Samarth - a trained architect - draws on his real estate expertise and problem-solving skills to help occupiers assess their firms’ work patterns, space needs and business goals to create a bespoke and effective workplace strategy for them.
1.How long have you been in the real estate industry and how did you come to join Colliers International?
A lot of what I do gels with my training as an architect. I have always been intrigued by the way things are being designed and put together. It is about marrying creative-thinking, practicality and problem-solving skills to generate an optimal and efficient outcome. I find it all very inspiring and there’s no taking me away from buildings!
Real estate seems to be a natural industry for me to get into. In the past nine years, I have undertaken different roles and have been involved in various facets of the corporate real estate business – spanning workplace and commercial design, strategic consulting and programme and design management.
I joined Colliers International in Singapore in January 2017 to start and run the workplace strategy and change management business for South Asia. The entrepreneurial spirit and camaraderie in the organisation as a culture drew me to this role.
2. What is workplace strategy and what does it entail?
The term workplace strategy has been bandied about a lot in recent years. My role is to help occupiers, and corporate real estate professionals assess their firms’ work patterns, space needs and business goals, and align all of that with their physical work environment, which may involve redesigning or reconfiguring the work space. A well-thought out and well-executed workplace strategy can help to improve space utilisation, reduce costs and boost business performance via higher staff productivity.
Specifically, a workplace strategy is a mid- to long-term solution for workplace and organisational operations, bringing together the physical space (design, amenities, facility management etc.) Technology (hardware and software) and human resource management policies to enable a balance between employee experience (for productivity) and financial optimisation of real estate / HR costs (cost savings / avoidance)
Major occupiers have matured and robust workplace strategy programmes, that have evolved with their business strategy over the years. Some companies that have great programmes include Shell Oil, Citibank, British Petroleum, HSBC, amongst others.
3. Why should occupiers care about workplace strategy, how will it help them drive their business goals?
If the company cares about talent attraction and retention, and bringing out the best of their employees, then they should care about workplace strategy. In this employee-focused workplace environment - with a complex multi-generational workforce - the workplace is a great and established way to woo top talent and encourage star performers to stay.
In addition, an effective workplace strategy helps to ‘future-proof’ the office, enabling the organisation to remain agile in responding to new technology and a constantly ‘disrupted’ economy (think Uber, WeWork, AirBNB).
A well-planned, energetic and vibrant workplace gives the occupier a competitive edge, while ensuring the bottom line of the business stays healthy. To be honest, workplace strategy is not a cost, it is a value-adding investment. We see this time and time again - when staff perform at their highest level, it will help to drive overall growth and profitability for the company.
4. What are the factors that occupiers have to consider before embarking on a workplace strategy review?
Occupiers need to consider a few key factors before pursuing a workplace strategy, they include: a) ensuring the leadership are available and fully-engaged in the planning and conceptualisation process; b) have ample time to conduct workshops, space utilisation studies and surveys to understand employees’ needs; and c) staff engagement programmes to communicate the workplace concepts and ease employees into the new environment.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach because occupiers have different requirements and business objectives. I would say the evaluation and conceptualisation phase is critical. That is where we gather all the information and data that is necessary to put together a customised and highly functional workplace solution for the client. Of course, management involvement and staff engagement are very important as well.
5. How would you describe your management style and way of working?
Three letters – M.B.O. (Management by Objectives). This essentially means having clear objectives and ensuring everyone on the team understands them and is able to take strategic action to achieve those goals. I am fairly ‘hands-off’ and really enjoy discussing concepts and ideas with my teammates.
In a very short period of time, I have nurtured a productive and inspired team of consultants in Singapore and the region. I continue to look for talent, particularly people who are self-starters and can perform to long-term objectives.
I have a strong focus on creating a silo-free team that is collaborative not only with each other, but across the whole organisation.