Corporate Real Estate Flexes Its Muscles
Posted July 10, 2019
ESI Design’s Director of Business Development, Stefany Koslow, wrote for CoreNet’s The Leader Magazine, about how corporate real estate executives (CREs) are transforming corporate campuses into powerful communications platforms that promote learning, social interaction and showcase a company’s values and culture.
A distinctive corporate campus is one that is a physical manifestation of a company’s values and culture. Today, corporate real estate (CRE) execs have more influence than ever in transforming their valuable assets into dynamic experiences for employees and visitors alike. By adding creativity and technology to existing spaces, CRE execs can supercharge real estate’s potential as a powerful communications platform.
Well-designed spaces that offer dynamic, interactive experiences can fully immerse employees in the brand. Imagine complex company data transformed into fun, informational stories about everything happening in the workplace. Imagine live data feeds and social media streams updated in real-time making the workplace “come alive.” Generative content, corporate social responsibility stories, and big takeover events all work together to give the digital storytelling on campus a heartbeat.
According to a recent survey conducted by CBRE with CoreNet Global, CRE executives increasingly have the ear of business leaders and members of the C-suite. This elevates them to a proactive role when it comes to how the corporation leverages real estate, a vital yet expensive asset.
Forward-thinking companies are recognizing the enormous opportunity to use the corporate campus as a physical manifestation of their culture, transforming it into a brand experience and an employee recruitment and retainment tool. Today’s CRE exec serves as a liaison and powerful partner to brand, marketing, communications, and human resources (HR) teams. Understanding their internal client workflows and timelines allows for the most effective and efficient cross-department collaboration.
This trend dovetails with a growing body of research revealing that uninspiring offices take a psychological toll on the people who work in them. Employees are happier and healthier when they spend their days in well-designed environments that promote learning, discovery and social interaction, and that offer opportunities for unexpected encounters with both the space and the other people in it.
To become dynamic, workplaces are turning to digital media and technology to engage employees like never before. Using data-driven, generative digital media in the physical world provides a constantly refreshed stream of informational and custom, branded content. It falls to the visionary CRE professional to take the lead in navigating this new landscape and identifying what design strategies and stories will bring the company to life in a meaningful and impactful way. This includes having the right internal and external partners to integrate digital technology into a variety of corporate spaces.
eBay Serves as an Example
CRE execs are taking their cue from places like eBay’s Silicon Valley campus. Seeking a new approach to its brand identity after spinning off from PayPal in 2015, the company engaged experience design studio ESI Design to create a unique experience that would serve as the new “front door” for its corporate campus, offering a clear and immediate representation of the company’s culture and brand to all who crossed its threshold.
The result is Main Street, a vibrant 20,000-square-foot (1,858-sq.-m.) hub filled with natural light and interactive installations that capture the robust pulse of eBay commerce. “We’re reinventing our brand, we’re reinventing our culture, and it’s so important to have a physical manifestation of that,” said Lars Kongshem, the company’s director of Corporate Digital Experience. “It’s how we show up to our community. It’s a gathering place for our employees that is inspirational, engaging, and fun and interactive.”
The centerpiece is a 15-foot (4.6-meter) touchscreen wall that allows employees and guests alike to explore eBay’s most recent transactions; other digital installations distill the company’s immense wellspring of data into bite-sized nuggets, such as the ten most popular search terms at a given moment. While many businesses overlook the importance of making sure employees have a sense of the corporate big picture, Main Street provides a place where employees can see and experience exactly how their own work fits into a business’s broader mission and goals.
The site also reinforces the company’s theme of community by providing spaces that foster collaboration. The ground floor boasts a beautiful outdoor deck, a coffee bar, and an eBay swag store, as well as a 1,000-person-capacity, multi-purpose event and meeting space dominated by an enormous multi-screen LED display with webcast and presentation capabilities for company-wide town hall meetings.
Wendy Jones, eBay’s SVP of Global Operations, said, “Main Street has infused so much more energy, so much more pride amongst our employee base, both here in Silicon Valley and to our employees around the world – and I don’t think I would’ve said before that a building could do that, which is pretty incredible.”
Elsewhere in Silicon Valley, Apple’s corporate campus has a visitor center that’s become a tourist destination in its own right, with attractions that reinforce the company’s brand: an Apple store with exclusive merchandise; an augmented reality experience that lets visitors explore the site through an Apple device; and a café whose menus are, of course, read from iPads.