Heather Van Ravenswaay: The Employee-Real Estate Connection

Heather Van Ravenswaay interview with Connect Media

Heather Van Ravenswaay interview with Connect Media

Connect Media interviewed, PDR's Associate Principal Heather Van Ravenswaay, on the topic of office space and its role in employee recruitment and retention prior to her speaking at the Connect Media’s Connect Houston conference, on November 3, 2016.  Below is an excerpt from the interview and a follow up after the conference.   

Connect Media Interview

Q. How does today’s workforce differ from that of the past? How has office space accommodated those changes?

A. Today’s workforce consists of multiple generations. We have new technologies that enable people to work everywhere. Further the context of a boss having to see you sit at your desk to know you’re working is antiquated. We are learning that sitting at your desk is not where big ideas come from. . Those ideas come from informal conversations with people, or perhaps when an employee is working out or  on vacation, and thinking about work.

One trend that’s under discussion is that of the open floor plan, to help foster collaboration and stimulate ideas. That can work, for certain types of tasks. But the important issue is to provide more choice in the work environment. If the worker is going to do a variety of different tasks everyday, he or she might need a private place to write or review a contract; a more collaborative space to interact with other workers, a formal space to pitch a presentation, and so on. The future is that the work environment should enable the behaviors that are aligned with leaderships future and cultural vision for the organization.

Q. What role does real estate play in employee attraction and retention? How can companies make office spaces more inviting to today’s workforce?

A. Interestingly enough, Houston has lagged behind change in office space – we come from a old school mentality, in which you’ve made it in your career when you get your corner office. But people don’t need that kind of status from an office or real estate – they’d rather get paid more, or get more flexible time. Certainly, they still want a work environment they want to come to, one that is energetic and encouraging, and allows them to work collaboratively and get things done. They also want companies with a purpose. Today’s employees are attracted to companies, because they believe in what the company is doing. Real estate isn’t the status thing any more. Leadership needs to align a company’s direction with workplace design.

Connect Houston - Panel discussion on Attraction and Retention

Heather was selected by Connect Media to sit on a panel with Taucha Hogue from Newmark Grubb Knight Frank and Christen Hatfield from Corporate Built Solutions, LLC on the topic of Attraction and Retention in the Work Place.  From corporate occupiers to growing teams in Houston Commercial Real Estate, they explored what it takes to attract and retain talent in the built spaces and how to build effective multi-generational teams.  When asked to discuss some of PDR's research into the interests and needs of today's workforce, Heather explained PDR's philosophy as, "being open to seeing new ways of approaching design."  "Our years of research have shown that when you strategically design an organization's physical environment to enable physical collaboration, then collisions and innovation begins to happen faster, " says Heather.  Additionally, Heather shared results from a recent student survey where PDR polled 100 students from 13 universities across the country.  "Basically, students want their future employer to allow them to continue to learn. Wanting to know things like, 'How can this organization help me grow in my career?  Will they offer a mentorship program?' They also want to have a sense of purpose in the work that they do, as well as flexibility in choosing where to do their best work.  When given the choice between a higher salary with no flexibility, 76% of respondents chose a job offer that was $25,000 less per year in exchange for a healthy balance of structure and freedom," reported Heather.  Connect Media's moderator, Elaine Howard, asked if Heather believes that the design of a space aids in attraction and retention of employees.  Heather replied, "Yes, work spaces are a way for an organization to communicate what its purpose is and how they are going to achieve their goals. If your future employer comes to your office and likes what the organization is communicating then it is a great attraction tool.  Your targeted future employee is going to see the workplace as a reflection of who they are and will likely ask themselves, 'is this a future thinking company? Would I be proud to show my family and friends this work environment?' and if the answer is no, it is likely going to hurt attraction and retention."   

Click here, for the full interview from Connect Media

Heather Van Ravenswaay

Heather Van Ravenswaay, Associate Principal at PDR, is an Interior Designer who is passionate about helping organizations understand how to use the workplace as the strategy tool.  Allowing the businesses largest asset, their people, to be more productive and, therefore, making the business more successful.