In the last installment of “Frank Talks CRE,” we explored the competitive advantages that can be accomplished by recognizing that tenants are not simply occupants in our offices or merely employees of our customer-lessees. Rather, tenants are valued individual members of our building community. This transformative notion is inspired by the many teams in the professional sports industry who have re-identified their most valued customers from “season ticket holders” to a more embracing term, “season ticket members.”
Psychologists David McMillan and David Chavis characterize membership as possessing five common attributes: boundaries, emotional safety, a sense of belonging and identification, personal investment, and a common symbol system. We discussed the first two components – boundaries and emotional safety – in our last blog post. Boundaries define a sense of exclusivity enjoyed only by members. As applied to commercial real estate, these boundaries are differentiated as components of the physical and digital experience offered to tenants of our building that those who are not tenants cannot access. Additionally, our buildings deliver on the promise of providing an environment of emotional safety by demonstrating the value and commitment we place on the health, security, and the overall well-being of our tenants. The more we care about them, the more they will appreciate the benefits of being a member in our building community.
Both of these characteristics common to membership contribute significantly to the third: promoting a sense of belonging and identification. By virtue of their employment, tenants already identify as members of the organizations that office in our buildings. They belong to groups of increasing size and scope within their suite – working groups, departments, divisions, and companies. Membership in each group is accompanied by a set of expectations, benefits, and intangibles ranging from team camaraderie and feelings of shared values, experiences, and success, to entitlements, perks, and of course, compensation. To succeed in encouraging tenant identification and belonging within our larger building community, we must recognize that these powerful factors are already at work inside the employers’ offices. What value-added building-exclusive expectations, benefits, and intangibles, then, can be realized through membership in our tenant community?
Events, in-building promotions, and other programming that add value to the tenant experience are particularly powerful and unifying because they de-emphasize the boundaries between companies. Building-sponsored community volunteer programs and charity efforts also do not distinguish between employers, and can bring together tenants with common values, but diverse backgrounds, skills, and work experience. A sense of community is further reinforced when the members have opportunities to meet, interact, and even contribute to the success of any of these activities. In addition, exclusive perks such as discount offers at food and beverage outlets and neighboring retailers, or life-enhancing benefits such as access to health facilities, participation in special interest groups and clubs, and other opportunities to socialize can strengthen the members’ appreciation for the benefits of belonging to our building community.
These programs also support the development of the fourth attribute of membership, personal investment. McMillan & Chavis postulated that “the community becomes more important to someone who has given more time and energy to it.” Providing opportunities to actively participate in building-wide activities, inviting tenants to help plan and execute community service initiatives, and developing platforms for acknowledging personal and professional milestones and achievements can dramatically increase the level of personal investment in our buildings by our tenants. Increased personal investment generates pride and loyalty, a shared emotional connection, and a desire to work in this supportive and appreciative environment if given the choice where they might work on any given day.
The fifth characteristic of membership is the embrace of a common symbol system. Many buildings already fulfill part of this element with the display of national or state flags, or the installation of holiday and other seasonal decorations. However, the most universal symbol that represents a brand, and by association, conveys its values and reputation, is its logo. The building or ownership brand is often visible on staff uniforms and credentials. Leverage your brand to engage members of your tenant community more deeply. Consider the periodic distribution of useful premium items with your building logo, or use them as contest prizes, from pens and reusable totes to t-shirts, ballcaps, and umbrellas.
Not coincidentally, one core platform for delivering your building’s tenant experience – your building’s mobile phone app – can be a particularly powerful tool to help build community because it blends all five aspects of membership. Its exclusive availability to your tenants defines boundaries that separate them from non-tenants. Thoughtfully designed, your building’s app can provide a sense of emotional safety by offering digital experiences to reduce common workday anxieties like convenient food ordering, access to real-time transportation information, and health and safety guidelines, and content that promotes personal emotional and physical well-being. Downloading and using the app can also help to promote a sense of identification and belonging, offering tenants from every company in the building a common digital experience whether they are working in the building or remotely. Utilizing and enjoying the benefits, conveniences, and content offered by your building’s app, a go-to portal designed to meet many of the tenant’s workday needs, encourages frequent and regular use, a personal investment of time and trust in a powerful tool provided by the landlord. The tenant accesses the app several times each day by pressing the building-branded widget on their mobile device, an icon that is always visible on their home screen and features a common symbol, your logo.
Membership is powerful, and for the members, has its privileges. For you and your business, it translates to reinforcing brand value and loyalty, encouraging tenants to choose our working in our building more often when given the choice. Membership changes the tone and character of the tenant’s connection to the building. Instead of simply being the place where their offices are located, it is their work-home and a place they feel they belong. And, for our lessees, it adds value to their relationship with their own employees through the additive, positive, and inclusive experiences that membership in our building community provides. Be sure to leverage the power of your app as one of the most essential tools to accelerate the transformation of your building tenants into building members.
Frank Supovitz, an award-winning experience designer, producer, event organizer, and author, has played a leading role in the success of such world-class properties as the Super Bowl, the Indy 500, and the South Street Seaport in New York City. A respected global thought-leader in sports, entertainment, and facilities management, he brings more than three decades of expertise to the HQO Team as a senior consultant for Tenant Experience. Contact HQO to put our Tenant Experience team to work for you.