Agencies look to next generation for their office space needs
A growing number of insurance agencies today are striving to redefine their office spaces in an effort to reap the benefits of the “workplace of the future” – such as attracting and retaining quality talent, fostering a more collaborative work environment, providing better client and partner service, and accessing the latest technologies.
However, insurance agencies are also recognizing that the process of obtaining a next-generation workplace is far more complex than simply relocating to a more modern space in a trendier part of town.
Following is some insight and methodology proven to help insurance agencies of all sizes navigate the complexities of aligning their office spaces with their business goals.
First, some background: Insurance agency owners today are more focused on the design and location of their offices because they are recognizing the impact on their companies’ bottom lines. The right office space can significantly improve productivity, collaboration, cross selling and cohesion, and enhance a company’s ability to attract and retain quality talent, particularly millennials. The office space also is an important part of the overall brand experience, as internal and external stakeholders will be influenced by the look, feel, and utility of the space.
Our experience working with insurance agencies and the latest studies on workplace design confirm that the insurance industry is adopting innovative space plans incorporating lots of natural light and open space, office layouts that foster collaboration, and innovative workspace configurations to accommodate diverse work processes and projects. In addition, many insurance companies are incorporating high-tech amenities in individual workspaces, such as media walls in professionals’ offices, as well as in common areas, such as high-tech conference facilities to connect employees with clients and partners across the state, country and globe.
However, insurance agencies are encountering some challenges in their pursuit of next-generation office space, most notably: internal issues building consensus, understanding their own needs and identifying the right design to support their unique business objectives. The conflicts are more significant for larger insurance companies that have multiple generations represented within their leadership, resulting in differing visions for the companies and the office styles that best align to their missions.
In great measure, these conflicts stem from the fact that insurance agencies historically have embraced more traditional décor and have kept executives working behind the closed doors of their large offices. Meanwhile, today’s new generation of insurance professionals is interested in something quite different: more modern-looking environments with open, collaborative office layouts and the flexibility to work remotely.
Without a doubt, the insurance agencies that are navigating these internal conflicts and securing appropriately designed office spaces are enjoying significant benefits. How are they achieving this? Among other things, they are taking their office moves more seriously than in years past, and rather than merely hiring commercial real estate advisors based on personal relationships, they are hiring them based on criteria including insurance industry experience, local market insight, and a proven methodology to guide them through the process. They are working closely with these advisors to conduct thorough qualitative and quantitative analyses, build internal consensus and follow a proven methodology to create dynamic office environments that support their unique needs.
It is helpful to focus on a base set of criteria from the outset, including:
1. Your agency’s brand identity and strategic business goals. This should be a key driver as you evaluate your options either at your existing space or at another location. The exercise will facilitate internal dialogue on who you are as a company, and who you want to become.
Some key questions to consider:
•What type of talent do you want to attract and retain?
• Are you interested in attracting a younger generation of millennials who are motivated by collaboration and flexibility within a company?
• Do you wish to be known as a traditional, conservative company or as an innovative, forward-thinking company?
• What types of clients and partners are you targeting?
2. Your financial goals. It is critical to consider your budget, the amount you are currently spending on your space and the amount you would ideally be comfortable spending. It is important to keep in mind that an experienced commercial real estate broker can help you find the optimal space that better meets your needs while significantly reducing your occupancy costs.
Do not assume that bigger offices will necessarily cost more. On the contrary, by implementing an efficient workplace design, an insurance company can often reduce its footprint and maintain ample room for growth while increasing productivity. Ultimately, the key is to get the space right by working with experts who can help you find creative solutions that are customized to your needs.
3. Your company culture. It is important to consider how you want your team, clients and partners to experience your office. How do you want people to feel when they arrive and leave your office? What is the first impression you want your clients and partners to experience when they arrive? Do you want a high-end corporate reception area that “wows” and impresses visitors upfront, or do you want a warm, welcoming area that makes visitors feel comfortable and at home?
What about your executives and staff members? When they enter your office, are they traveling through a brightly lit, open area that facilitates interaction among team members? How would elements like more natural light and communal areas impact your office dynamics?
Within your office, do you want to foster more cross selling between divisions and provide access to the latest technologies? Would your clients, partners and other stakeholders appreciate access to state-of-the-art conference rooms where they can conduct virtual meetings with people anywhere in the world?
Increasingly, we are seeing insurance agencies focused on establishing cultures that promote collaboration, as well as adopting shared workspace concepts where executives and staff members can come together, have meaningful conversations, and create the deep collaboration that only comes when you have a space that truly enables people to connect face-to-face. This higher level of collaboration and communication is proving to enable insurance professionals to better serve their clients and boost employee satisfaction. It also serves as an effective tool for recruiting and retaining the right talent, especially millennials as the next generation of industry leaders.
• Thoughts about the article, or about your own office space situation? Please visit this new thread and poll: Office Space: How’s Yours?
Next page: Decision-makers, advisors and the 3 Phases
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