Leesman on boosting the effectiveness of the American workplace
In late December 2015, Leesman CEO Tim Oldman was asked to present at a roundtable event for over 100 American and global real estate executives. A mere month later, following a wave of interest, Leesman landed in the US with a permanent home in New York City. Since then, we have actively engaged with an array of North American businesses, spanning a wide variety of sectors and sizes, due to a new and improved focus on the importance of the workplace and its link to organizational performance.
As a global, independent think-tank, Leesman measures how effectively a workspace supports the activities undertaken within the built environment in question, and our survey has been designed to accurately record employee satisfaction levels with over ninety workplace features and services. We have spoken to more than 155,000 employees across the globe and the latest data has revealed that office environments can and do hinder productivity. The failings of a space also impact employee engagement, health and wellbeing and, ultimately, talent retention and staff turnover - not to mention profit margins.
Europe, particularly Scandinavia, is viewed as one of the thought leaders when it comes to workplace effectiveness. However, the USA is one of the world’s top global innovators, only pipped to the post by Japan (Thomson Reuters Derwent Word Patents Index), and this natural wave-making ability appears to be evident in the approach to creating workplaces that work. The Leesman Index data, amassed from our work with American businesses, reveals that the USA has scored eight percent higher in employee satisfaction than Europe when it comes to creating productive work environments.
That being said, our research has revealed that employees on both sides of the pond are increasingly looking for a variety of workspaces, including social, informal areas to collaborate and communicate with colleagues - yet their employers are failing to provide them. So although the US has begun to take the reins on the subject, it’s clear that more work needs to be done.
What we see in the highest performing organizations that we’ve worked with is the investment in choice. These businesses are creating the right environments for their people - and they have only achieved this by understanding the needs of their workforce. It’s not just about plonking people at a desk and hoping for the best; the key is offering a range of spaces that suit the various activity portfolios within an organization.
From our conversations so far, American business leaders are bracing themselves for a deeper delve into the components of a workplace that can help their organizations flourish. Businesses dotted along the East Coast are crying out the loudest, and we chose New York as our base so we can easily access and respond to the influx of requests coming in. We’re currently in talks with entrepreneurial leaders in New York, Toronto, Boston, DC and Philadelphia, as well as other cities along the D.C. corridor. These are the most densely populated cities in terms of building stock and employees. The physicality of Manhattan, for example, has created a largely vertical city and although the stereotypical view of New York is a varied collection of gleaming towers, the reality is that the majority of buildings are around 70 years old, with old and extremely challenging infrastructures.
The main challenge faced by businesses in these areas is the cost of space. Given the soaring price of CRE, businesses need to be increasingly savvy about creating work environments that support employees in their day-to-day roles, regardless of the limitations posed, if they’re to succeed. And when square footage is squeezed to breaking point, it’s imperative to maximize the offering of the space. Having powerful data at your fingertips to make informed decisions is crucial - hence the newfound drive to explore the link between workspace, real estate and productivity.
This is the reason why we are having a lot of conversations around the adoption of Activity Based Working (ABW) models. There’s a new wave of curiosity here in North America and Canada about the potential of such work environments. In order to respond to this interest and offer invaluable insight, Leesman has recently undertaken an extensive research project in partnership with IFMA Sweden on ABW and Employee Mobility - particularly how it actually works in practice. The results of the research, harvested over 70,000 employee responses, were presented at a Data Deep Dive event on the 23rd of June at our NY offices. This offers business leaders a new way of thinking about unharnessing the potential of their workspace.
One thing is clear – we are in an era of unprecedented complexity and transformation. Thanks to rapid advances in technology and the emergence of new ways of working, the traditional workplace as we know is undergoing a period of constant evolution. Along with this shift in the nature of work, organizations are increasingly looking for business strategies that fuel growth and competitive advantage. Some of our clients are looking to expand or consolidate their US-Global portfolios so investment in a data driven strategy is essential for focused change, as is creating environments that fully support employees in their daily activities. Space is essentially a tool that will allow organizations to gain returns on their RE investment.
Now we have a base here in New York, we are looking forward to our continued work with American organizations in the drive to optimize the efficiency of work environments, and to contribute towards the ever-evolving dialogue and debate concerning the world of work.
by Eleanor Forster, MD of Leesman North America
Read the July 2016 issue of Business Review USA & Canada magazine
Six issues at the top of tax and finance leaders’ agenda
New Deloitte research reveals that tax leaders are under increasing pressure to add strategic value as companies accelerate business model transformation, from undergoing digital transformations to rethinking their supply chains or investing in green initiatives.
