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The Role of Real Estate in Organizational Culture

People, place and priorities are all on display in your office space. What does it say about your company?

By John Jarvis

Organizational culture is a popular topic of late. It’s widely believed to be one of the key drivers of employee recruitment, engagement, retention and performance. In today’s highly competitive environment for top-tier teams, it’s no wonder that so many companies seek to understand and implement this secret sauce.

But where to start?

What is organizational culture? According to Entrepreneur, company culture is the personality of an organization from the employee perspective, which includes the company’s mission, expectations and work atmosphere. I like that definition a lot. Especially the idea that the culture is defined from the employee perspective. As a business owner, you can spend considerable time and money in pursuit of an improved culture, but if the employees don’t see it, feel it and believe it, there will be little or no return on your investment.

Hughes Marino has been widely recognized for our company culture, including awards for the #2 Top Company Culture in the country by Entrepreneur, # 7 Best Small Workplace in the country by Fortune Magazine and the recent “trifecta” of the #1 Best Places to Work by the Business Journal simultaneously in San Diego, Orange County and Los Angeles. We are honored and humbled by this recognition. All of the things we do to create and sustain our culture would make for a much longer article (or perhaps a book!). In this article I want to highlight just one thing, a simple thing, and it happens to be the business that we are in. Let’s talk about the role of real estate in your organizational culture.

Functional

At the most basic level, the real estate needs to be functional. We come together as a team to execute on the company vision, and we need a place where we can get the work done. We have offices and conference rooms for when we need to think quietly or communicate with discretion. We have comfortable places to gather when we want to work in small groups. And we have space where we can come together as a collective whole, those occasional all-team meetings. Functional space means speedy networks, comfortable chairs, adequate storage and all the working infrastructure that your particular work requires. It can also mean healthy space with plenty of natural light, living greenery, access to a clean kitchen and healthy food. Bonus points if that space is also flexible, comfortable and inviting. And first impressions matter a lot–what does it feel like when you cross over the threshold into the workspace? For your employees? For your customers? For your potential customers? The very best spaces tend to draw you forward and pique your curiosity, maybe eliciting a “Wow!” And, maybe the next question, what does your company do? The front door to our office headquarters is a fantastic ice-breaker, often inviting that question and leading to an important conversation about the good work that we do.

Inspiring

Beyond function, high-performing real estate can also be inspiring. At Hughes Marino, our Core Values define our priorities, and these are reflected in many of the design elements in all of our offices. “Delivering excellence in everything we do” means that our office furnishings are not inexpensive, always comfortable and simply beautiful, complemented by an abundance of ever-present fresh flowers that add a pop of color and interesting art on the walls. “Enjoy the Journey” means we have some play space with games for the team, and it means that some of the art on the walls is sweet nostalgic candy art. “Embracing the family spirit” means the stairway is lined with family photos of team members. And the running slideshow that plays in our central “living room” is like a family photo album and a fantastic reminder of why we are all there in the first place. I can’t tell you how many times I have looked up in the middle of an otherwise crazy day to see our oldest daughter Nicole (now 25) when she was twelve years old on stage in the school play as Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. It is remarkable how this experience can reset any stress or anxiety to zero and send me forward with a warm heart and a smile on my face.

Authentic

And at the highest level, what makes it all work from the perspective of the team is when it is authentic. Do the leaders of your organization walk the talk? Do they believe in and live your core values? Are the core values an accurate reflection of the organizations priorities? Do the actions of the business leaders reinforce this authenticity? Because if they don’t, then none of this effort will be worthwhile and the employees will see right through the charade.

In the end, it is a grand cycle. Your workspace should be functional, and if possible, inspiring. Because your team is your most valuable asset. And when all of this is rooted in authenticity, your team knows it, and they are in turn inspired. Which fires them up to function at their highest level and propel your company forward in pursuit of your worthy mission.

You can call it “secret sauce.” I tend to think of it as jet fuel. And it all starts at your front door.

John Jarvis is a senior vice president of Hughes Marino, an award-winning commercial real estate company specializing in tenant representation and building purchases with offices across the nation. Contact John at 1-844-662-6635 or john@hughesmarino.com to learn more.



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