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Recruiting Top Talent: The 4Cs of Spatial Alchemy

by PlaceLab TeamSep 8th, 2019

In our era of expectation, spurred by an always-on office culture, today’s employees want environments that not only inspire creativity but also fit their personal brand. One of the most valuable talent attraction tools is the office itself: a reflection of a company’s brand, and a space showcasing values. It’s mandatory if you want to attract the best talent. Job seekers don’t just see office perks as nice-to-haves anymore.

Big tech may have been the first industry to set the pace nearly three decades ago. Companies such as Google, Facebook, and Spotify are famous for building campuses replete with free meals, door-to-door shuttles, volleyball courts, and childcare centers to cater to their employees’ every need, but now these types of benefits have become the norm.

Today, job candidates expect companies to provide an ideal work environment, one that features the seamless integration of work and play. If your company doesn’t meet these standards today, talent will most certainly go elsewhere to look for it. Companies must embrace a massive shift: competitive recruiting in today’s marketplace means treating talent as a top customer.  

Culture is the New Capital

Space is a conduit for culture. If the office wants to remain relevant, it needs to be a place that fosters human interaction and engagement. In a world where work is decentralized, companies must create a place where employees can collaborate and build community, which allows culture to thrive.

Companies must create a workplace that supports the integration of work, play, personal time - plus the ability to get “life” done while working. With flexibility and mobility as the norm, people seek and expect ways to continually customize their lives. Today’s talent - the customer - absolutely expects they will get all of it when they say “yes” to a job.

Add to that: they yearn to be part of something bigger than themselves. According to EQ Office CEO, Lisa Picard, “We need to ensure that we attract the talent and retain them. And inspire them.” They want to engage in work that feels authentic, has purpose, and contributes to a greater good. And, they want options for how they offer their unique perspective and creativity.

“We need to generate space where it all blends together, and it merges, and something magic happens,” says Picard.

The Intentional Intersection of Space and Culture

Alcove in Willis Tower, Photo Credit: Chris Ozer.

Picard’s philosophy to achieve this is called spatial alchemy. Not just closed off offices. Not just open workspaces and the elimination of physical walls. Gone are the days of creating so-called “culture” by adding a foosball table in the rec room. Spatial alchemy invites us to consider the intentional intersection of space and culture and embrace the idea that a company’s most valuable customer is its talent. Humans who are supported, inspired, and happy will thrive.

As companies try to identify the right blend of environment and experiences in search of the alchemy, the right mix and design of spaces are needed to accommodate different forms of work and life, which then can allow valued talent to be exactly who they are and thrive. They can work effectively, create collaboratively, and also be in community with others who are part of shared intellectual and creative pursuits.

People want and expect easy access to designer coffee, the latest drink trends, and craft beer as much as a sophisticated strategy room where they can show up and come up with “the next big thing.”

The Next Big Thing for Workspace

There are four essential aspects to “Spatial Alchemy” to drive creation of purposeful space that captivates the customer, top talent. “Today's customers want solutions that feel personalized, customized, and tailored to their needs, Picard explains. “This requires a new intelligence.”

Space for Concentration

The measure of success should not be how much to squeeze out of square feet but how to support the genesis of great ideas and effective work. Talent needs a place where they can close off the outside world, get quiet, think, and be intimate with their own creative process. They need to concentrate.

Inside a workspace, companies traditionally provide space where a door can be closed for privacy. However, technology has powered this major shift in how we think and function on the job. We are no longer tethered to our monitors, but equipped with a new found mobility where we do business on the run. We all need space that’s quiet to dash off a quick email or tuck into a place to make a call without distractions.

1740 Broadway Lobby, Rendering: Inc.

At EQ’s 1740 Broadway, New York, a hotel architect masterminded a complete renovation of the building lobby from a stark box to a hospitality-like arrival. Here, the blend of levels one and two enables touch down and an immediate filter into the activity of choice - whether it’s work, food, lounge, or fitness. Upon entry is the intersection of options. Level two specifically allows one to find a nook and duck into concentration.

With just enough disconnect above a bustling ground floor lobby, a single person or small group can unplug from the noise to concentrate, or plug-in to power up a device to focus on work.

