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Monthly Archives: April 2020

Understanding the Student Experience: Part One

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Staying true to its promise to Design for People, BHDP Architecture frequently engages with students on campuses across the country to gain a deeper understanding of their experiences, which span a range of academic, social, and recreational pursuits. This spring, fueled by higher education institutions’ responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, BHDP Client Leaders initiated a series of virtual focus group discussions with a cross-section of students to understand how these mandated remote learning policies and campus closures have impacted the students’ current experiences. In addition, these conversations are also uncovering how this pandemic will likely shape their behaviors and expectations in the near future when they are permitted to return to campus.

This blog is the first of a four-part series of observations and key learnings that have been distilled from these virtual focus groups. A more comprehensive summary will be shared in BHDP’s Trends + Tensions podcast series this May, and an article that features the various implications that were generated from this qualitative research will be published in early summer.

Because of the shift to remote learning, Miami University students cannot visit the Armstrong Student Center.
Since its opening in the spring of 2014, the Armstrong Student Center has become the central “student hub” on Miami University’s Oxford, Ohio, campus.

Integrative design is a fascinating discovery process involving listening, learning, challenging, exploring, and leading. It is my favorite part about what I do. Right now, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, listening and learning are two crucial processes we cannot bypass in favor of exploring and leading. In order to understand the impact this crisis will have on the physical space design of higher education campuses; we must listen and learn from the end-users who are currently being affected: students. In our first virtual focus group, my colleagues and I heard from a set of intelligent students who shared their current experiences, expectations for the future, and thoughts about the “new normal” and remote learning. Many questions remain, but in our first virtual focus group with students Andrew, Luke, Charlie, and Claire, a few realities became clear.

The learning experience has changed, and students have had to adjust to remote learning.

For Claire, a graduating senior who has chosen to attend Ohio University this fall, getting motivated at home is proving to be a challenge. With teachers assigning work at the beginning of each week, dividing up her time each day has become a struggle. Charlie, a third-year student at Virginia Tech, echoes that sentiment. “Not being in the presence of others is definitely a major issue because I cannot bounce ideas off people. This experience has hindered what I thought I would get out of this semester,” he said.

Moving forward, universities must consider how to incorporate social experiences into a virtual world, and designers must recognize that the future plans for student unions and dining halls may need to accommodate social distancing limitations.

Not only has coursework changed, but the number of distractions has shifted as well. Luke, a second-year student at Virginia Tech, is discovering that he has more distractions at home than he did in his college town of Blacksburg. He feels constant pressure to interact with family, and that stress has taken time away from his classes. Ultimately, learning how to focus on coursework amid a pandemic is a major adjustment for students, especially for those who are adjusting to new surroundings.

As remote learning progresses and both students and educators adapt, it is clear that advancements in technology will continue to improve the student experience. However, technology must be used as a tool, not a restricting resource defining the future of education. Students agree online learning can be beneficial but learning with their peers and professors is an experience that technology cannot replicate.

There is no substitute for the on-campus student experience.

Engineering students at Ohio Northern University are adjusting to remote learning.
The design of the James Lehr Kennedy Engineering Building is centered around collaboration, innovation, and academic rigor.

Indeed, it is likely that the physical campus will change as a result of this crisis, but students remain adamant that the on-campus college experience is invaluable and irreplaceable. For Luke, collaborating with and learning from his peers translates less effectively in remote learning. “I miss working with other students and I’ve realized that the social side of studio learning is so important,” he said. Charlie feels the same way: “What I miss most is being in the classroom with friends and being in the dining halls between classes.”

The students we spoke with expressed their yearning to once again experience the brick-and-mortar collegiate facilities, classrooms, labs, and campus greenspaces that drew students to each university in the first place. According to Andrew, a first-year student at Miami University, one of the biggest reasons for attending Miami was the beautiful campus. He cared about academic success and wanted his schoolwork to challenge him, but he could not ignore the campus aesthetics. Charlie revealed a similar mindset; a significant reason for attending Virginia Tech was its impressive engineering buildings as well as the comfortable living and learning spaces. Although Claire has not yet experienced Ohio University’s campus as a college student, she agreed that campus culture is important; she chose OU over a prestigious east coast university after comparing their campuses, ultimately preferring OU’s sense of community.

