Attracting and retaining talent is one of the biggest challenges that businesses today face. Consequently, this is also one of the biggest challenges faced by corporate real estate (CRE) professionals. During a session at the recent CoreNet Global Summit in Philadelphia, which was moderated by Angie Lee, FAIA, IIDA, LEED BD+C a panel including Paul Abrahamson, Cedric W. Jones and Mike Nolan recounted successful strategies their companies have put into place that to give their employees a better experience.

According to statistics quoted at the session, the cost of replacing an employee is 50-200%, depending on the level of employee being replaced. Onboarding, training, downtime between employees, all of those factors add to this cost. Today, space is increasingly a differentiator between companies and can help from a recruiting perspective. “HR is now seeing the value of space, especially since we’ve seen recruits walk out after one look at some spaces,” said one of the presenters.

According to Cedric Jones, who led a revamp of Exelon’s space, the company decided to go in a different direction with their office space, once employees started to retire and the recruitment process hit a snag. “Potential employees we would bring in would not want to work in our existing space. Being a traditional company, we had old-style work stations, and seniority dictated the space you were given. There was no fun or collaboration space,” he added. As a pilot program, the company put in place focus and huddle rooms and increased video conferencing abilities. So far the change has been a success. Next there is a plan to reboot office space in the company’s old nuclear plants, which have not been touched in 25 years. The key according to Jones is to know your culture, know your obstacles, and have early adopters. “It is also essential to understand the organization’s long term plan,” he concluded.

Google is famous for its unique spaces, and according to Mike Nolan, user experience, occupant health and sustainability are the three maxims of Google Space. “We want to be good stewards of the environment, of the location where we are. We want to be engaged,” he added. While Google hasn’t typically had a problem with recruitment and retention, their space is a differentiator. Nolan agreed with Jones that you have to understand the culture of the organization to build a successful space. This is especially essential for an employer like Google, where people are often attracted by the company’s culture.

Culture was a theme that came up during Paul Abrahamson’s overview of Grant Thornton’s workspaces as well. With a fairly young workforce of over 10,000 employees, Grant Thornton enhances the employee experience with the use of work loungers, cafes, team rooms, walk stations and quiet rooms. “There are a lot of options to choose from. The DC office, for example, is mainly free address. Many locations also offer all day snacks, and hospitality concierge, with amenities such as bringing you coffee, or buying you tickets to the show,” said Abrahamson.

For all three presenters, understanding company culture was key when undertaking workspace updates.

To access the slides from this presentation, please visit the CoreNet Global Knowledge Center.