· 3 min read · Features

How long before real estate and HR merge?


The HR-CRE nexus will find ways to use workplace design as a stimulus for the kind of people their organisation seeks to recruit

In 1947 the Cité Radieuse – a residential project in Marseille famed for its brutalist concrete architecture – became one of the first developments in the world to integrate health and wellbeing facilities into its design. This was largely thanks to forward-thinking architect Le Corbusier, who is credited with establishing modern architecture. He cited a flat roof as a must-have in modern architecture for use as a garden, promenade or pool.

Fast-forward 60 years and Google has adopted Le Corbusier’s principle of flat rooves in its London campus. Boasting a rooftop running track and a swimming pool, as well as a rooftop garden split over multiple storeys, the tech giant’s real estate is designed to attract and retain the best and brightest staff in the industry.

Developments like this will, in my view, hasten the integration of HR and corporate real estate (CRE) functions so that one day they operate as one team. Jobseekers are beginning to see such facilities as a benchmark – and, eventually, all employers will have to put greater thought into how they use office space to recruit and motivate staff.

Business leaders are increasingly intrigued by organisations that merge the aims of their HR and CRE teams. DTAC in Bangkok, Adobe Facebook in California, Skanska in Bucharest and others in the tech sphere are using similar CRE-based tactics to attract talent. However, only when CRE and HR teams work seamlessly together can they deliver such projects. Alone, HR teams would find it difficult to navigate the practicalities of utilising office design to boost productivity as such concerns tend to fall outside of their remit. Meanwhile CRE teams would struggle to commission facilities that could risk being seen as purely recreational.

We often hear the overlap when business leaders talk about their aims. Google’s Joe Barrett, for instance, is driving the London project and, as director of EMEA real estate and construction, comes from the facilities side of the business. But he addresses HR issues when he says that the company’s offices and facilities are “a key part in shaping the Google culture”.

Similarly John Tenanes, VP of global facilities and real estate at Facebook, talks of the campus there as “one we are lucky to call home”. He is the project leader on the creation of a Facebook corporate village that will include 1,500 apartments as well as a grocery store and offices. The company is using its physical facilities to provide for staff in ways that go far deeper than the normal working relationship. Adobe Europe president, Garrett Ilg wants to “provide plenty of downtime and networking opportunities for employees”. In short, these three organisations are taking major leaps forward by unifying the aims of their HR and CRE teams.

However, few employers have the resources or budgets of these tech giants – but they can still recognise the underlying potential and develop their own strategies.

Our new research, Workplace – powered by Human Experience, shows how much the quality of life at work stimulates staff engagement. When staff have meaningful experiences at work they are more likely to bond with colleagues and with the organisation and its aims. Staff are far more open to deepening their relationships and experiences at work than we may have realised in the past. Our research suggests that the vast majority of staff (87%) want to commit more of their personality to their working life and liked the idea of staff happiness being set as a workplace goal.

Management teams that fuse HR and CRE will include more people who specialise in motivation and engagement issues. A running track will not always be the solution, but the HR-CRE nexus will find ways to use workplace design as a stimulus for the kind of people their organisation seeks to recruit. Ultimately, it is a stimulus that will also increase productivity.

Here are four reasons I think CRE should work with HR to create a unique workplace experience:

  • Stand out: real estate is a great way to make your business stand out from the corporate crowd
  • Appeal: talent attraction is a major reason to invest in these types of facilities – and HR and CRE teams know that
  • Forward thinking: the most forward-thinking organisations will use real estate and HR to market the value of their business through both the physical space and the people who inhabit it
  • Being human: making sure your company is full of fulfilled, engaged and empowered people is a great reason to pay attention to the overall experience on offer.

Marie Puybaraud is global head of research at JLL Corporate Solutions