GL Hearn, working with Capita People Solutions, has devised the Talent Index: a way of bringing the two Ps – property and people – together to improve business and drive performance. Here, industry experts and thought leaders discuss the viability of correlating property strategy with talent.

GL Hearn panel debate

The panel (L-R): Adam Catchpole, Ann-Marie Aguilar, Doug Brown, chair Richard Williams, David Tourle and Max Holliday


  • Adam Catchpole– head of corporate consulting, GL Hearn 
  • Ann-Marie Aguilar – director of operations Europe, WELL Building Institute
  • Doug Brown – chief data scientist, Capita People Solutions
  • David Tourle – global benefits director, Boston Consulting Group
  • Max Holliday – director of real estate, WPP

GL Hearn, in partnership with Capita’s employee benefits team, has developed a proposition that puts people strategy ahead of property strategy, management and delivery.

The Talent Index is a measure of the optimum location and prospective workforce talent pool that can be used to support corporate decision-making and optimise investment both in people (to attract, engage and retain) and property (in occupancy, to support engagement and collaboration).

There are several components that make up the Talent Index: talent pools; local area values; commercial maturity; and benefits and compensation.

The index itself is expressed as a formula that produces a talent score, similar to a person’s credit score. That talent score can be created on a postcode basis indicating which particular locations are more favourable to, for example, base your business.

GL Hearn brought together a panel of industry experts and thought leaders to discuss whether it is possible to correlate talent with property strategy.

How will the Talent Index benefit businesses?

Doug Brown Capita People Solutions

Doug Brown, Capita People Solutions

DB: There are many different decisions being taken when businesses think about where to locate their offices. The main key decisions are cost and location. More thought is now going on where the talent is and how the business can access the talent that will help drive performance.

People and property don’t often come together in terms of making choices about where the optimum location for the business is. The blurring of personal and professional life has meant the workplace and home are much more integrated than ever before.

Businesses have to ask themselves: what is the nature of the building? Where should that be? How will it benefit the organisation, not only in terms of performance but also to attract, retain and incentivise talent and make sure that talent is performing correctly?

They need to think about the space and how it affects performance – the environment and the social interactions that fosters and the relationship between employer and employees. They need to look at wellbeing – the financial, physical and mental wellbeing of employees – and the impact that has on productivity and the business as a whole.

We asked ourselves: is there a way to create an index and map where the different talent is in the UK and can we bring together the property decision-makers with HR to actually get a better decision?

“We’re bringing the two Ps – property and people – together to get a better, sustainable organisation”

In essence, how can we bring the two Ps – property and people – together to get a better, sustainable organisation and drive performance? Against that background we came up with the Talent Index. The index provides an objective view across a set of variables to understand where the optimum office location would be depending on business purpose, available talent pool and economic variables that would affect the company in the region it invests in, to try to future-proof that decision around the property.

AC: There’s an opportunity for decision-makers within an organisation, at a management control level rather than a strategic level, to collaborate more closely together to allow the strategic level to make a more informed decision. I don’t think we are there yet but the message is starting to get through. This new data set for employers around a potential office move will result in better decisions.

Is the Talent Index something big multinational firms would use in their decision-making processes?

Max Holliday WPP

Max Holliday, WPP

MH: They would use any tool available to them. Talent is a big factor for any industry, as is retaining that talent.

There are a huge amount of factors that influence why people leave one employer and go to another, some of which is due to the basics such as pay and investment in training, but other things like the office you are working in and the environment within the office and location are moving up the priority list for employees.

Once you’ve attracted the talent, how do you retain it?

DT: From a Boston Consulting Group perspective, location is immensely important to us in attracting and retaining staff. We have a lot of employees who aren’t from the UK, so we know we have to be in London – that’s a primary driver – and being in a location in London that is known and is attractive to people that don’t know the city that well. So that’s crucial.

We’ve got lots of people who have been with the company for a long time. What I think drives longevity is the culture of the business, benefits and that collaborative environment.

DB: Culture is the driver behind attracting talent and retaining it and making it productive while it is there. Clearly that goes beyond the work environment, so the ability to support those individuals in terms of lifestyle perspective. Being able to look at a basket of different data variables to allow businesses to understand whether it is lifestyle, career opportunities, schools, the ability to travel and so on is very important.

That ability to look at data and be able to unpack that Russian doll and understand what the drivers behind staff loyalty are. Each demographic is different and that’s the difficulty to get the balance right. Working out the risk of moving offices and the value you may be creating or indeed destroying as a result of that move is what all businesses strive for.

Adam Catchpole David Tourle Ann-Marie Aguilar

Adam Catchpole, David Tourle and Ann-Marie Aguilar engage in debate

AMA: If you get the right talent and provide the right environment in which they feel cared for you actually find engagement grows; productivity and creativity grow. It sounds simple but if you look at the statistics, some companies have 36% engagement rates among their staff. So that simple message is not being received by a lot of companies. Their staff are either unhappy or are convincing other people to be unhappy.

If you’ve got the right talent and you want to keep them you’ve got to find out what makes them tick. What’s making Google pull staff away from a myriad of companies? It’s not the M&Ms in the corner; it’s engagement. They know what makes their employees tick, they provide flexibility and give them the space to work.

Who needs to be making the decision on the office environment?

AMA: For the longest time we’ve had facilities management, corporate real estate and HR operating their own silos. One of the first steps is getting them joined up. The data from HR on absentee rates, retention rates and what attracts employees should have a huge influence on the corporate real estate decision-making process. If you can understand what the impact of the current space is doing to your overall finance budget then you can understand where the right amounts of money need to be allocated.

DB: You’ve hit the nail on the head there. You’ve got to bring those silos together. It’s the only way businesses can get to the point where they are providing the type of environment that will attract, retain and get the best out of talent. If they don’t, the talent will migrate to companies that do provide it.

AMA: It would be interesting for companies to understand what the cost of not doing anything would be. That comes down to looking at the data you already have, looking at the cost of absenteeism on a building-by-building basis – what’s the cost of retention and attracting new staff? All the different departments need to come together and understand where they are weak and where they are strong and use that. The cost of doing that is minimal compared with the cost of doing nothing.

AC: The Talent Index will seek to offer occupiers a critical tool to help make those informed decisions.

CS_GL Hearn