Real Estate Partner Series: Maintaining a Strong Company Culture in the Midst of a Crisis

Guest Writer: Kimarie Ankenbrand, Raleigh/Durham Lead, Managing Director

Even before the pandemic, JLL was heavily focused on the human experience in the workplace. The impact a work environment has on employee fulfillment and engagement (which ultimately breeds culture) has historically elevated the role real estate plays in a company reaching their strategic business goals. Human experience is a key differentiator for how employees and clients alike engage with an organization – both strategically and operationally.

I believe we will emerge from the current crisis with the same mindset, now layering in the imperative to solve for the health and wellness of our employees more than ever before. “Workspaces will continue to play an important role for companies because people seek opportunities to interact with others and we know that innovation and creativity flourish when people can interact and work together. The important role the workplace plays in reinforcing company culture will not change – but it may look different”. JLL CEO, Christian Ulbrich

People are your most valuable asset. This is a guiding principle at JLL, which is why we take a people-first, real estate-second approach. Attention to culture is arguably one of the most important aspects of being a people-centric organization. And in moments of crisis, people need culture, they need to feel both connected and informed.

Our team has spent dozens of hours conversing with our clients and partners on how to maintain their culture in the midst of this ongoing crisis by putting the human experience first. The biggest takeaways and recommendations are as follows:

  • Be transparent –We are all navigating unchartered territories together and nobody has a roadmap for them, not even the most successful CEOs in the world. Let your team know the re-entry process may be clunky and cumbersome. There will likely be mistakes and learning opportunities along the way, but together you will adjust accordingly and push forward. Honesty will build comfort and trust.
  • Overcommunicate – Even when you think you have sent too many COVID email updates or hosted too many virtual calls with your people, continue to let your team know what the plan is. People are craving more information during these uncertain times. Communication will ease fears and anxiousness.
  • Connect personally – Technology will only take us so far. Emails, texts and virtual calls have played a very important role in the advancement of our society, but people still experience a rush of dopamine when receiving a hand-written note in the mail, a small care package left on their porch, or the gesture of a meal delivered from a favorite restaurant so they don’t have to cook dinner for the 7th time this week. A personal one-on-one phone call to simply check in will go a long way. These “old school” personal touches will foster a sense of belonginess and connection among your people.
  • Inspire – History tells us we will get back to flourishing, thriving and growing. In the meantime, we have to find glimmers of optimism in order to become inspired, which will lead to innovation as we propel out of the current situation. Be that source of optimism. I have found there is a very fine balance between being sensitive to the current realities and making sure your teams see the light at the end of the tunnel. Make sure to celebrate the little wins amongst teammates (extra mile moments, anniversaries, project achievements, etc.) while offering historical perspective: we have recovered and come out of downturns/crises better prepared for the future. Inspiration is contagious.

I moved my entire family from Dallas, Texas to Raleigh, North Carolina 18 months ago because of the culture-centric mindset of the leadership at JLL Carolinas and the rich community culture of the Triangle area. This current crisis is undoubtedly testing many aspects of the way we live and do business but attention to culture in our local Triangle community is what will propel us all into recovery and eventually prosperity and growth.

Download the free JLL guidebook that features navigating the “next normal” and the key pillars to re-entry, or visit their website to learn more about JLL Carolinas.



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