September 6, 2016
With millennials currently positioned as the largest demographic of our nation’s workforce, a growing number of traditionally conservative companies, including law firms, financial services firms and other professional services firms, are trying to court them with new, innovative workspaces that speak to this generation’s unique desires.
In doing so, these firms are quickly learning that developing next-generation office environments is more complex and requires more strategy than merely finding a modern-looking space in a trendy neighborhood. Here is some insight and a methodology proven to help companies align their real estate decisions with their business goals.
Begin by considering a base set of criteria:
1. Your decision makers: Get consensus early and establish a small group of decision makers to select the space. It also may help to assign an office selection committee to develop a narrow list of potential properties for the decision makers to consider.
2. Your brand identity and business goals: This should be a main filter as you evaluate your options. The right office space will integrate with your overall brand experience and support your business goals by appealing to your target audiences. How well is your brand currently positioned to attract millennials, who seek forward-thinking companies? To what extent should you reposition your brand to appeal more to millennials while balancing the preferences of legacy generations and/or more traditional demographics you also seek to target? Skilled marketing and business-development consultants can help you answer these questions.
3. Your budget: Do not assume a relocation or reconfiguration of your existing space will have to cost more. On the contrary, an efficient workplace design incorporating features that millennials seek can often reduce your footprint and maintain ample room for growth while increasing productivity. The key is to work with experts, including experienced commercial real estate brokers, architects and space planners, who can identify creative, customized solutions to meet the needs of your workforce and clients.
4. Your firm culture: Your office space is a vital part of your firm culture. Increasingly, professional services and tech firms are creating environments that foster teamwork and utilize workspace concepts where team members can collaborate at high levels. In addition to boosting productivity and client and employee satisfaction, these environments are supporting recruitment of millennials.
Knowing that millennials like working collaboratively, taking mental breaks throughout the day, accessing the latest technologies, and enjoying amenities like fitness centers, collaborative spaces and open floor plans with natural light, you should determine the extent to which these elements should be incorporated into your office experience. How would these features impact your company dynamics?
5. Your advisers: Finding the right office space can be a daunting task for business owners to assume alone, so it is important to identify the right advisers, including a commercial real estate broker with a proven track record working with companies like yours. Your broker should conduct a comprehensive assessment, including a thorough financial analysis and forecasting to understand your current situation and identify solutions to support your business goals. Your broker should guide your key decision makers through a brainstorming session to help define your needs today and in five, 10 and 20 years. As part of the process, the benefits of being connected to mass transit and having convenient vehicular access and attractive on-site amenities also should be evaluated.
After this preliminary work, you should address your office search in three phases:
Phase One: Your leadership team should reach consensus on vision, space criteria,timeline and a recommended strategy. You may want to issue a request for proposals to identify an architectural firm to conduct an occupancy analysis and confirm your optimal space programmatic needs. At this stage, it is important to build internal consensus on the ideal design and utilization plan.
Phase Two: Create a scorecard that informs your decision-making process and helps you make the best selections. This scorecard should evaluate numerous factors including geographic location, parking, onsite amenities, tenant services, walkability and access to public transit. These are all critical components in attracting and retaining the millennial workforce. At this point, engage the market with your office requirements. By touring your top options and creating a short list of locations, you can position yourself to secure the best outcomes and seize immediate opportunities. You also can obtain leverage for your future tenancy and strengthen your position in negotiations with your current and prospective landlords.
Phase 3: When you have consensus on the top two or three options, your broker should negotiate terms based on the filters established in phases one and two. Then your broker should help you complete a lease or renewal amendment, and remain engaged with you until you move into your new space. Transitioning to the workplace of the future is an exciting, transformative endeavor. If done right, it can provide you with a significant competitive advantage and better position your company for continued success.
Tere Blanca is CEO and founder of the Blanca Commercial Real Estate brokerage. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.