Adam Hoy is Vice President, Head of Worldwide Real Estate & Facilities at GSK, a global pharmaceutical and heathcare company based in the United Kingdom. Mike Petrusky asks Adam about the life of an American living in London while they explore common interests around the future of work and the changing workplace. They discuss new expectations of the workforce and the challenges ahead as corporate leaders must deliver more choice and flexibility while building guardrails around the organization and its mission. Mike and Adam agree that workplace leaders must be prepared to lead with strategies that put people first while also leveraging technology tools that can provide the data needed to manage real estate and also deliver a great employee experience.
Ep. 166: The Future of Real Estate, The Evolving Workplace and Creating a Great Employee Experience
Full Episode Transcript:
Mike: This is the Workplace Innovator Podcast, where we talk with corporate real estate and facility management leaders about the industry trends and technologies impacting your organization. This show is powered by iOFFICE, the leading employee experience focused IWMS software that delivers real- time data and mobile tools to help you intelligently manage your digital workplace. Hey, folks. Mike P. here welcoming you to Episode 166 of the Workplace Innovator Podcast. Thanks for tuning in. If it’s your first time joining us, welcome. We’ve got a great guest this week. Adam Hoy of GSK and I recently had a great conversation, and I’m sure you’re going to find it very interesting. I couldn’t get it under 20 minutes, so it’s a supersized episode of the show. Let’s get right to it. Calling in today on the Workplace Innovator hotline, joining us from across the pond in London, England, I am pleased to welcome Adam Hoy to the show. Hello, Adam.
Adam Hoy: Hi, Mike. Glad to be with you today.
Mike: Adam is head of worldwide real estate and facilities at GSK, a global pharmaceutical and healthcare company based in the UK. Adam, we had a chance to talk a little before this recording and you’ve got a great story. You’re in London now, but you’re an American, right?
Adam Hoy: Yeah, that’s right. Lucky enough to have been here twice now. So, I started my career at Pfizer and went through a couple of different companies, but I’ve been in London twice. I was here with Unilever for close to three years and I’ve been here with GSK for about two and a half now so almost a combined five years now in the UK.
Mike: Awesome. And we connected via LinkedIn after. Did you stumble into one of my podcasts or webinars or what was it?
Adam Hoy: Yeah, I did. So, I’ve listened to quite a few. I think we’ve both been in CoreNet and other organizations and a lot of the guests that you have on I’m familiar with. So, I’ve listened to quite a few and I’ve found them, the ones I’ve listened to, all really good.
Mike: Excellent. All right. Well, I appreciate that, and I’m really glad to have you. Before we get too far, why don’t you tell us just briefly how you ended up where you are today.
Adam Hoy: Yeah, that’s an interesting question. So, I started my career in procurement and my first couple of years, I did a lot of work for the real estate group, for the facilities team, for our construction teams, and I really learned a lot about the corporate real estate industry, all aspects of it. Managing suppliers, setting up big global contracts. And over time, I eventually just started doing projects in the corporate real estate space.
So, towards the end of my time with Pfizer, I had the opportunity to go to Unilever and jump in directly into the corporate real estate team. So, I spent about six years at Unilever. I led the corporate real estate team looking after transactions and strategy. I had an opportunity to lead the operations team in the Americas and then looked after facility management strategy, capital programs, and basically a center of excellence at Unilever.
Then spent a little bit of time at Nestle looking after a large global facilities management outsourcing program, which was really interesting. Had the opportunity to go to a lot of different countries I hadn’t been to. Tried to put in a good FM service in some remote manufacturing plants across the world, which was great. And then had the opportunity to come to GSK to lead the worldwide real estate and facilities team about two and a half years ago. So been in the industry, around the industry for a long time. I’ve gotten to see many different aspects of it, which has been great.
Mike: Very cool. And your experience and expertise is certainly something that my audience will be anxious to hear about during these fascinating times. And I know we have a lot to talk about. But Adam, you’ve heard the show. Before we get there, I’ve got to ask you a personal question. What kind of music gets you inspired?
Adam Hoy: It’s a great question and prepped for it as I had heard the show before. I would say I’m generally a rock guy. I guess it would be called classic rock now, but when I was growing up, Van Halen was my band, but that eventually morphed into alternative rock, I guess you could say, in the early and mid 90s. But rock really, any type of rock from classic to alternative. I would say Van Halen, that type of rock, is really my music.