Moving forward, universities must consider how to incorporate the campus experience into a virtual world, and designers must recognize that the future plans for student unions and dining halls may need to accommodate social distancing limitations.

Changes are coming, and we will be ready for them.

Students remain optimistic.

Luke explains it best: “I know there is a lot of bad. We should look to the shift online as a good working tool. Something beneficial could come out of this.” Students are adjusting to this “new normal” just like the rest of us, but their love for their school and commitment to their education remains unfazed.

Despite these unfortunate circumstances, we must use this time to research, discuss, and understand the effects of COVID-19 on higher education so that we can reimagine the long-established university learning experience. Changes are coming, and we will be ready for them.


Check out the second part of this series with more student experiences and insights on the effects COVID-19 is having on the future of higher education.

The New, New Normal: A Post-Pandemic Retail Story

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Shoppers in a post-pandemic retail store

Forward: This prescriptive scenario considers what solutions might be possible by understanding past crises, published changes in shopper behaviors, current adaptations with our retail clients, global governmental guidelines, and data-driven ideas from industry experts and peers. This hypothetical project kick-off story is guiding research, including an industry survey, the development of roundtable discussions, and a solutions-focused white paper in partnership with GMDC.

Imagine a plausible future…

Welcome to the post-pandemic summer of 2022. The “new, new normal” has settled into our society, and people have now adapted to day-to-day life. The economy is in a steady rebound, and business is headed in the right direction.

Today, we virtually met with our client’s team to launch the new project: a new concept intending to take over the first level of an abandoned anchor department store. The meeting was started the same as any past project kickoff by discussing the project schedule, budgets, responsibilities, communications, brand alignment, vision, and measurements for success. But, unlike years ago, this post-pandemic project had many new challenges to work out.

We discussed the changes in shopper drivers: the long-lasting positive effects (community, faith, altruism, and caring) and negative effects (mistrust, anxiety, depression, and isolation) on today’s shopping behaviors. Together we compared shopper research, trends, insights, new technologies; and more specifically, the results from the three months of data that measured in-store shopper behavior gathered from the renovation project we partnered on last year.

We debated shopper reactions as it related to “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs” and concluded that many of the initial base layer habits adopted during the first few panicked weeks of social distancing (hoarding, wearing masks, avoiding public spaces, and not touching things) had begun to wane in the past year; while other, more practical approaches (maintaining safe distances, washing/sanitizing hands often, and volunteerism) were here to stay. The American consumer is resilient, always finding innovative ways to satisfy base needs, adapt to stressful times, and get around obstacles to find fulfillment and meaning.

The American consumer is resilient, always finding innovative ways to satisfy base needs, adapt to stressful times, and get around obstacles to find fulfillment and meaning.

A key part to replacing the initial fears with today’s cautious concerns has been the essential role business adaptations and government guidelines have successfully played in helping people worry less. With the recent federal “Clean Retail” mitigation regulations handed down from the CDC, we outlined how to layer in the new “Hierarchy of Controls” into the “Touchless Retail” ideas of the last project. Employees will still wear PPE masks, scheduled daily and nightly cleaning will continue, and only ‘bag your own’ will be available for in-store purchases. The major rule changes governing new construction will have the biggest impact: large space compartmentalization, zoned fresh air HVAC and UV mitigations, self-sanitizing individual restrooms and fitting rooms, entry screening, curbside pick-up, along with cueing traffic and density monitoring. Gone forever are the open salad bars, product sampling, bottle returns, touchscreens, paper circulars, coupons, and assembly/demonstration areas for 10 or more shoppers.

