Why workplace experience platforms need the human element

By Shobhit Choubey
/ CBRE |
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The conversation around workplace changes has become somewhat passé. Across the globe, much has been written about a radical shift in the design and interpretation of the workplace. Equally, digitally driven solutions have made office flexibility a bigger reality. The rise of internationally embraced concepts like co-working, activity-based working and open-plan offices has created what is being referred to in some circles as the workplace’s “Uber moment”. These are all reasonable dicussions, which is not a negative thing, but the time has come to dig a little deeper.
Progress of this nature is clearly a sign of the times – a reflection of shifting demographics; a window into evolving corporate cultures, and the “mainstreaming” of flatter workplace hierarchies and practices. We, as an industry, fully embrace this dialogue.
However, one area that we find needs more discussion and debate is the human element in this new workplace. And this is where we find the development of next-generation employee experience platforms will bridge the gap between humans and technology, workplace and experience, convenience and employee-centric requirements.

The human element of service delivery

Providers of digital-tenant platforms have made considerable progress, but have never fully addressed how to connect said platforms with the human experience, within and outside the bounds of the workplace. True, recent years have seen the development of employee experience platforms in response to growing employee demand for technology-driven, hospitality-infused and inspiring workplaces.
CBRE San Francisco - CBRE's new office in San Francisco
CBRE's new office in San Francisco (Photos: CBRE)
While there now exists a wide range of digital platforms featuring technology capable of enhancing employee experience to some degree, many do not effectively leverage data to identify problem areas or proactively deliver the features and services end-users require. The common denominator here is the human element of service delivery, which has been neglected.
So wherein lies the answer? In our view, the next-generation workplace experience platforms must combine technology with advanced data strategies as a first step. They must provide best-in-class hospitality services to create a truly transformative and employee-centric workplace experience. And, perhaps most poignantly, operate through an understanding that technology alone cannot create a truly effective and employee-centric workplace experience.
The immediate answer lies in the marriage of data with human experience. Specifically, data analysis and people services are emerging as key differentiators for employee engagement platforms. Why is this the case? Simple: the rise and increasing demand for proactive, rather than reactive, services and more personalised user experiences. Let’s unpack this a little further.

Leveraging data

Data and its collection are a divisive topic, and one of the larger cultural conversations at the centre of this new omni-tech age. True, within the workplace sphere, most workplace engagement platforms collect vast amounts of data. However, on the flip side, they are not equipped with the requisite expertise or algorithms to analyse it, making them incapable of providing actionable insights into workplace teams.
Change, though, is here. And data is being used far more effectively to improve the experience of the end-user, the employee. In our observations, the most advanced employee engagement platforms are now capturing a variety of functional workplace information. Data is identifying how users are utilising the office on a day-to-day basis. It is pinpointing the features and amenities they prefer and the transactions they conduct. More recently, data is leading the charge in terms of how platforms and their users can identify areas for improvement and implement employee-centric change.
On a practical level, data from scheduling systems, motion sensors, in-app user behaviour and learned preferences can provide considerable insight into how employees collaborate or spend their time in the office.
From a convenience and scheduling perspective, it can also enable workplace teams to ascertain whether large spaces are being occupied by individuals; which rooms are rarely occupied; and whether there are certain spaces that are chronic service request generators. Pretty simple, but core to improving some measure of employee experience by putting the human at the centre of the outcome.
CBRE App Preview - Host is CBRE’s latest technology-based, human-focused employee experience platform
Host is CBRE’s latest technology-based, human-focused employee experience platform
More recently, the Internet of Things (IoT) system has emerged on tenant experience platforms. When viewed through the lens of the workplace, the IoT system has human interests and experiences at its heart.
For example, data collected by IoT sensors and space management software can also provide a wealth of information related to space optimisation and occupancy analytics. After this data is captured, processed and analysed by workplace teams, occupiers can accurately gauge space, seat and room utilisation. It can even calculate and advise on the average size and duration of meetings; and entry and exit statistics.
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People services

These insights can be used to help occupiers and landlords improve utilisation by changing the role and function of that space or adding new features to make it more attractive to users. But once again, it is the end-user that will reap the most benefits. This comes to the changing demands on the way we work and employee expectations of this process.
Across the Asia-Pacific and the globe, employees are increasingly demanding to work in a way that suits them. This is where data works for them. Data can be directed at creating personalised working experiences for individual employees – in other words, people services.
Many platforms overlook the importance of genuine human interaction, particularly regarding service delivery. For instance, consumers have come to expect great in-person customer experiences in shops, restaurants and hotels. So why not the workplace?
This shift is occurring. The same consumer and hospitality experiences are increasingly being demanded by the workplace by the same individuals craving the people-centric experience. In parallel to life outside of the office, employees expect the simplicity and ease of these experiences to be accessible to them at any time through technology, even while working.
With this backdrop, CBRE believes that for employee experience technologies to be truly effective, they must be integrated with people services. How is this accomplished? By positioning well-trained and knowledgeable experience professionals on site, who are available to handle enquiries and requests made through the application and to support employees over the course of their working day.
As a result, the experience teams can make informed decisions when curating experiences and events through captured data on user behaviour, feedback and preferences. Combined with a technology mindset for the human experience, a data-driven and curated experience can significantly increase employee engagement.
On the flip side, technology can be a double-edged sword when implanted through a workplace experience lens. For example, one of the more common misappropriations that organisations make is buying platforms that focus primarily on technology features and neglect enhancements to the service delivery capability of workplace managers within the workplace. However, when used correctly, smart technology tools help workplace managers to enhance moments that matter in the experience journey and proactively resolve pain points to deliver hospitality-focused experience in the workplace.

A configurable platform

As a provider of tenant experience, CBRE takes the role of technology, data and people seriously. CBRE’s latest technology-based, human-focused employee experience platform, Host, blends people, training and technology to create an employee-centric workplace experience. Host integrates technology and end-user experience features on a single platform.
This enables employees to access their workplace needs from a single app, and organisations to administer building management requirements from a single and customisable platform. Host, which can be tailored to specific client requirements, features a mobile experience that allows users to navigate the workplace, schedule meetings with colleagues, reserve workspaces, use F&B services, and access building and concierge services.
We like to think of it as the extension of a brand – a configurable platform that allows clients to personalise the look and feel of the workplace. The app is also mindful of the unique aspects of space, culture and values of users, ensuring, for example, that through machine learning, space needs are met sustainably and efficiently for building operators.
As the workplace evolves, it will only succeed with the buy-in of the most important currency: the people. Platforms can be technology-sound, innovative and highly analytical, but without a clear connection to the needs, demands and functionality of an evolving employee base, they miss the mark. One must not forget that at the core of any change is behaviour. And that behaviour is human-led. Next-generation tenant platforms must correlate with that reality to take this important step in the broader workplace evolution.
CBRE - Shobhit Choubey is the APAC lead, Host, at CBRE
Shobhit Choubey is the APAC lead, Host, at CBRE.
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