Acceleration, one of the buzzwords to emerge from the pandemic, can be seen all around us – from the huge uptake of online shopping to changing working patterns forcing a rethink of office-space configurations.
As we start to trace a route back to normality, it is important that the industry takes lessons from the past and uses them as a springboard to move forward.
Change within the property industry is faster now than ever, and at Workman we have seen more change in the past five years than at any other point in almost four decades of the firm’s history.
One constant is the need to invest in future talent, both for the success of individual businesses and the growth of the wider industry. This is more vital than ever and is the reason that graduate training and apprenticeship programmes must continue, even under the current challenging circumstances.
People are the drivers of positive change. Nurturing future talent is essential as the property world rises to the manifold challenges set before it. The sector must reinvent itself through new people and fresh ideas in order to meet the demands now placed upon it.
Today’s challenges are intertwined and interdependent, with far-reaching consequences. However, the industry holds powerful tools for meeting environmental, societal and political goals. The creation of sustainable, healthy buildings and the drive to net zero is gathering pace, and the sector is beginning to meet its environmental responsibilities through real action.
It is reassuring to see our experts already advising clients on achieving net zero for many of their buildings, and through initiatives such as our partnership with the Natural History Museum’s Urban Nature Project we are demonstrating how biodiversity can be introduced to improve even the most concrete of environments.
The industry is also becoming more customer-focused, with the archaic landlord-tenant mindset being left behind in favour of a ‘whole-building’ approach to property management. Using an open, communicative approach to understand and meet customer needs will be key to moving forward in a synchronised manner.
The sector must put the future needs of customers at the centre of its strategies, and creatively reimagine and repurpose redundant property. Indeed, as companies are starting to become more diverse and investing in more diverse sectors, so too do they need specialist expertise. For instance, we are seeing more demand for project management insight from commercial investors funding residential developments, while local authorities are seeking more dedicated expertise as they prioritise town-centre regeneration projects.
The new tools afforded by technology are also allowing us to genuinely address some of these issues. Innovations in building-automation technology are offering a cost-efficient pathway to net-zero targets by optimising the operations of even older and smaller buildings – not just the trophy assets.
As we look with cautious optimism past our present challenging circumstances, it is important that the industry continues to embrace rapid evolution and all it has to offer. Covid-19 has forced many of us to review our short-term strategies, but we must be careful not to sacrifice our long-term goals.
This is why it is so crucial that we continue to invest in the future. By equipping graduates and young talent for leading roles in preparing buildings for a more sustainable and effective future, we will ensure that our future customers enjoy cleaner, brighter, more efficient places for decades to come.
David Workman is senior partner at Workman