguably more important – such as the ease of booking a myriad of services and (often exclusive) events via an app, or a laundry service for your gym kit.
The lines between work, home and leisure are blurring. In order to be distinctive in this new age of working, rather than thinking you’re in the ‘serviced’ or ‘flexible’ office business, ask instead what community purpose you want to serve. One gauge of strength for many popular member communities is the waiting list to join them. How can you make your workplace as sought after?