Nancy Sanquist, IFMA Fellow and Virtual Attendee
December 22, 2020
Gever Tulley, a computer scientist, author and speaker once said, “Persistence and resilience only come from having been given the chance to work through difficult problems”. If we think of difficult problems (or challenges), we certainly cannot think of bigger ones than we have had to deal with this year and projected to face well into 2021. We have little time to be “persistent” in our responses, but leadership and employees have demonstrated extreme resilience as we kept the work of our organizations uninterrupted and productive as we managed and worked remotely using advanced technology to meet with colleagues, customers and friends.
As Tim Mueller, Real Estate Advisory Leader at PwC, mentioned on the first of two partner led panels, leaders responded at first with micro-view strategies in their initial responses and then followed with more macro strategies as the crisis dragged on longer than expected. As was pointed out, even a macro view cannot be as naïve to think we could predict the future world of 2025 or beyond.
Leaders used scenario planning and talent projections as time moved on and they realized the need to be resilient in their thinking about new ways of working, accelerating the implementation of digital tools and upskilling. In the center of these discussions was always finance which also had to figure out what future skills and technologies their own profession needed to support revenue growth in the new economic landscape.
The PwC leaders identified key capabilities needed which are different than 9 months ago:
The need for agility and flexibility
Resilience to determine different skill sets at different times (and which are necessary for CRE/FM)
Speed to information (see previous section on ‘Harnessing the Power of Data’)
Determining how much automation is required, i.e. machine learning, AI, data pools?
The redesign of work with the realization that this is difficult during a pandemic
This reminded me of a past HBR article published in June 27, 2016, which listed ways to boost your resilience at work which could add to the list including:
Ability to stay balanced
Ability to manage strong or difficult emotions
Sense of safety
Strong social support system
This session also raised the topic of the Future of Work discussions and all panelists agreed it should be a team of HR, CRE/FM, IT and finance. Covid-19 was a catalyst for busting down the silos and forced many organizations to convene experts from each group, some for the first time. As for the question of which expertise should lead this taskforce, a poll was conducted from audience members and most chose the Chief Operating Officer, followed by the next two choices, HR and then CRE/FM. The reason for choosing the COO is that they have C-level status and have the power to get things done, as well as having the pulse of the entire company.
In the second of the two partner led panels, moderated by Francisco Acoba, Deloitte, a group of CRE and technology experts discussed strategic considerations for real estate. Joe Barile, from Amazon’s Audible and Greg Snook, Guardian Life, both real estate and workplace professionals, told the stories of their experiences during the past year. Audible was not prepared for the crisis and had no work from home strategy. Their offices were at the ratio of 1 person/desk and anyone who was working remotely was doing so under the radar. Now they have adopted a hybrid model where one can work in any of the offices which remained open, or from home. At all times they worked closely with the business strategy.
Guardian Life is an insurance company with 10,000 employees and partners working there, but today they only have 200 people working on the headquarters campus. Pre-Covid they were also in 1:1 workstations and would often find the buildings 50-70% vacant. An interesting note was that they had planned a $20 million renovation and when they began to feel it might be too risky, it was cancelled even before the virus struck.
The Guardian Life group created a Workplace Mobility Program ensuring that this would help to attract and retain talent. Their steering committee consisted of the CEO, CIO, HR, CRE/FM and reps from the major business units. Every four weeks they would “take the pulse of the workforce” through surveys. They do not plan to bring back the workforce until July 2021. When Greg was asked, what were ‘lessons learned, Greg replied, “Don’t be afraid to venture out of your comfort zone and keep experimenting.
Conclusion: Reimagining Real Estate and Workplaces Post Covid-19
Simon Blenkiron continued the discussion on shaping the future by moderating what I thought was the best session of IFMA’s World Workplace 2020, entitled ‘Redefining the Workplace’ with two superstars of the workplace community, Janet Pogue McLaurin and Arnold Levin, both from Gensler. Janet described the latest Gensler Research Workplace Survey of 2000 people from 10 industries in the US, UK, France and Australia from July and August this year. The majority agreed that the hybrid model was the most preferred, and the office still matters for its ability to bring people together for group work and socializing, access to technology and focus work. The differences were that Alternative-based Workplaces were more common in Australia, the US had the most desire for private spaces and the majority of urban-based people picked their #1 preferred ‘amenity’ was parking which will send a chill to sustainability folks everywhere.
Arnold then described his latest innovative organizational and design work with various clients on new concepts for workplaces including:
Seasonal mobility (headquarters locations “move according to the seasons/weather conditions, i.e. fire season in CA or hurricane season in the south)
Team mobility (bring teams together for a specific period of time in a specific place, similar to ‘digital nomad’ concept)
Convening center hub (a place designed to bring people together for collaboration)
Brand and culture hub (designed to bring people together for experiences that are different than one can have working remotely )
Hyper-private workspaces (places designed for focused, concentrated work)
Activity-based neighborhoods (areas of a workplace designed for specific types of work)
In conclusion, the session described above, and the Trimble Real Estate conference prove that the IFMA keynote, Mr. Kanungo, was very wrong, many CRE/FM professionals are not all ‘boring’, but are shaping the future innovatively in “meaningful, magical and memorable” (Mr. K’s words) ways when we are now thinking of the post Covid-19 world as we can see a glimmer of light shining in the eyes of the first people who are getting the long-waited vaccine during this holiday season.
Happy Holidays to all.
Nancy Sanquist, IFMA Fellow and Virtual Attendee
Nancy Sanquist is an IFMA Fellow, an AIA Associate, and is currently Chair of the IFMA Foundation Board of Trustees. Nancy has been in the real estate and facility management technology business for three decades; she has spoken at industry conferences all over the world. She is a well-known author and editor, including two IFMA Foundation books, Work on the Move (2014) and Work on the Move (2) (2016). Nancy formerly worked as an academic professor in art and architecture (UCLA; Lafayette and Muhlenberg Colleges), as a historic preservation urban planner (Easton, Pennsylvania), and as an urban revitalization consultant (Hollywood Revitalization, Los Angeles).
Trimble’s ManhattanONE software makes your real estate work as hard as you do by simplifying the complexities of managing a diverse portfolio in dynamic times. Our integrated, flexible platform delivers deep operational and financial insight to unlock value across your organization. Full access to every module of our comprehensive suite results in 360-degree visibility and unrivalled control. You’ll make decisions with speed and confidence, building experiences that motivate people and elevate the properties in which they work.