I have been studying and thinking about this concept of the Corporate Placemaker for some time now. I trace it back to our work on Raising The Bar, a global study for the RICS which, after more than 140 years of history, seemed to coincide with their awakening to the importance of Facilities Management (FM). But, take a look at the link path, and it is Home/Property/FacilitiesManagement. So, FM is still a subset of property (real estate, or ‘real property’). But, is it?
I can categorically state (as we are dealing in how to ‘categorize’) that whatever we decide the “corporate placemaker” may be, it is not just property/ real estate or facilities management. Property (real estate) is heavily biased towards ownership (as its very name suggests), and maximizing the benefits of ownership of some physical asset. It can easily be seen how little the real estate market and professions care about the ‘use value’ of property by the comparatively tiny proportion of media dedicated to the subject (a key reason for our launch of Work&Place, our journal, in 2012). And facilities management is such a nebulous term which I sincerely hope can be eventually replaced with something clear and meaningful.
I think we are all searching for what to call real estate and facilities management, working together, are we not? Corporate Real Estate is represented in research, with Corporate Real Estate Journal (Henry Stewart Publications), and Journal of Corporate Real Estate (Emerald). But what is the “subject area”? – Property Management & Built Environment. As is also Facilities and Journal of Facilities Management (both Emerald).
But what of place in the context of organizations, and the people who use spaces and places for some other reason than for the asset? There is a Journal of Place Management and Development (again, by Emerald), supported by the Institute of Place Management, a body that “supports people committed to developing, managing and making places better”. Sounds promising. And the concepts are promising for the future – such as marketing and branding of places (corporate marketing take note!), the consumption of place (yes, that is what occupiers do!), and place competitiveness (again, a subject of interest to HR and corporate executives in deciding how to support their efforts to win the ‘war for talent’). But, before I get you too excited, this whole subject is about cities and town centres generally. Take a look at one of the leading Masters courses in this field and that is immediately apparent. However, this course is positioned in the department of Marketing, Operations and Digital Business at MMU Faculty of Business and Law, which is a good start! It is all about the use of places, not the built environment as an asset.
Still, nothing yet for the use of places by organizations and their people. Research and teaching has yet to make much impact on the ‘supply-side centric’ thinking which abounds in the real estate and built environment disciplines. The world of the occupier, or ‘demand-side’, is under-represented.
This is why I am so focused on the term (and hopefully the emerging discipline of) the “corporate placemaker”. I hope you can see where I am coming from. This is wider than corporate real estate and facilities management. It must pick up some of the social sciences and business administration disciplines covered by “place management” above, but focus on corporate places rather than city public spaces and town centre management.
In fact, my PhD study is grappling with exactly what it is to be a corporate “placemaker”. Leading placemaking for an organization, rather than wider society in urban spaces. The subject areas are diverse, and may include the following:
- Organizations, Occupations and Work – sociological change, and the future of work;
- The ‘draw’ of places – perhaps ‘place appeal’?;
- The psychology of environment and behaviour (org. psych.);
- Strategy and competition (esp. in competing for talent, a key HR issue)
- Brand and image – marketing – the impact of place;
- The consumerization of everything – including ‘the place to be’ on any one day;
- The experience economy – not just place, but service, and experience;
- The health & wellness debate: stress, work-life balance and related issues;
- Workplace economics – cost vs value, taking all the above into account;
- Corporate places, home, and ‘third places’; coworking; hubs; collaboration; innovation;
- Home or away? – the only real human options (i.e., everyone choses either to stay at home, or to go somewhere… the default in the future may be to stay put! or work closer to where we live)
- Management, procurement and delivery of places for corporations, employees, and their networks.
- Relationships between the ‘placemaker’ team and the rest of the corporation & stakeholders.
- The future provision of corporate places – new market entrants?;
- A sustainable, low-carbon, low-stress future; we cannot continue the way we are today!
What would you call the management discipline which encompasses all of the above? The multi-faceted and strategically-minded role in large organizations, which moves between Group HR, operations, marketing, IT infrastructure planning, corporate real estate and facilities management?
(clue: the answer is not Facilities Manager. Though there is nothing to say that a good strategic-thinking FM could not develop into this role! But then, so could a good HR manager….)
Happy Christmas all… and our very best wishes for 2016.
Co-Founder, Occupiers Journal Limited