According to Phil Mills, Deloitte Global Tax & Legal Leader, to “truly deliver value to the business, the tax function needs to rethink its resourcing model and transform its technology infrastructure to create capacity and control costs”.
And the good news, according to Mills, is that tax and business leaders have more options at their disposal to achieve this.
Reflecting the insights of global tax and finance executives at global companies, Deloitte’s Tax Operations in Focus study reveals the six issues at the top of tax and finance leaders’ agenda.
Trend 1: Businesses seek more strategic counsel from tax
Companies are being pushed to develop new digital products and distribution channels and accelerate sustainable transformation and this is taking them into uncharted tax territory. Tax leaders say their teams must have the resources and skills to give deeper advisory support on digital business models (65%), supply chain restructuring (49%) and sustainability (48%) over the next two years. This means redrawing the boundaries of what tax professionals focus on, and accelerating adoption of advanced technologies and lower-cost resourcing models to meet compliance requirements and free up time.
According to Joanne Walker, Group Tax Director, BT Group PLC, "There’s still a heavy compliance load today, but the vision for the future would be that much of that falls away, and tax people become subject matter experts who help program the machine, ensure quality control, and redirect their time to advisory activity.”
Trend 2: Tipping point for resourcing models
Business partnering demands in the tax department are on the rise, but 93% of tax leaders say their department’s budget is remaining flat or falling. To ensure that the tax function can redefine itself as a strategic function at the pace that is required, leaders are choosing to move increasing amounts of compliance and reporting to a combination of shared service centers, finance departments, and outsourcing providers that have invested in best-in-class technology.
Trend 3: Digital tax administration is moving faster than expected
in addition to the rising focus of the corporate tax department partnering with their business counterparts, transformative changes to the way companies share tax information with revenue authorities is also creating an imperative to modernize operations at a faster pace. Nine in 10 (92%) respondents say that shifting revenue authority demands on digital tax administration will have a moderate or high impact on tax operations and resources over the next five years—and several heads of tax said the trend is moving faster than expected.
"It’s really stepped up in the last couple of years," says Anna Elphick, VP Tax, Unilever. "Tax authorities don't just want a faster turnaround for compliance but access into a company’s systems. It's not unreasonable to think that in a much shorter time than we expect, compliance will be about companies reviewing a return that's been drafted by the tax authorities."
Trend 4: Data simplification and lower-cost resourcing are top priorities
Tax leaders said that simplifying data management (53%) and moving to lower-cost resourcing models (51%) must be prioritized if tax is to become more proactive at delivering strategic insights to the business. Many tax teams are ensuring that they have a seat at the table as ERP systems are overhauled, which is paying dividends: 56% of those that have introduced NextGen ERP systems are now highly effective at supporting the business with scenario-modeling insights. Only 35% of those with moderate to low use of NextGen ERP systems said the same.
At Stryker, “we automated the source P&L process for transfer pricing which took a huge burden off of the divisions," says David Furgason, Vice President Tax. "Then we created a transfer price database to deposit and retrieve data so we have limited impact on the divisions. We are moving to a single ERP platform which will help us make take the next step with robotics.”
Trend 5: Skillsets are shifting
Embedding a new data infrastructure and redesigning processes are critical for the future tax vision. Tax leaders are aligned — data skills (45%) and technology process experience (43%) are ‘must have’ skills in a tax department of the future, but more traditional tax specialist knowledge also remains key (40%). The trick to success will be in tax leaders facilitating the way these professionals, with their different backgrounds, can work together collectively to unlock lasting value.
Take Infineon Technologies, which formed a VAT technology and governance group "that has the right knowledge about how to change the system to ensure it generates the right reports", according to Matthias Schubert, Global Head of Tax. "Involving them early was key as we took a greenfield approach, so we could think about what the optimal processes would look like and how more intelligent systems could make an impact
Trend 6: 2020 brought productivity improvements
Improved productivity (50%) and accelerating shifts to remote working (48%) were cited as the biggest operational benefits to emerge from COVID-19-driven disruption. But, as 78% of leaders now plan to embed either hybrid or fully remote models in the tax function long term, 34% say maintaining productivity benefits is a top concern. And, as leaders think about building their talent pipeline and strengthening advisory skill sets, 47% say they must prioritize new approaches to talent recognition and career development over the next two years, while 36% say new processes for involving tax in business strategy decisions must be established.