Occupiers identify labour and skills shortages as one of their top three strategic challenges. The proportion highlighting this as an area of focus has doubled since last year. Employee engagement and talent attraction and development are two of the three most important drivers of corporate real estate strategy, even ahead of cost-reduction. In this context, optimising human capital is becoming the overriding aim of occupiers’ property decisions.
The survey identifies four major and interlocking levers, through which companies are seeking to use real estate as a way of influencing and enhancing their appeal to skilled labour: Procurement and fit-out strategy; Flexible space strategy; User Experience strategy; Technology strategy.
Occupiers are increasingly influenced by internal building characteristics – particularly a range of favourable lease options – in selecting properties. While traditional procurement and fitout approaches, Cat A or Shell and Core, are still favoured when taking large leases in a new building, there is evidence of willingness to pay premiums for both highly-serviced amenity rich space and tech-enabled smart space. There is also scope for exploring innovative cost-sharing partnership arrangements with landlords.
Corporate appetite for flexible space continues to grow. The proportion of companies expecting to make significant use of flexible space over the next three years is 20 percentage points higher than those who currently do so. Attracting and retaining talent is explicitly part of the reason for this, while a rising number of companies are using flexible space as part of a wider attempt to experiment with different workplace and occupancy models. This is also seen as one way of satisfying a growing need for service and amenities, to a greater extent than any perceived ‘community’ benefits.
Formal User Experience (UX) programmes – aimed at curating the full range of workforce needs across workplace, amenity and service – are still a minority pursuit. Where they do exist, they focus more on physical aspects of the working environment than on softer ‘community’ elements.
CBRE sees this as a phase in the UX evolution into something more comprehensive and towards wider adoption. This view is backed by the fact that a third of companies have plans to hire a UX lead and two thirds would pay a premium for a building in which the landlord had provided an enhanced UX offer.
Technology disruption – particularly AI and machine learning – is one of the drivers of technology strategy. 70% of companies intend to raise their level of real estate technology investment in the next few years, mostly in a more people-centric direction. The methods of acquiring the skills needed to deliver these aims, such as data scientists, are becoming more sophisticated, with corporates prepared to contemplate a broad range of approaches, including outsourcing to specialists.
Corporate demand will become increasingly segmented as occupiers improve their ability to package space, service and amenity. This will accelerate the shift towards customised solutions that reflect the specific needs of different business functions.
In summary, we predict an exciting, but very different tech-enabled workplace of the future.