The shopper focus groups validated which beneficial experiential elements tested in the recent renovation will be maintained (follow-you carts, packaged local restaurant meals, digital freezer signage, and shelf talkers) along with the tested planning adjacencies (beauty, pharmacy and clinic at the front, service offerings in center core and commodities pushed to the perimeters) safe practices (separated multi-function cash wraps, prepackaged only salads bars and bakery, and sneeze guards). This new location and available new technologies created opportunities for introducing more natural daylight, transparent “keeping shoppers safe” messaging, augmented reality directions, touchless voice tech, and layered-in anxiety-reducing design enhancements.

Today was a productive start to the retailer’s first new store in three years and next steps include marketing deciding how to engage and support the local community, block planning the entrances around the compartmentalization requirements, costing new building mitigation systems, and mapping out the emotional design elements along each shopper type’s intended customer journey.

The “new, new normal” has added another level of complexity to the store planning and retail design profession: dramatic changes to shopper drivers and behaviors, governmental regulations, and how retailers need to be more prepared in the future. We all agreed that our retail industry innovates and reinvents every time it is faced with paradigm-changing moments. 2022 is now different, and we will continue to succeed by remaining collaborative, leveraging data-driven insights, and staying focused on relevant shopping experiences.

This hypothetical scenario is grounded in our research and conversations with clients; taking the applications in safety procedures we see today, we are repurposing them for tomorrow. As we imagine and plan for the not-so-distant future, we want to hear more from our peers and retail industry professionals, so we may learn and progress together.

What’s next?

What are you most concerned about post virus? What are the relevant long-lasting behaviors you predict will be impacting your shoppers? What best practices in retail design have potential to stick? Help our industry answer these questions and plan for the future by participating in a short survey. All participants will be sent the top-line survey results along with the synopsis of the final white paper. Please click the button below to participate.

The Resilient Workplace: A Measured Response to COVID-19

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Trends + Tensions The Resilient Workplace

Synopsis

On April 15, 2020, BHDP facilitated a virtual roundtable with over sixty (60) representatives from corporate real estate. Participants from 40+ companies, representing a variety of market sectors and thousands of workers shared perspectives on their immediate priorities and forward-looking strategies to manage the COVID-19 pandemic. The following synopsis includes strategic takeaways from the discussion as well as high-level recommendations for leading the reintegration of the workforce into the physical workplace.

It should be noted that BHDP has no insight as to when the pandemic will cease. In the opinion of the firm, the current pandemic is a medical crisis first, an economic threat second, and a business continuity challenge third. However, the responsible thing, from the standpoint of corporate real estate, is to scenario plan for the eventual return of the workforce, when the current threat subsides.


Pandemic at Present

Before the pandemic became a dire threat, most organizations were challenged to strike the right balance between physical and virtual work. For many, the coronavirus initially presented itself as a sort of social experiment—forcing millions to work remotely and tackle the challenge head on. Organizations have been driven to very seriously consider where, how, when, and with whom work gets done. As business priorities shift from continuity planning in a virtual world to reintegration strategies for an uncertain future in the physical one, the additional irony is that corporate real estate plays a significant role, regardless of the location of the workforce. If space is a proxy for culture, then real estate leaders are stewards of an unseen and yet unbelievably essential organizational asset.

When will things return to normal? The smart answer is, “we don’t know, maybe never.” There is no federal or even state mandate dictating when operations must commence, and each locality presents its own, unique risks. Therefore, every organization must weigh its financial urgency against its operational risk and make an informed, independent decision regarding:

Population Exposure—Who must return, who must not, who is ready, who is not, and what about the fraught nature of classifying some people as “essential” and not others?
Timing/Trajectory—When to return, in what order, and along what trajectory?
Workplace Readiness—How will the environment be (re)structured to ensure adequate spacing and proper circulation? What measures will be taken to reduce undue risk?
Operating Best Practices—How will cleanliness and sanitation be ensured? What role will technology play? What can we learn from others globally?
Leadership—Who’s on the core team? How will we make a prudent decision? What will our decision say about the organization? How will we communicate accordingly?

