Guest Post by Brian Zuercher, Founder & CEO, Align

It’s rare that we have a fundamental change in our understanding of basic math. COVID produced that type of rare event in the corporate real estate industry.

The standard formulas for applying real estate are mismatched with new employee behaviors. Anyone who was in marketing in the late 90’s and early 00’s can remember staring at Nielsen reports and squirming realizing they were going to be dumping a ton of money into ‘websites’ and have no real clue what would happen. The marketing CMO of today is more skilled in audience analytics and marketing performance than creative ingenuity.

Similar to the consumer audiences, the workforce audience has similar specific preferences and needs. The old world of workforce data looks like basic demographic data that marketers used before digital came to life. Going forward corporate real estate (CRE) experts will lead with a deep understanding of what will drive effectiveness and retention and that will require another layer of understanding that is not currently available.

A few leading-edge firms have embraced this challenge and are reaping the benefits of improved support, satisfaction and productivity capacity.

5,000 Employee Public Utility Embraces Employee Data to Reduce Real Estate by 30%

The challenge from the CFO was to imagine a reduction of 30% of real estate with no significant impact on retention, productivity and major new capital costs. This probably sounds familiar. The CRE and HR team had recently classified employees into 4 categories related to office utilization from full-time in and full-time remote. There was an immediate exodus of high-value employees who didn’t agree with the designation and had no problem finding a new job to accommodate them. The mistake in the classification was the misunderstanding of what drives an individual’s needs and preferences for where and how they work. Job title and department have low correlations to an individual’s need for peak performance work. It hasn’t been the process or instinct for companies to want to dig into employee’s personal lives to uncover the appropriate information.

The public utility partnered with Align to utilize the Align WX Profile process to build an understanding of which employees would benefit from each category of employee classification. Within two weeks the public utility team had a robust data set of employee profiles including an understanding of what, where, how and when each employee could reach peak performance.

With that data in hand the CRE team identified 3 key offices where the office layout didn’t match the profile of the teams that were assigned to use them. The identified groups had primary functions that included individual focused work that they preferred to do mostly from home and craved collaborative environments for team gatherings and social connections. The CRE team was able to leverage the data to reduce the current assigned footprint by 50% and reconfigure the space to a primary collaborative purpose.

The project work time took less than 6 months and 90% of the existing physical assets were reused in the reconfiguration.

Brian Zuercher is Founder & CEO at Align