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FEATURE ARTICLE

Is your corporate culture keeping up?

JLL's Midlands lead director,  Ian Cornock talks about why it's important Birmingham's office market keeps up with modern business.


BIRMINGHAM, 11 June, 2015 - JLL's lead director, Ian Cornock talks about why it's important Birmingham's office market keeps up with modern business.
 
I saw a great quote this week. It said competitors are not our competition the future is. This was largely referring to the fast moving pace of technology and the impact it is having on the way we live, work and play. However changing global attitudes towards the environment, sustainability and how we interact with each other on a day-to-day level and as a community are also creating cultural changes within companies. This could play a huge role in the future shape of our offices.
 
So as Birmingham announces that more than 1 million square feet of office space is set to be built in the city as financial services companies flock to Birmingham's Business District, we need to think about the workspace we are offering. Offices of the future are going to have very different needs from what we see today. It's crucial that Birmingham's new office skyline reflects both these technological and cultural changes.
 
Laptops, tablets and mobile mobiles are essentially enabling us to untether ourselves from our desks. No longer is there the need to be at your own desk with a huge computer. Hot-desking and flexible working will undoubtedly become the norm.
 
There's a word we hear a lot in Birmingham and that's innovation. We need to innovate to create jobs, attract talent and maintain our presence on the international business stage. But innovation isn't just isolated to the automotive industry or the creative and gaming sectors, innovation is increasingly required in every business to drive growth in today's business environment.
 
In major cities, head offices are evolving to support this critical business buzzword, innovation. Banks for example, are behaving like tech companies, placing more of an emphasis on R&D. As the complexity of everyday work intensifies, prime-city-centre space is being forced to adapt to support creativity rather than back-office business functions, which are often outsourced.
 
To understand all of this, you only have to ask yourself one question. Where did you have your last good idea? I guarantee it won't be sat at your desk in an office. For most it might be in the shower, whilst on a bike ride or quite possibly in the bar one late night chatting with colleagues.
 
At present most workplace strategies are designed around how space can support the activities people spend most of their time doing, as opposed to the tasks that create value for their companies.
 
In an online poll of almost 400 business executives at organisations worldwide, JLL discovered that 74 per cent spend the majority of their time fielding emails.  I'm sure most of us can relate to this. You won't be surprised to hear, that only 6 per cent of respondents said they felt this time-consuming task added value to their organisation. The real profit making activities were water-cooler moments and corridor conversations.
 
It's clear then, in designing our workspace strategies we need to be more centred on how to create space for those lightbulb moments.
 
This is often called the 'Google' effect, - Google being referenced as the ultimate expression of innovation. Clearly their university campus style offices may be a step too far for many businesses but the company's success demonstrates some sound thinking.
 
Companies that provide a well-designed choice of focus vs. collaborative workspace, along with flexible options like tele-work, will be more productive, competitive and profitable, not to mention healthy.
 
A 2012 report by the National Institute of Health warned that 'sitting is the new smoking', and that companies should support more movement in the workplace.
 
So to compete in the UK office market and attract the large corporates to Birmingham, especially those heading from London, it is essential that we provide the spaces that accommodate these more forward thinking and innovative patterns of working.
 
As young people too return to the cities urban centres will continue to draw companies that want to attract younger workers who seek more progressive work settings.
 
In business, we all need to take a long hard look at ourselves and how we work. It's easy to get stuck in what we believe are tried and tested ways, however, in this new modern technological world, we all have to move forward. As I said in the intro, the future is our biggest competitor.
 
Nowadays sustainability represents a large part of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). With this in mind JLL recently became the first property consultancy in the UK to publicly launch its sustainability commitments under a branded agenda named Building for Tomorrow. While most of our peers have a corporate sustainability policy, we are the first to commit to a wide range of sustainability targets.  The ultimate goal of Building for Tomorrow is to embed sustainability into the business implementing all sustainability activities into areas of leadership; clients; workplace; and communities.
 
With 58,100 people employed worldwide and 230 corporate offices that serve the local, regional and global real estate needs of its clients, instigating change requires real commitment, but it's important we lead by example.
 
Research shows that employers that refuse to move with the times risk losing their competitive edge, along with their ability to attract and retain key talent.
 
Our acquisition of sustainability consultancy, Upstream in 2007, began our journey in assisting clients in achieving their sustainability goals. To ensure that all JLL staff members are able to talk confidently to clients on sustainability, we’re pushing a programme of training out to our entire UK workforce. Having spent a year developing a bespoke sustainability-training curriculum, we rolled out an E-Learning platform and made it mandatory for all our 2500 UK staff - the team in Birmingham has already completed a three-hour sustainability-training course online. This training programme will ensure that JLL’s brokers, valuers, agents and advisors are well equipped to respond to growing concerns around energy and carbon performance, as well as wider socio-economic issues.
 
In thinking about how we interact with our local environment we're investing £450,000 in community initiatives, including 500 staff volunteering days. In this office we're working with Baverstock Community College and we've been helping them with a number of projects and funding initiatives such as workshops with The Hippodrome - another of our partners. Teams have also been doing weekend treks in aid of Walking with the Wounded and on Give and Gain day. Our Property and Asset Management teams built new chicken runs at the Balsall Heath city farm.
 
These days are an excellent way to get to know each other, not to mention a great leveler which all the staff find very fulfilling.
JLL is also looking to reduce its global footprint and we're already exceeding global targets.  However, there's more we can achieve.
 
We know to that in order to attract the right people we have to move forward. Birmingham has taken some of the first tentative steps towards supplying space that meets this changing business environment.  Innovation Birmingham is a great example of this.
 
We can regard work and the workspace in the usual way... or we can embrace the types of leadership and management styles that will spell the difference between survival and extinction for many of today's enterprises. Change is inevitable and it’s fast approaching. We all need to be prepared.