Until widespread inoculation occurs, the simultaneous threat to human lives and economic livelihoods remains the pressing challenge for leaders to weigh.

Day One: The Return to Work(place)

Regardless of when the workforce returns to the workplace, there are a number of hurdles to clear in order to get the workforce back into a safe, stable, proximal, and productive operating environment. A measured response includes consideration for the following factors:

Workforce Planning and Transportation—understanding who will be on-site when and the means by which people will travel to get there.
Physical Environment—spacing between seats in both open and closed environments, entry/egress, circulation routes, choke points, social spaces, and surface contact.
Operational Procedures—protocols, procedures, and signage regarding seating, sanitation, and shared services. Elimination of weak links.
Individual Hygiene and Well-Being—access to personal protective equipment and sanitizer, dedicated devices, indoor air quality, movement, and exposure to outdoors.
Psychological Safety—support for comfort, grief, and emotional distress.
Social Norms—social distancing comes to work. No hugs, handshakes, or high-fives.

The New Normal: The Opportunity Ahead

Social distancing at work

The coronavirus pandemic is a watershed event. Just as Millennials’ entry into the workplace coincided with the Great Recession, most of the next generation (Gen Z) will never know a pre-pandemic workplace.

The degree to which our space will be forever shaped by the pandemic depends upon the severity of our response. If the pendulum swings too far and we “pandemic proof” the workplace, there is the risk of over-investing in a safe but costly solution that is over-sized, under-utilized, empty, and austere. Doing so would erode the workplace gains of the last decade. On the other hand, under-estimating the virus could result in even more costly and irreversible outcomes. This is the career-defining challenge at hand. There are no easy answers, no checklists, no silver bullets.

Our collective memory will linger long after this period has passed. The billions who have lived and worked through this event have learned a host of new skills, tools, and workflows. Old paradigms will fall. Millions of workers have already been displaced by the pandemic. Some will remain remote indefinitely, having proven that remote work can be effective. Others will invariably return to the workplace. Still others will be forced to seek new employment. Regardless, the composition of the workforce will change, and corporate real estate will be challenged as before, to foster the collective identity and productivity of a dispersed workforce. As humans, we thrive when we are connected—to a mission, to a cause, to a place, to each other. The workplace matters because it facilitates those connections. As such, the workplace will never go away. It will also never be the same.


Learn More

To learn more, connect with colleagues, and get involved in a future roundtable, please reach out to Sarah Holmes and Drew Suszko.
Sarah Holmes | Business Development
sholmes@bhdp.com
Drew Suszko | Lead Strategist
dsuszko@bhdp.com

Healthy Buildings Are More Important Than Ever

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As the coronavirus pandemic rages, smart updates and thoughtful safety measures focused on health and wellness will be needed to help people feel good about returning to work.

Indoor and outdoor seating create healthy buildings
Combined indoor and outdoor space can promote occupant happiness and productivity.

The healthy building movement has changed the way facility managers evaluate their buildings, but the coronavirus pandemic is bound to change it even more. As people return to their office buildings, there will be new concerns about safety and sanitizing. Complicating matters, it could be challenging to draw people back to the workplace after the convenience of working at home, where the dress code is always “casual.”

Most facility managers have long since expanded their evaluation checklists to include features like indoor greenery and water bottle filling stations, along with inspections of the HVAC systems and lighting fixtures. Now, it becomes even more important to take a thoughtful approach to well-being concerns. It’s a good time to retool those building checklists and evaluations to make sure facilities are not just operating efficiently, but also helping people feel safe, welcome and healthy, especially as they return to work.

Build on current practices

Light filtration creates a healthy building atmosphere

Ideally, the effort to enhance health and well-being will not be something that’s brand new. Rather, it’s another layer added to what’s already being done to keep the facility humming—an evaluation process that’s ongoing daily, weekly, monthly and annually.

For example, there are regular inspections for wear and tear on internal areas that are heavily used, such as entrances, dining spaces and common meeting areas. There’s similar scrutiny of external areas, such as loading docks and sidewalks. It’s understood that a well-maintained facility matters to everyone who walks the halls, occupies a workspace or visits the building to attend a meeting.