Outdoor Conference Room, Playa District, Photo Credit: Chris Ozer.

Outside, workspaces can also provide reprieve. In Los Angeles, EQ’s Playa District gives employees the option to unplug from their desks, and reconnect in open air. The respite allows the human mind to come back to center and focus. With a place to recharge, talent gets a breath of fresh air for perspective.

Space for Collaboration

From the quiet of concentration, ideas can migrate out of the solo mind and into collective thought, feedback, and co-creation.

Hughes Center, Las Vegas Photo Credit: Chris Ozer.

EQ’s 38-acre innovation hub at Hughes Center, Las Vegas, the “HC,” presents an entire campus and symbolic framework built with recruitment and collaboration as priorities. There are several layers of space for collaboration, including both indoor and outdoor social clubs, a center green for the campus, and an innovation hub.

Proximity is key to allow different groups access to one another during product innovation. Emerging talent from the University of Nevada Las Vegas Center for Entrepreneurship are on campus and in housing six to ten minutes away. In short range in every direction is the growing community of startups fueling Las Vegas’ ranking as one of the top cities for small business growth (largely tech and gaming).

Space for Community

Community spaces are the settings in which talent can come out of the isolation of concentration and collaboration and into more social settings. The shift toward larger group interaction allows creative exchange with a different feel and pace. “They need to break bread,” explains Picard.

Play District, Los Angeles, Photo Credit: Chris Ozer.

Once upon a time, EQ’s Playa District was a blank space with few amenities or shared spaces. It has been redesigned to blend coastal living with campus lifestyle, forging a neighborhood with a wide range of activities built to bring people together.  Enormous garage doors open to blend lobbies, rich with seating and a hospitality vibe, with the outdoors where farmers markets, pickleball, outdoor concerts, and after-work socials unfold. In the campus park, outdoor yoga creates community before and after class.

Assembly on 2, Boston Photo Credit: Chris Ozer.

At 100 Summer Street in Boston, an entire floor is dedicated to community in “Assembly on 2,” which Bloomberg called a “startup-style name” for a space with a start-up vibe. This designated gathering space is where crowds of co-workers can gather for a game of pool, ping pong, or foosball, depending on mood (and the crowds). Insiders will admit a huge draw for talent and spontaneous exchange are two bars: one with craft beers on tap and another that serves up artistic, barista-made coffee drinks.

Space for Convenience

No longer is work-life balance the goal, but the focus for forward thinking companies is work-life integration, which allows for all of it to flow seamlessly. Creating the space where this can happen is paramount to alleviating the stress of life administration – errands and things that need to get done outside of work, “at your fingertips,” as Picard puts it. Creating ease for talent equals convenience, which in turn, brings freedom to focus on creating their best work while at work.

The iconic Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) puts the focus on delivering that integrated, convenient experience. Key renovations express an approachable welcome leading from the street to the interior. A five-floor addition called Catalog will introduce all to services, restaurants, and activities curated to give tenants everything they need, right in the building, while an app gives them access to all the building amenities, with options to reserve services, book classes, and organize day-to-day life. Inside Willis Tower, specific floors host world-class fitness centers and cafes where that cup of designer coffee is literally at their fingertips (oat milk lattes are trending at Willis).

Catalog, Willis Tower, Chicago

If companies can woo talent with a culture that supports all of this, it may just be the winning edge needed to get the right person in the right job at the right time. From a recent Forbes article: “Your corporate culture will determine who you hire and for how long.”

And, to support that experience, the space that houses the culture must go beyond work space and embody “all the things” in a space, where co-learning and co-creation is optimized, relationships between co-workers deepen, and the call to succeed is palpable upon a first step in the door.

If the space upon entry can give a sneak peek at the culture that lies within, recruitment gets a head start, and the experiences in the space can continue to feed and support the invitation to be a part of something great. “We create the space that is like hardware, so the humans inside – the software – can be effective,” says Picard.

This is the alchemy – the 4Cs of Spatial Alchemy – the intelligent mix of intentional, purposeful, and flexible space every company needs today. The result is a unique culture and invitation for top talent to work, play, and stay... to continue to be inspired and create the magic.

Check out our video to learn more about the 4Cs of Spatial Alchemy from CEO Lisa Picard.