ITRA Global News

Corporate RE Panel Discusses Attracting and Retaining Talent and Workspace Tech

May 02, 2019

An esteemed panel of corporate real estate executives spoke at the ITRA Global conference held in Santa Monica, CA on April 5th, 2019.  The panel addressed a wide variety of topics, including:

  • Changes in Workplace Design
  • Technology
  • Attracting and Retaining Top Talent
  • Global Corporate Real Estate Challenges

The panelists (pictured from left to right) were from diverse backgrounds and companies:

  • Ms. Anita Kamouri, PhD, Vice President and Co-founder of Iometrics
  • Mr. Steve Stiesmeyer, Director of Corporate Real Estate, Woodward
  • Ms. Elise Luckham, Vice President & Director of Corporate Real Estate, First American
  • Ms. Vicki Fenton, Vice President of CORE Services, Viacom Media Network / Nickelodeon
  • Mr. Tim Cowell, Director of Workplace Experience, Headspace, Inc.

While all of the topics were important, the most important challenge facing corporate real estate professionals is providing space that helps their companies attract and retain top talent.  It’s a war out there to keep the best and brightest employees, so businesses have been and will continue to invest in their real estate to create the optimum environments.

Anita Kamouri of Iometrics commented that they have been using metrics to help substantiate space investment.  While historically it has been very difficult to quantify the value of space improvements, one thing her organization is doing is tracking the reduction in employee turnover from their clients.  In one instance, Kamouri noted there was a 2 year payback on a space renovation they worked on for a client based on the reduction in employee turnover.   

All of the panelists have space in their portfolios that is meant for collaboration.  Vicki Fenton of Viacom also remarked that it was important for employees to have access to private spaces if they needed it.  The Viacom and Nickelodeon facilities have small conference rooms or mini spaces for employees to use, but some employees will simply take advantage of the outdoor deck areas to place personal calls. 

Luckham, Cowell, and Stiesmeyer commented on the importance of tech in the workplace and its importance to keeping the workspace functional and attractive to the employees.  One example used was how corporations are now using Apps to schedule conference rooms.  Apps push information to employees so they don’t have to spend time to find it, pulling data from the corporate intranet, as well as amenity services’ sites, etc.   Another element of the discussion was proper budgeting to ensure that newly created or renovated spaces had the dollars budgeted to get the tech in place that was expected.  Having different tech equipment and standards in different rooms just doesn’t work – the tech needs to be the same throughout and it has to work! 

All the panelists agreed that employees do not like occupancy sensors and so no plan is in place to add these systems to current facilities.  Most employees feel that occupancy sensors are too invasive and make them feel like they are being tracked. 

The new facilities described by each of the panelists are state of the art.  But, it’s often the most unique components that get noticed, including unique artwork, swinging chairs, spinning chairs, and outdoor spaces like decks and courtyards that can be used for meetings or for more social interaction during the work day.  Soft factors also help attract and retain talent, typically social gatherings during or after the work day.  One of the panelists remarked that one of their successful campaigns was “donut day”! 

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