It’s quite possible that by 2025, the term corporate real estate will become obsolete as the professionals who execute that function evolve into “experience managers,” overseeing everything from the technology that enables work to permanent, flexible and remote work locations, amenities, wellness, and sustainability.
In other words, the overall employee experience.
But let’s back up for a moment.
Earlier this year, CoreNet Global released the results of a massive, comprehensive global study of the corporate real estate profession, FutureForward 2025.
The study revealed several important trends likely to either take root or grow dramatically by 2025:
- The traditional role of corporate real estate (CRE) continues to shift away from attempting to hit the target of exactly when, where and how much space is needed as businesses expand or contract, and is shifting more towards an emphasis on delivering services to support people, place and technology.
- The business climate itself is changing in what many refer to as the Fourth Industrial Revolution that is producing a surge in innovation, new technologies, increasing automation and changes in how, where and when people
- The increasingly mobile and connected workforce is changing real estate requirements as it relates to how much space is needed, where facilities will be located, and how that space is configured, utilized and managed.
- The gig economy – driven by an increasingly contingent work force composed of freelancers, temporary contract workers and independent contractors – is expected to make a powerful impact on how organizations are structured, how they function and how they are staffed: How will these changes impact the need for workspace? How will they impact what kind of spaces are made available and where?
CRE as it is defined today is still critical. People coming into the workforce are impacted by how and where they work. Competition to attract talent has resulted in heightened demand requirements to get employers and workers the best space. How employers incorporate technology into that space also is vital.
In the office sector, people are working from anywhere and at any time. Some people come into the office only when they need to meet with co-workers or clients.
This more mobile workforce has resulted in different, more flexible and often smaller footprints. At the same time, the war for talent is putting more emphasis on the physical environment and highly curated workplace experiences.
E-commerce is fueling demand for logistics and distribution facilities that are well-located and highly efficient, while manufacturers are continuing to replace people with robots in automated facilities. What this all means for CRE is that different skills are needed with more specialization across industry and type of facility.
In many cases, focusing on the employee experience will get added to what CRE does rather than replacing what CRE does now. CRE will still be responsible for lease transactions, enabling access to the right space in the right place and managing facilities. Creating and supporting an employee experience will simply be layered on top of that existing role.
However, enhancing employee engagement, satisfaction and wellbeing continues to be a priority for many companies, driven by the need to attract and retain talent. CRE has a significant role to play, particularly as it relates to workplace design and helping deliver a quality workplace experience for employees.
Will we eventually drop the moniker corporate real estate and see the “chief experience officer” in the C-Suite? The evolution of the title “chief information officer” is instructive.
Regardless of the labels, though, it is clear that as work and workers evolve, the profession takes on a more strategic—and critical role—in managing all aspects of that experience.
David Kamen is the chair of CoreNet Global and Americas real estate services leader of business enablement at Ernst & Young LLP. The views expressed here are the author’s own and not necessarily those of ALM’s real estate media group.