In addition to aesthetic impressions of the facility, issues related to sustainability and well-being have become increasingly important to corporate tenants as well as to employees. Therefore, such issues also have become more important to facility managers; they are expected to have expertise on the more psychological as well as the practical aspects of the buildings they oversee.

Not surprisingly, heightened concerns about buildings’ health-related features in the wake of the worst pandemic in recent memory exist. Naturally, people will be wary. There also will be greater awareness that the maintenance of unseen systems such as ventilation and cleaning protocols could be just as vital for safety as, say, a leaking ceiling or a crack in a sidewalk.

Certification programs

A good way to enhance evaluations of a facility is by using one or more third-party certification programs, such as LEED, Fitwel or WELL. LEED is a global platform, whose certification emphasizes building efficiency and sustainability. The U.S. Green Building Council promotes its LEED certification as a competitive edge as well as a selling point for prospective tenants.

Fitwel is another widely used certification program in the healthy building movement, emphasizing health-promoting design. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is a research and evaluation partner for Fitwel.

WELL Certification also offers a detailed framework for building projects that promote health and wellbeing. The Green Business Certification Incorporation, GBCI, which certifies the WELL Building Standard, also administers the LEED rating system, and WELL and LEED are complementary, not competitive.

WELL building guidelines

Here’s a closer look at the WELL building standards, which have a focus on the health and well-being of building occupants. They draw on medical research, detailing numerous points that fit into a facility management audit. Consider some of these main target areas:

HVAC practices. This is likely to be top-of-mind as people return to their office buildings once the coronavirus crisis eases. Indoor air quality can have major effects on people’s productivity, alertness and absenteeism. The Environmental Protection Agency links indoor air pollution to a number of serious diseases, including asthma. A regular cleaning and replacement strategy for all systems and filters, along with evaluation of the outdoor air intake, will help to maintain optimal air quality.

Cleaning protocols. Consider a transition to products with safer ingredients. Most commercial cleaners contain harmful chemicals that can be hazardous to the cleaning staff as well as other building occupants. A focus on proper training and cleaning schedules will also be top of mind for employees returning to the office environment.

Drinking water quality. This amenity is important to employers because it is important to their employees. As companies have encouraged the use of reusable water bottles, they’ve also started offering bottle filling stations and ice/water dispensers. Regular cleaning and filter maintenance of this equipment are needed to ensure that drinking water is not only accessible, but of the highest quality.

Smoking bans. Restrictions in buildings have helped to improve Americans’ health, according to the CDC. Many corporate companies have enacted full smoking bans for their buildings and campuses. Facilities that do allow for smoking locations should position them well away from building entry points, to keep smoke out of the facility and safeguard people from having to walk through them.

Pest management practices. These can be improved with an emphasis on low-hazard pesticides. The integrated pest management approach aims to balance monitoring, prevention and control efforts to limit harmful effects on people.

Recycling programs. Standard in some facilities, more controversial in others, recycling programs are another way to promote more sustainable practices in our throw-away society. Some facilities might even be able to include composting collection points, recycling food waste for practical purposes such as landscaping.

Also, worth noting is the WELL Building Core & Shell certification, an approach that might be particularly useful to some facility teams. The program’s emphasis is on base building design and operation. It is similar to the LEED certification process; in that it aims to offer incentives for all a building’s tenants to adopt a health and well-being emphasis for their independent spaces.

Encouraging healthy behaviors

While it’s vital to evaluate building systems that have a short-term, direct impact on health. It’s also good to take the long view. Over time, certain enhancements can not only promote healthful behaviors, but inspire positive feelings about people’s surroundings.

Places for peoples to enjoy natural light are found in healthy buildings

These are not esoteric concerns, but measures with real, bottom-line impact. WELL standards and other green building initiatives have been shown to boost productivity, reduce health care costs and help attract and retain employees. In turn, keeping current employees rather than having to hire and train new ones has a positive impact on an organization’s ROI. According to the Center for American Progress, replacing a single employee may cost an organization up to 30 percent of that person’s annual salary.

