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Leaders' Forum 15th April 2024

As Workman celebrates its 40th anniversary, leaders of the firm share their plans and vision for the future, within the UK’s rapidly evolving property industry.

Here, Monika Newton, Partner, Head of Welcome, Workman Offices, outlines the property management and occupier engagement challenges and opportunities presented by today’s commercial real estate market, and how Workman’s Welcome team is supporting clients.

What are today’s foremost market factors regarding property management in the real estate industry?

Market factors are constantly evolving, and property managers need to stay informed and adaptable to optimise service levels. As well as the basics, like proactive inspections, timely repairs, and long-term maintenance planning, which go some way to achieving occupier satisfaction and protecting property value, the market has shifted towards higher expectations.

These include factors such as:

  • Occupier experience: investing in amenities, community spaces, and personalised services to attract and retain occupiers with features like fitness centres, co-working spaces or pet-friendly facilities.
  • Technology integration: such as property management software, and automation streamline processes, improve communication, and enhance occupier experiences.
  • Sustainability: sustainable practices such as renewable energy sources, implementing recycling programs, and adopting green building standards are increasingly on the list.
  • Energy efficiency: building optimisation software such as Workman’s IBOS are being deployed to analyse and reduce energy consumption, not only saving on cost, but also delivering carbon cuts.

What do Workman clients want from property managers today?

Our clients want property managers who are reliable, trustworthy, and capable of effectively managing their properties, while maximising returns and providing exceptional customer service to occupiers.

The expectation is not only that property managers will have excellent communication skills and respond promptly to their needs, but also that we will be proactive, delivering regular updates on property performance.

What is the Welcome service designed to deliver, and how does it achieve against its clients’ goals?

As Head of the Welcome Offices team, I lead this Workman service, which was created to deliver an elevated standard of property management for the office sector, designed for the modern occupier at flagship assets.

The Welcome service is designed to achieve clients’ goals by improving operational efficiency, attracting and retaining occupiers, making data-driven decisions, implementing proactive maintenance, providing transparent financial management and reporting, integrating technology, ensuring compliance and risk management, and promoting transparent communication and collaboration.

By embracing modern practices and leveraging technology (like IBOS), the Welcome service can deliver exceptional results while also helping clients achieve their property management goals.

The Welcome service prioritises occupier satisfaction by providing excellent customer service, addressing concerns promptly, and offering convenient digital communication channels. By focusing on occupier retention, property managers help clients maintain high occupancy rates and reduce turnover costs.

How can occupier engagement be developed through property management strategies, and what advantages does this deliver for the asset?

Occupier engagement through property management strategies creates a win-win situation, benefiting both the occupiers and the asset itself, and therefore investors.

Property management strategies that offer value-added services enhance occupier engagement, through networking events, educational workshops, or wellness programmes for occupiers. By providing these additional services, property managers create a sense of community and foster a positive environment, which contributes to occupier satisfaction and loyalty.

For example, we held our own Activity Week, featuring activities and events such as yoga classes and nutrition workshops, across a range of Welcome properties to encourage occupiers to be more active, both at work and home. The timetable of sessions, specifically curated for the Welcome properties and their occupiers, ran at Welcome-managed properties including 80 Cheapside and 100 New Oxford Street, where employees were invited to embrace all that a healthy and active lifestyle has to offer.

Another strand of the Workman offer, our Activate Placemaking team, dovetails with this concept perfectly. The team devises and delivers activations such as last summer’s “Summer is Served” event at Smithson Plaza, which tied into the Wimbledon Championships. Events like this are designed to help to establish distinctive and attractive business destinations, while enhancing occupier experience and that of the wider community.

This all adds up to increased occupancy rates, because engaged occupiers are more likely to renew their leases, and higher occupier retention means enhanced asset reputation, which ultimately results in increased asset value.

What does the ideal property management team look like today, and into the future?

The ideal property management team should possess a diverse skill set, adaptability to technology, strong communication and problem-solving skills, a customer-centric approach, continuous learning mindset, collaboration abilities, sustainability focus, and high ethical standards.

By embodying these qualities, the team can effectively meet the evolving needs and expectations of property owners and tenants in today’s dynamic property management landscape.

What are your plans for the future in terms of talent recruitment and retention?

Having begun my own career in hotel management, I am passionate about service delivery – and a champion of the transferrable-skills concept.

I handpick Welcome Offices’ onsite property management teams to combine diverse skillsets: the team currently includes a former hairdresser and a reservist in the British Armed Forces.

It is my firm belief that occupier service directly contributes to clients’ investment performance through improved occupier retention. So, future plans for talent recruitment and retention involve emphasising diversity and inclusion, continuous learning and development, flexible work options, employee recognition and rewards, employee wellbeing, succession planning, and employee feedback and engagement.

By implementing these strategies, Workman can attract and retain top talent in an increasingly competitive talent market.

How is building technology changing the role of the property manager?

Building technology is transforming the role of property managers by automating tasks, enabling data-driven decision-making, facilitating proactive maintenance, enhancing occupier experiences, improving security and safety measures, and facilitating collaboration and communication.

Building technology can also support sustainability efforts, streamline energy efficiency and enable remote monitoring and maintenance; all qualities delivered by our IBOS tech, which has saved £3.4m on clients’ energy bills over the past year.

In short, property managers who embrace building technology are able to optimise property operations, improve occupier satisfaction, and drive better overall property performance.

Find out more about our Welcome Offices service here.