The Leader Magazine

MAR 2019

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10 March 2019 the leader F E A T U R E A R T I C L E Sili con Valley: a model of technology-driven workplace innovation by Noam Livnat S ilicon Valley can be an outlandish place, a surreal mix of a future that has arrived early and a future that may not (and maybe should not) happen. From the driverless cars that already roam the streets of Mountain View, Google's home, to CryptoKitties, a blockchain-based breeding ground for collectible virtual kittens, Silicon Valley pushes the boundaries of the imaginable and the possible. Crazy fads aside (Google glasses, anyone?), Silicon Valley is often a harbinger of things to come. That certainly is the case for the workplace. Over the last few years, many Silicon Valley-based companies have made substantial changes to how they manage the workplace, setting off a trend that appears to be spreading globally. Silicon Valley isn't the only source of workplace innovation of course; far from it. European companies have pioneered many flexible work concepts and WeWork, the co-working giant, is based in New York City. Nevertheless, Silicon Valley's dynamism, cut-throat competition for talent, openness to technology, and willingness to experiment have made it a great place to observe the evolution of the workplace. Innovative companies now use the workplace as a competitive advantage. Visible aspects of the workplace – such as hip interior design and amenities ranging from free snacks and meals to gyms and laundry services – help with recruiting and retention. As a tech worker in her mid-30s recently confided in me, "I wanted to join a company that would feed me so I won't have to worry about it." But taking good care of employees doesn't have to come with a hefty price tag. Providing mouthwash, toothbrushes, and hand lotion in the bathrooms can go a long way, too, and is now de rigueur across Silicon Valley. Beyond the easily visible, innovative companies often focus on three key workplace fronts to maintain a competitive advantage: operational flexibility, employee experience (independent from amenities), and data-driven planning. And while technology isn't the sole enabler for these, it plays a key role. Stretched real estate, facilities, and workplace teams (understaffing in these groups is as common in Silicon Valley as it is elsewhere) rely on technology as a force- multiplier to support their companies, which often have distributed, global footprints and agile mindsets. This comes naturally in a tech-forward culture and it's aided by the fact that, especially in rapidly growing companies, a new generation of tech- savvy facilities and real estate managers are in key positions. Technology at the heart of it all The first key step to leveraging technology to optimize and scale workplace management is digitization. No sales organization worth its salt operates without Salesforce or an equivalent cloud platform. No self-respecting IT organization runs without ServiceNow or a similar solution. Similarly, workplace, facilities, and real estate teams are now going digital. Digitization benefits everyone: it streamlines the work of the workplace and facilities teams; it improves employee experience; and it generates the data the teams need for strategic decision- making. And when they go digital, innovative companies up their game in how they manage the workplace. One key shift is managing people rather than square footage. As activity-based workplaces (ABW), neighborhoods, and open floor plans have taken root, companies have shifted focus from managing area to managing people. For example, many companies no longer obsess about untenable polylining,

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