Research shows that indoor environments can promote happiness and productivity through things like lighting, greenery, outdoor access and window placement. Other enhancements can promote wellness by encouraging fitness. These include:

  • Features such as walking trails encourage people to get outside for exercise and fresh air.
  • More open, inviting and accessible stairways can prompt people to take more steps during the workday.
  • On-site fitness centers make it easy and convenient for people to use a treadmill, work out with weights or perhaps take a stress-reducing yoga class.

Upgraded amenities could be a valuable tool to welcome people back to buildings that were emptied out by the pandemic — especially those employees who have rather enjoyed cocooning at home. Again, these measures can have significant impact as strategies to shore up engagement by offering people tangible quality-of-life features. Consider these possibilities:

  • Well-planned gathering places that encourage interaction and camaraderie, albeit with timely “social distancing” considerations, when appropriate.
  • Décor that nods to the trend of less institutional, more homelike surroundings. This could include creative use of finishes, spots that offer quiet and privacy, and places where with seating choices allowing the user to adapt their posture, such as couches rather than the standard office chairs.
  • Spaces that demonstrate openness to a more agile workplace. These might include locations where people who work from home part of the time can come in, set up their computers and interact with their fulltime on-site colleagues.

Role of communications

Amid the nuts-and-bolts concerns, system audits and checklists, don’t overlook the need for communications. Post-pandemic, they will become more important than it has been in the past. Facilities managers will need to educate people about the health and well-being strategies that are being enacted and how these measures contribute to a more efficient workplace that’s also more healthful for them. Communications should explain the efforts to safeguard people’s security and safety, and hopefully will inspire confidence and peace of mind.

Communications can include emails, text messages and signage, including digital signs. If possible, it also can be helpful to provide FAQs and a way for tenants and employees to have their questions and concerns addressed. Communications efforts should make use of data, when available, to back up explanations about what’s being done and why. This will help keep people informed, engaged and reassured.

Vital role of facility managers

The healthy building trend is bound to accelerate and deepen as people return to buildings that they hope are safe and healthy. Facility managers can play a vital role by updating the way they evaluate their buildings — including enacting additional safety measures and sharing information with tenants and employees.

Sustainability and well-being are increasingly integral to how people think about what a building should be. Through careful evaluation and thoughtful updates, the buildings where so many people spend so much of their time can be better places in which people live, work and learn.


This article was originally published at Facilitiesnet.

The Role of Physical Space in Corporate Learning and Development

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Unique learning and training centers

Innovative use of space to create a learning environment that positively affects engagement and retention requires a strategic and coordinated effort backed by senior leadership commitment.

Corporate learning and development (L&D) programs, no matter how compelling, may not be enough in and of themselves as the foundation for developing engaged and productive employees. Historically, the primary focus for L&D was the design of the program, with only minimal thought about spaces where learning takes place. Spaces are viewed as nothing more than places where the program is delivered, be it an off-site training center or a poorly lit, uncomfortable conference room in an underutilized part of a building or corporate campus. Such thinking underestimates the value of creating the best environment for the learning experience.

The ability to truly engage employees through L&D requires a specific type of environment designed to incentivize and ignite the learner. A recent study conducted by Boston Consulting Group found that learning and career development ranked ahead of job security and salary as key priorities influencing happiness on the job. Despite these findings, organizations fail to consider the possibility that a successful L&D strategy requires thinking beyond the training program and considering other influences such as environment and its impact on learning.

A recent series of interviews between BHDP Architecture and leaders in Human Resources, corporate L&D, and corporate real estate (CRE) from more than 50 organizations revealed a disconnect between the physical space and its role in delivery of the L&D experience.

Trends in L&D

“When it comes to L&D, start with understanding culture, your current state, and desired future state,” advises Heidi Scott, Ph.D., HR.com chief learning officer. “Space—physical and virtual—is a huge part of developing the optimal learning eco-system,” she notes, adding that executives should ask themselves if they truly know their people “and where they want to go.”

