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CBRE's Georgia Collins: Embrace Flexibility

As CBRE's senior managing director for Workplace Strategy, Georgia Collins not only knows the demands of today's workforce in a competitive market for talent—she also knows what companies need to do to attract those workers. Georgia helps clients and CBRE make the experience of going to work more appealing so that employees want to come into the office and have the tools they need to excel. Based in CBRE's San Francisco office, she nabbed the title of one of the Bay Area's most influential women. We sat down with Georgia to find out the latest trends in talent recruitment and retention.


Bisnow: What is driving the intense competition for talent we see among companies, particularly here in the Bay Area?

Georgia Collins: In the Bay Area, we've got a plethora of tech companies, but also many other organizations that are dependent on tech talent to maintain their competitive edge. Financial services, professional services, consumer goods, biotech, even nonprofits need top engineers. At the same time, all of those companies also need strong sales, marketing, legal, finance and HR teams. Gone are the days of competing for talent within industry verticals. Today, top organizations across industries are competing with one another. That ratchets up competition across the board.

Bisnow: What workplace strategies are companies using to attract and keep that top talent?

Georgia Collins: We think the focus needs to be on making the experience of going to work better. It needs to be easier, healthier and more fulfilling. Mobile devices and ubiquitous WiFi give us a lot of choice in where we can work from. But most organizations want their people to show up. That means that the office must be the destination of choice.

As a result, companies are investing in a higher level of amenities and services; they are looking at their workplaces through a hospitality lens. Not only do all of the things that we expect from our workplaces need to be in place—but also the things we don’t expect. The hospitality piece, when you get it right, yields customer delight. It is the happiness factor.


Bisnow: How are offices changing to meet those needs?

Georgia Collins: They are becoming places that help people do a better job of managing their most valuable asset: their time. From a work perspective, they’re offering a greater variety of spaces from which work can be done, technology to connect with speed and simplicity, and services that strip the administrative burden out of finding people and information.

From a life perspective, they’re making it easier to get "life-admin" done—the basic personal errands (think dry cleaning, shipping and groceries) that are necessary but take time away from the things we want to do, like spend quality time with family and friends. (That's Georgia spending time with her own family, on vacation with her husband and son, above.)

Organizations that help their people get the highest and best use out of their time in the office and outside of it are more likely to have happy and productive employees. We’re seeing organizations take less space but spend more on technology, services and events. The result is often a net reduction in total spend with an increase in employee satisfaction.


Bisnow: What has CBRE done with its own workplace programs?

Georgia Collins: As our leases expire across the globe, we're transforming our own work environments to better support our people while optimizing for efficiency. By rethinking how we allocate space and implementing a new level of service, we’ve been able to reduce our footprint, increase the variety of work settings and invest more heavily in the technologies and tools our people need to do better work. In those offices, employee satisfaction has gone up as have daily show-up rates. They are places people like to be.

Bisnow: What is your advice to women just entering the commercial real estate industry?

Georgia Collins: Love what you do and who you do it with—passion and great people make a big difference. And don’t beat yourself up too much. There’s always going to be something you feel like you can’t do or don’t know. We have a tendency to dwell too much on our weaknesses rather than promote our strengths.


Bisnow: What's your advice for organizations?

Georgia Collins: Embrace flexibility policies that are truly flexible. It’s a family issue—and a retention issue. In 46% of two-parent households both parents work full-time. That number is growing and a large segment of the working population (the Millennials) are starting to have children. Employees place high value on flexibility. As managers, we’d be well-served to embrace the idea that most people can and should be trusted to make good decisions about when they work and where they need to be to get it done.

Bisnow: What's your favorite time away from work?

Georgia Collins: I have a 5-year-old. (That's her with her son at San Francisco's City Hall for her brother's wedding.) He's so full of life; I wish I could bottle his energy. I am rediscovering the world anew through his eyes. Everything is worth exploring and anything is possible. Spending quality time with him forces me to be fully present in that moment—Legos, dinosaurs, race cars and all.