HqO’s acquisition of Office App last year brought together teams in Boston and Amsterdam, giving them both insights into new landlord and tenant markets.
Thijs van der Burgt – co-founder of Office App and now MD for global property solutions at HqO – sat down with PlaceTech at MIPIM last week to talk tenant engagement from an international perspective.
Tenant demands in the US vs Europe
The war for talent has been an issue for a longer time in the US than in European markets. Because there has been a war for talent for a longer time, there is much more focus on: how can we provide solutions to make sure that people can be retained?
The gap between your consumer life and how you are at work is becoming bigger and bigger. As a company or landlord, if you don’t adopt to that requirement, people will feel more uncomfortable and less connected to an individual brand or building.
Individual tenants are looking for that talent and to retain that talent, but also those individual tenants request and require specific services and amenities from individual landlords. In general, it trickles down to tenants and landlords. All of these requests and requirements are based on talent retention.
Europe catching up to the US
What we see in the European market is that the war for talent is now also becoming a real problem.
I think [it’s caused by] economic growth. There’s an insane amount of growth in our economies, both in the US and Europe, and that means more demand for work.
On the rise of HR in real estate strategy
Normally, it was the facilities manager or the real estate manager who were managing a company from a facilities perspective. What you now see is that the people who are managing these spaces are workplace experience managers, and these workplace experience managers, they report to HR.
It shows that workplace has become a very important part of HR. That change has been done due to the fact that they need to attract more talent.
These workplace experience managers, they start to look at implementing programmes to enable engagement. Is there technology that can service those requirements and make them more scalable and efficient? And that’s when they come to us.
Does real estate get what HqO does?
I think the [tenant] engagement part, yes. Providing actionable insights to our customers, yes. Do they understand where this market is going and what the possibilities are? No.
The interconnectivity, on a real-time basis, of different technology systems will basically automate this entire industry. I think everything will be changed due to centralisation of data.
[Real estate] is already seeing this. Looking at this MIPIM, for example, if you look at the square metres, although most of them are still in the dungeon [of the Palais], there’s more square metres of tech companies here than real estate.
On tech’s place in the ‘dungeon’ – and the future
They’re not happy in the basement. I was for four hours in the basement and today for three hours. I don’t like basements.
Speaking to some competitors the past few days, I think almost all of them said we believe that we have around 2-3% market penetration. This group of people will only increase if we go to 60, 70, 80% market share.
All of these organisations will become pretty big and I think there will be a requirement for separate events where you just solely focus on proptech. I think in this phase – where we are still in the adoption phase of technology – it’s extremely important that it’s combined, but I think it will be separated within a couple of years.
How is the merger going?
Most integrations fail, so we know that the only way for us to make this happen – or to make sure that we work together in an efficient, nice manner – was to open up to one another, and that meant change for everyone.
After a month we made a call and said: “Okay, we are going to centralise all of the departments ASAP.” As a result, there’s a lot of teams who are 30% Amsterdam and 70% Boston, and so there’s a lot of knowledge sharing, which is much more valuable than I was expecting.
We had a Christmas dinner that everyone went to. The entire organisation, whether from London, Paris, Amsterdam, Boston, New York, everyone went to Boston – one big party.
We’ve now set up a cadence where every department sees other people – from either Amsterdam in Boston or Boston in Amsterdam – on a monthly basis to make sure that we keep that connection high, organise dinners and events to also get to know each other.
If I get to know you, and we have to work together, it’s much more fun.