Corporate L&D is experiencing several trend shifts. One is a change of emphasis from macrolearning to microlearning that provides a more personalized, self-directed, technology-based approach—certainly preferable to endless sessions requiring extensive use of traditional three-ring binders. Perhaps the most interesting of the trends is “gamification”—a term that describes the use of elements such as competition, score keeping, and rewards to encourage learning and engagement. The idea here is to facilitate learning through a shared experience that makes learning fun.

“Space—physical and virtual—is a huge part of developing the optimal learning eco-system.”

Heidi Scott, Ph.D., HR.com chief learning office

These shifts in L&D are forcing companies to reassess how, and especially where, learning happens. This includes considering whether their existing environment facilitates the desired learning experience and if their employees have the right tools. The latter are readily available in various forms, from massive open online courses (MOOCs) and Google’s G Suite to social media outlets such as Facebook’s Workplace and YouTube, all of which constitute what can be described as a “learning network” spurred by technology. Yet with all this access to digital learning, why should we be so concerned about where learning takes place?

Because space matters.

“Space can validate what a company is saying,” notes Felice Rudolph, Asurion Business Services vice president. “We strive to create a life operating system by getting space to empower the employee, validate our brand, and express authenticity to our internal and external stakeholders.”

L&D Supports Corporate Objectives

Today, companies are challenged to enhance the digital learning experience due to the rate of change throughout corporate culture, from technological advancement and shifts in the regulatory climate to desired business outcomes. While it’s important for executives to be aware of shifting L&D strategies, it’s equally imperative for senior leadership to support a culture of learning that can identify and incorporate those elements most beneficial for employee growth and talent retention. L&D has the ability to help organizations break down corporate silos and foster the cross-pollination of ideas throughout an organization. L&D also is charged with the monumental task of reducing the “training to application gap,” which represents the time between training delivery and application of the newly learned skills on the job. The larger the gap, the greater the cost to the organization. Efforts to close it will require effective use of all resources, including CRE’s ability to develop the right environment.

The Case for Space

“Providing inspirational space does matter.”

Lisa Gary, chief learning officer at Trane Technologies.

According to a recent McKinsey Global Institute study, employers will need to manage largescale workforce transformations that could involve redefining business processes and workforce needs, retraining and moving people into new roles, and creating programs for continuous learning.

In recent months, there have been growing investments in the building of corporate learning and development centers by large employers in the Southeastern U.S., including Compass Group and Duke Energy. “L&D is very much impacted by space,” says Maggie Redling, Ed.D., manager of Learning and Development at AvidXchange. “Corporations need to consider the generational aspects of learning. We see that more experienced employees gravitate toward classroom-based learning, while newer employees look for a high-tech, hands-on, discovery-based approach.”

Effective and transformative L&D does not take place in a silo separate from other entities. The most effective L&D experience is one that is woven into the overall real estate strategy, allowing for unlimited access to knowledge and feedback. In addition to L&D and CRE, seek out and welcome input from Human Resources, Information Technology staff, and other key stakeholders. Consider it a structural rethinking of developing and delivering spaces in tune with the demands of the corporation and the needs of its most valuable asset: employees. “Providing inspirational space does matter,” acknowledges Lisa Gary, chief learning officer at Trane Technologies. “We view L&D as a strategic lever enabling business success.”

As experience shows, innovative use of space to create a learning environment that positively affects engagement and retention requires a strategic and coordinated effort backed by senior leadership commitment. When employees feel valued, their motivation soars, as does their performance—both of which can translate into more satisfied customers and increased profits. As companies continually develop approaches to empower employees, it is incumbent upon each of them to constantly evaluate the role of space in a comprehensive learning and development program. CRE deserves a seat at that table.


This article was originally published in Training magazine. Contributors to this article, Dr. Heidi Scott and Lisa Gary, are featured on the Trends + Tensions podcast.