Mike: Give me a favorite Van Halen song.
Adam Hoy: Favorite Van Halen song? That’s a good one. “Running with the Devil,” first song, first album. I think you can’t beat that.
Adam Hoy: So, I’d say that’s always a winner. Nailed it.
Mike: Van Halen in the house, folks. Good, good stuff. Love it. I got to ask you now a controversial question because I’m always curious about my friends in the UK and what they think of this topic. It’s important to me. Star Wars or Star Trek.
Adam Hoy: Yeah, it’s interesting. I don’t know if I can credibly answer for my fellow UK residents. I could answer as a child growing up in the US and it would be Star Wars for me.
Adam Hoy: I think what’s happened recently with the newer films, I think it’s been great. I have two young kids and they haven’t seen Star Wars yet, but I think it’s a good opportunity to get them introduced to the whole franchise.
Mike: Yes. Anybody who listens to this show knows that I’m a huge Star Wars nerd and you’re right. The fact that Disney took over and breathed a bunch of new life into the franchise, there’s so much great material. All right, favorite Star Wars character. Got to ask you.
Adam Hoy: Favorite Star Wars character. I’d say Darth Vader.
Adam Hoy: I mean, old school. He’s the first one that comes to mind, so I don’t think you can beat Darth Vader.
Mike: One of the best cinematic villains ever. Luke. All right, let’s turn a corner here, Adam, and inspire the audience. We are living through some challenging times. I love to share motivational quotes. Do you have a favorite one you can offer?
Adam Hoy: I can. Tony Robbins is the guy that I probably go back to when I need inspiration, and I’ve got probably 10 or 15 of his quotes written down that I toggle through when I need some inspiration. But one that I wrote down for today because I think it’s something that I come back to quite a bit is people who fail focus on what they have to go through. People who succeed focus on what it will feel like at the end. And that’s something for me that when things are tough and we’re trying to get through something, whether it’s work- related, a project, a change of some type, we tend to focus on what’s right in front of us and we get bothered by that. But we don’t focus on what we’re trying to get to. Yeah, it helps me shift my mind to go to that endpoint and I use it with my teams as well, just to keep that focus on the distance to make sure that we’re really thinking about what we’re trying to achieve.
Mike: I like it. Yeah, keep our eyes on the prize. Very cool. Well, let’s get to the subject at hand. We have an audience of workplace innovators very interested in understanding your perspective on the world today. In fact, here we are. I can’t believe it, Adam, the middle of 2021. What are the trends in the world of real estate and facility management that you are most focused on and thinking about today?
Adam Hoy: Yeah, it’s a good question. I think it’s really not that dissimilar to what the focus was before the pandemic, but it just sped up. I think a lot of people have said that over the last 18 months, but I think it’s really true. The teams that I’ve been working on and leading have really been looking at what we can do to continue to make space a competitive advantage for our company. So the purpose of space, why are we using space, and why are people coming to the space that we’re creating. So in terms of what the focus is on or the trends, it’s really the use of space and how will we use the office going forward if that’s the space that we’re focusing on. As many people have said, going to more of a collaborative environment, people will choose to work remotely, whether that’s at home or some sort of touchdown space when they have a day full of maybe calls or things they can do without engaging other people. But we think that they’ll want to come into collaborative- type space to be able to work with their teams. I would say the trend that we’re looking at is what really is the purpose of the office and how do we make sure that we’re creating an atmosphere and environment that people want to come into to collaborate in.
Mike: Absolutely agree and it’s something we’re all trying to figure out. So I’ve got to ask you, Adam, what is the purpose of the office? We’ve learned a lot over this past what is it now? 15 months or so of a pandemic experience, a forced experiment of remote work and distributed work for many organizations that was new. Was flexible work part of your culture before the pandemic hit?
Adam Hoy: Yeah, it was. I think from flex working, it could mean a lot of different things to a lot of different companies. But I think this, as you said, the experiment that we’ve all been partaking in over the last 15 months has allowed us to gather a lot more data to figure out how to shape it the right way. And I don’t think any of us know exactly how this is going to play out, but we definitely have a lot of data points.
