In 1947 the Cité Radieuse—the renowned residential project in Marseille, famed for its brutalist, concrete architecture—became one of the first developments in the world to integrate health and wellbeing facilities into its design. This was largely thanks to the forward-thinking architect, Le Corbusier, who is credited with establishing Modern Architecture. Under his five-point principles, he cited a flat roof as a must-have in Modern Architecture for use as a garden, a promenade or a pool.
Fast-forward sixty years and Google’s new London campus has adopted Le Corbusier’s principle in its London campus. Boasting a rooftop running track and a swimming pool, the tech-giant’s real estate is designed to attract and retain the best and brightest; it’s a weapon of mass recruitment.
Developments like this will, in my view, hasten the integration of Human Resources (HR) and Corporate Real Estate (CRE) functions so that one day they operate as one team. Job-seekers are beginning to see such facilities as a benchmark—and, eventually, all employers will have to put greater thought into how they use such perks to recruit and motivate staff.
More and more business leaders are intrigued by organizations who merge the aims of their HR and CRE teams. DTAC in Bangkok, Adobe Facebook in Menlo Park CA, Skanska in Bucharest and others in the tech sphere are using similar tactics to attract talent. However, only when real estate and human resource teams work seamlessly together can they deliver such projects. Alone, CRE teams would struggle to commission facilities, which could be seen as purely recreational, and, similarly, an HR team operating tasked with boosting engagement of staff could have difficulty with the practicalities.
You can hear their shared dialogue when their senior people talk about their aims. Google’s Joe Barrett, for instance, is driving the London project and, as Director of EMEA Real Estate and Construction, comes from the facilities side of the business. But he addresses HR issues when he says that the company’s offices and facilities are “a key part in shaping the Google culture.”
Similarly, over in California’s Menlo Park, John Tenanes, VP of Global Facilities and Real Estate at Facebook, talks of the campus there as “one we are lucky to call home.” He is the project leader on the creation of a Facebook corporate village which will include 1,500 apartments as well as a grocery store and offices. The company is using its physical facilities to provide for its staff in ways which clearly go far deeper than the normal working relationship.
In short, these two organizations are taking major leaps forward by unifying the aims of their HR and real estate teams. Adobe Europe President, Garrett Ilg wants to “provide plenty of downtime and networking opportunities for employees.”
Few employers have the resources of these tech giants—but they can still recognize the underlying issues and develop their own strategies.
Our research, Workplace – powered by Human Experience, shows how much the quality of life at work stimulates staff engagement. When they have meaningful experiences at work, employees are more likely to bond with each other and with the organization and its aims. And staff are far more open to deepening their relationships and experiences at work than we may have realized in the past. Our research suggests that the vast majority of employees, 87 per cent, want to commit more of their personality to their working life. This is the percentage of people who told us they liked the idea of staff happiness being set as a workplace goal.
Management teams that fuse HR and CRE will include more people who specialize in motivation and engagement issues. A running track will not be the solution in most cases. But they will find ways to use workplace design as a stimulus for the kind of people their organization seeks to recruit.
Here are four reasons why I think real estate should be used to create a unique experience:
- Stand out: real estate is a great way to make your business stand out of the corporate crowd
- Appeal: talent attraction is major reason to invest in these types of facilities – and HR and real estate teams know that
- Forward thinking: the most forward thinking organizations will use real estate and HR to market the value of their business through both the physical space and the people who inhabit it
- Being human: making sure your company is full of fulfilled, engaged and empowered people is a great reason to pay attention to the experience on offer
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