In last week’s blog, I dove into the first few panels from EXPERIENCE, the only commercial real estate (CRE) event dedicated completely to tenant experience.
And, let me tell you, it was incredible.
Not only did our guest speakers give amazing advice and serve as model examples for the future of the workplace, but the atmosphere generated by the excitement of an in-person event was unmatched. People weren’t just happy to learn, they were also happy to see their peers face-to-face while enjoying tasty refreshments and hors d’oeuvres provided by Relish Catering + Hospitality.
Each session was informative, interactive, and memorable. Without further ado, here’s how we wrapped up the day with valuable industry insights.
What Tenants Really Want
Kicking off EXPERIENCE’s fourth presentation were Charlie Stephens, HqO employee and Host of PrimeTime VC and the Leaders Live Show, and Phil Kirschner, Workplace Strategy and Change Leader at McKinsey & Co.
The pair dove right into an intimate discussion about commercial real estate (CRE) and supporting modern tenants. After all, it’s tough to build and sustain a culture via Zoom calls, and community is the core of any workplace. “In our research Pre-COVID, the word that resonated the most in executive teams was ‘connection,’” explained Phil. “Even though it’s easier than ever to meet through Zoom, it is more and more difficult to actually connect with people in this way.”
Phil continued to reveal that the topics of concern related to the workplace have shifted. At the beginning of the pandemic, many CRE leaders focused on health and safety concerns. Now, the spotlight has turned to communication, community, flexibility, and hospitality experiences. The key to this, he noted, is in truly listening to tenants and their employees: “There’s a disconnect between the level of detail employees need to stay engaged, and the level of detail leadership thinks they need.”
Naturally, the conversation turned to leveraging data and analytics tools to bridge this gap. “It takes work,” Phil emphasized. “You need to ask yourself, how deep is your appetite for change and space?”
Charlie then guided the conversation towards how CRE teams can create more meaningful property experiences. Phil responded thoughtfully. “Workplaces that are virtually friendly don’t mean they’re placeless,” he began. “It’s about using space better than we did before, more experiential, more efficient, but refining the process that allows us to do that.”
When asked about using technology to create these more hospitable experiences, Phil concluded:
“The definition of connection is taking the time and making the practice of seeing the humanity in each other. It’s about asking better questions and getting to know people on a deeper level. Tech can nudge us in that direction, but then when you get to that moment, it is still something authentically human to ask and know someone better. That’s how we can make the most out of technology.”
The Birth of the Experience Manager
The second session moderated by an HqO employee, The Birth of the Experience Manager, looked towards some exciting changes in the industry. Nora Hughes, our Lead Product Researcher, was joined by Daisy Gauck, Senior Vice President of Hospitality at Work and Karen Allen, Community Manager at Hines, to shed light on a new type of property-related role.
When asked what they look for in a Tenant Experience or Community Manager, both Daisy and Karen agreed that job descriptions based around hospitality, services, or events resonated with them the most.
“We really put the tenants at the center of our program,” explained Karen. “It’s not about doing what others are doing, but instead it’s about finding someone to talk to the tenants and their employees to learn what’s going to be utilized and valuable.”
“Agreed,” Daisy nodded. “People don’t know what they don’t know, so you need to do your research.”
The panelists continued the conversation by discussing the importance of using technology for data collection and analytics. “If you’re going to invest in people or technology, you’re only getting the best ROI if you invest in them in tandem,” stated Karen.
Next, the conversation turned towards differentiating critical CRE roles such as property managers, experience managers, and concierges. They are all different, the panelists confirmed, because property managers have other roles and responsibilities to manage throughout their day. If they’re too busy to receive and act on valuable feedback from tenants, it only makes sense to have a role dedicated to tenant engagement.
After a brief discussion on technology integrations that can help make this possible, the three experts assured that the future of the office is still incredibly important. “The physical still matters,” Karen said. “And it can be built upon with the digital.”
Using Data to Unleash Portfolio Potential
As the only stand-alone presenter, Jacinda Lofland, the Director of Customers & Community at Nuveen, led a compelling discussion around the importance of data and analytics in the industry.
Nuveen, as she explained, focuses on providing their customers with omnichannel office experiences that offer seamless workplace interactions. Their customers, she continued, encapsulate all their building end-users as well as their surrounding community members.
To reach all community members in a truly valuable way, Nuveen turns to the numbers. “We always ask ourselves, ‘What are the actions that we are taking with this data? Which of our events are driving more engagement, and which aren’t? Is it due to a signage problem or a communication problem? Things like that.”
She continued to explain that there are four key metrics they monitor on a consistent basis, called engagement, space utilization, service utilization, and customer satisfaction. Though these will vary and look different from portfolio to portfolio, her takeaway was plain and simple:
“Always identify and regularly revisit your key metrics!”
Creating Workplace Communities
In the final panel of the day, Commercial Observer reporter David Levitt was joined by David Himmel, Chief Operating Officer at Jamestown; Whitney Burns, Vice President of Global Strategy at Hines, and Natalie Teear, Senior Vice President of Innovation, Sustainability, and Social Impact at Hudson Pacific Properties.
The four presenters began with defining a workplace community, and how the right type of culture could combat the CRE obstacles recently brought on by the pandemic. “Community really starts with the people,” Whitney began. “During COVID, we’ve really missed human interaction, so the need for community has risen to the top.” This, she explained, has an obvious impact on people’s return to office strategies.
The other panelists agreed, discussing the importance of the office and the ability to stay agile among shifting tenant needs.
“When it comes to the workplace, our focus at Hines is how do we add value?” Whitney stated. “The answer is community, and it’s about making the time that you’re spending in our office buildings more efficient and productive for both the work lives and personal lives of our tenants.”
David then explained the importance of retail in this equation. “Businesses that are embracing retail strategies are doing better than ever,” he said. “If you’re able to toggle between the digital and physical environments and provide frictionless experiences at your assets, it can be very powerful.”
Retailers, the group continued, are a part of their building communities and help revitalize key neighborhoods while also creating the “live, work, play” environments many workers are seeking.
“Ground level retail is as important an amenity to the building as a gym or fitness center or other amenities,” Natalie stated. “People have to be able to have fun on site, and retailers can also help us advance our local angle and sustainability impact.”
Additionally, sustainability could be used to build community through activities that involve collaborative projects that support an important cause. Such initiatives, like rooftop beekeeping or Earth Day terrariums, bring delight to tenants while also creating a much bigger impact.
Looking for more information about EXPERIENCE, HqO, or the future of the workplace? Schedule a consultation today.