We have a lot of input from our people. We’ve got a lot of white papers and I think the service providers in our industry have done a remarkable job really putting together a lot of research and opinions that we’ve all been going through over the last year or so. Yeah, I think bringing all this information together and then figuring out the strategy and then starting to trial it as we start to come back into our offices is going to be the key. But the question,” What is the purpose of the office?” I think one, it’s definitely going to be the place to collaborate. People want to come in, they want to work with other people, they want to be around each other, so it’s going to be a place where people could come and connect with each other and collaborate. I think that’s one. The office to me is going to be a representation of your brand and your culture. I think going back in my experience, when I worked at Nestle, the first six months or so, I worked remotely.
The team I worked for or on was based in Switzerland, and I sat at my house in South Carolina, and it was really tough to get into the culture of the company. And I did a decent amount of travel to go into different offices and really get the feel of it. But as a new joiner during that time period, it took me a while to really understand the culture of the company. So, I think going forward, what the purpose of the office or any workplace will be, will be to create that culture and to create the brand and create the sense of purpose that people are going to be a part of. Now, it won’t mean that people will be in those spaces every day, but it will be a place for them to come and be immersed in that culture, if you will. And if we build the buildings the right way and the environment the right way, we can make it that cultural beacon that we can bring people back to. That’s really what I think it will be, and I think that’s how our offices will be, will move on from here.
Mike: Yeah, I agree. I know that’s what my audience of workplace leaders is focused on and trying to impact in their organizations. You mentioned surveys too, and I have a theory on this, Adam, the fact that human beings are interesting creatures, and we are sometimes hard to figure out. And I always start with myself first and figure if I’m experiencing certain emotions or feelings or challenges, others must be going through it as well. We still don’t know what we still don’t know and until people are given the opportunity to behave and put actions to their stated opinions, we really won’t know what the next phase of our workplace experience looks like, meaning I want to go back and collaborate and do all those things you talked about, and I look forward to that. But over this period of time, all these new habits have been formed and there’s a level of comfort in now being adapted to the work from home experience. And I know it’s better that I go back and I get more energy and creativity, and I’m more innovative when I’m with other people in person. But part of me is going to be debating, “Hey, let’s just stay back here for a while and re- engage publicly.” Is that something you think is going to be a real challenge for us going forward?
Adam Hoy: I do, and I think it’s right. If we step back and just think about the workplace pre- pandemic and then think about some of the data points we’ve been gathering as we’ve been in the pandemic. If you look at data and company agnostic, and some companies are better than others, but in terms of turn- up rate utilization, whatever you want to call it, if you’re at 70% at any given day, that’s pretty good in terms of utilization of your buildings pre- pandemic. I know a lot of buildings globally in a lot of different companies are less than that.
So I think making assumptions that if you go from, and I’m making this up, but if you go from 70 or 60% down to 50, I don’t think that’s a huge jump in thinking that there’s going to be a change in terms of how many people are coming in on any given day. I think you could be almost working at it from both sides. Fully agree, we’ve got to wait to see what people do and how they actually respond. But I do think that if we look at our space, we probably had too much space to begin with. And there’s the natural evolution of looking to make sure that we’ve got the right amount of space for what we’re trying to do and the activities that we’re trying to do as an organization. I guess the point is fully agree that we’ve got to wait to see what happens, but I think using those two data points and both sides of the equation, I think could help us.
The other thing that I would offer up, I was on a CBRE call the other day and saw some research. They looked at the hybrid work environment and called one, the corporate- led hybrid work environment and the other, the employee- led hybrid model. And most companies are looking at it from a corporate perspective, meaning the corporation is going to say,” Here’s how we work and this is how we’re going to situate ourselves going forward.” Versus a smaller percentage of companies actually giving it over to the employees, completely saying,” You tell us how you want to work.” So I think where we’re at is we’re still going to see a lot of companies, I don’t want to say dictate, that might sound too harsh, but they’re going to put together the ground rules or guardrails around how people can work. It will be more of a give, I think, than in the past. So, as you said, there will be people that maybe they were five days a week in the office before. Now they’ve realized that, “Hey, they like getting up, doing some different things, maybe getting their kids off to school.”
So they might come in less. But I think there’s going to be that meet in the middle somewhere where you’re going to have the corporate push to say,” Yep, we still want to maintain our culture. We want people in a certain number of times a week or times a month or whatever the guard rails might be.” But I think between those two, and then my first point on how we were actually utilizing the buildings pre- pandemic, to me that tells me that we’re going to have smaller footprints, they’re going to be more collaborative. But I think there’s going to be that element of senior business leaders saying in order to be productive, we still need to do this, whatever that is. And for one company, it might be three days a week or it might be a certain number of times a month. I think we’re going to see both sides of it coming out of this.
