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Technology is fast catalysing social, cultural and organisational change. Ultimately, this is challenging and reshaping how, where and when companies operate.

In a joint piece of research, JLL and Unwork have taken a detailed look at the ways technological transformation is impacting businesses and their real estate. Stimulated by the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT), robotics and wider technological advances, office buildings will undergo radical change and become more crucial than ever to talent management and business success.

As businesses get ready to ride this new wave of disruption and digitise their organisations and workplaces, HR teams will play a key role in designing resilient management strategies that place employees’ shifting behaviours at the very core.

The organisation reorganised

The work that companies do and the way they do it is changing. The use of freelancers, consultants and contingent workers, sourced via virtual marketplaces, is becoming increasingly common. At the same time, the more process-driven elements of work will increasingly be automated through artificial intelligence (AI) solutions. This means that the companies of the future will be leaner and more dispersed, allowing their employees to focus more narrowly on value creation.

With the nature of work changing, sourcing the right talent is vital. Technology already defines the way different generations work. Digital natives – the early adopters of digital – are entering the workforce and the upcoming generation of digital dependents – those “born on the Internet” – will be the first true technology-dependent cohort. They will be vital in helping businesses navigate the changes ushered in by the tech revolution. Moreover, real estate will become a crucial tool in attracting and retaining the best as the competition for talent intensifies.

User experience will take primacy in the selection of office space. Companies who will secure the best talent, will place greater emphasis on employee experience, creating a workspace where people want to collaborate and engage. However, while a leaner a more dispersed businesses structure will require less physical space and owned real estate, core locations must be attractive ‘places to be’ as they will play a key role in talent attraction and retention.

 Smart workplaces defined by data

Next generation Building Management Systems (BMS) will give companies access to a plethora of data that can be used to cement the link between building performance and business objectives. Operational and tactical management of workplaces will be delegated to algorithms that will support the productivity of staff. For example, buildings will be able to marry building usage data with information about individual staff movements and work habits to engineer collaboration between staff members, increasing cooperation and driving business success.

Smart buildings will be able to monitor individual devices (such as TVs, PCs, and lighting) via Power over Ethernet technology. The most innovative workplaces have already embedded some of these solutions in their management systems – such as Deloitte’s The Edge, in Amsterdam. Elsewhere, a leading American bank used sociometric badges to identify why some of their call centre employees were more productive than others –realising that the most productive employees were those that took breaks together, the bank rescheduled employees’ breaks to maximise interactions and saw a 10 per cent increase in productivity.

In the near future, sensors will compile data on space usage within the office building, which will change the very way workplaces are designed. The analysis of this data will reveal crucial information on work patterns and people’s behaviours within the building, which will enable HR teams to tailor a business strategy that places individuals’ needs at the very core of it. Put simply, buildings will adapt to fulfil employees’ needs, rather than their behaviour being driven by the building in which they work.

The future of work

Navigating the changes set to take place will be a challenge for even the most forward-thinking of firms. Being a successful company in the future will be more demanding than it was in the past.

The companies that will benefit from this disruption will be those adopting a change of mindset, ensuring their businesses are ‘tech-ready’. Investing in the right talent and planning towards a more intelligent management of space will become key in talent retention and attraction strategies as the current and next generation of workers come to expect greater personalisation and choice.