Mike: Yes, people’s expectations have changed and what they think they want has changed potentially. But corporate cultures will drive how much flexibility and choice people are given. And really, you mentioned the word guardrails. That is something that’s important because I think that leaders need to lead, and in the workplace, especially, we’re going to want to have an organization that puts people first. Yes, gives us flexibility and choice. But I also want people to lead me along with the team to this bigger, the goal, the mission, the connectedness, all those things are things that are important to all of us. Am I onto something there?
Adam Hoy: No, agreed. Agreed. And I’ll give you an example. I think I forgot what year it was, but a few years back, the CEO of Yahoo made headlines and it was something that reverberated in the industry for quite a while when she called everybody back into the office where they had some sort of flexible work policy. And I think the headlines were the CEO has brought everybody back into the workplace. But if you read deeper into the reasoning, her reasoning was they weren’t being successful.
They weren’t accomplishing what they needed to accomplish. So, it wasn’t so much the evil hand of the corporation coming in and cracking down on flexibility. It was the business thought that they weren’t achieving their goals. And one of the reasons why was because people weren’t actually working when they weren’t at work, right?
I think, to me, it’s a bigger discussion around how do you ensure productivity and I think there’s some cultures out there that can be very productive with people working remotely and others that may not be to that level yet. So that company needs to put the guardrails around itself to make sure that the productivity and the outputs are where they need to be. It could be iterative for some companies where you try something and maybe it’s a couple of days a week or a few times a month, whatever it might be. And if it works and you get the right feedback, productivity is where it needs to be, customers are happy, et cetera, then you maybe go a little bit farther. I think just making a broad statement to say this is how it should be, you really need to understand what works for specific companies, and I don’t think it’s a one size fits all type answer to that.
Mike: Great insight there, Adam, because it’s a complex system, the workplace. And culture is something that does not have a one size fits all. You beat me to it using that phrase. With that said, we have obviously a number of technology tools and systems that we have had to lean on in recent months, but going forward, are there any particular tools, technologies, strategies that you are excited about, looking at, knowing that you’re going to need to lean on to execute on these plans?
Adam Hoy: Yeah, I think there’s quite a few and the PropTech market, I think, has been trying to advance some of these technologies in the past. But more companies now are realizing that they need certain bits of technology to make these things work. And I think really, just being broad about it, but the technologies that help book, that help really curate an employee’s day, I think those are the technologies that are really going to start advancing which will allow us to space plan a bit better. Simple desk booking systems, parking, meeting room booking, bringing all that into one, and then allowing employees to, like I said, curate their day. Where are the people they need to interact with on a certain day? Where are their teams going to be? And then that data allows the workplace professionals then to plan out space.
So I think those are the technologies that are really going to be prevalent. The companies that I’ve worked for over the years, there’s been a, I don’t want to say a push back, that might be too harsh, but you don’t want to introduce complexity into the work environment where it’s not needed. You want to make it as easy as possible for people to work, to come to work, to do their thing. But these technologies, I think, are getting to a point where you’re not introducing complexity into somebody’s workday, and that’s really the key to make sure that we can use these technologies, make it seamless for people but then get the data that we need to make the right short- term and long- term planning decisions. Those are some of the technologies, the category, I guess you could say, the technology that I think we’ll see a lot more of coming up.
Mike: Adam, we’re almost out of time, but before I let you go, I’ve got to ask if you have any practical advice that you can share with my audience of workplace leaders as we head into the future together.
Adam Hoy: Yeah. I would say we need to make sure we’re keeping our employees at the center of what we think about and what we do every day. I think we all think we’re doing that, but if you look at a corporation and you look at the IT department, the HR department, the real estate department, I know we’ve talked about this a lot as an industry over time, but we still… the general corporation, I think, offers services to the employee in a very fragmented way.
So, I think there’s still a lot of work to be done to ensure that we really are putting our employee at the center of the equation and making sure that we build service provisions around that colleague and not doing so in a fractured manner. So really the advice I would give is make sure that you’re working with the whole enterprise and you’re putting the employee at the center of the equation.
Once you figure out what’s needed for that employee, it’s don’t worry so much about where the responsibilities sit. Is it in corporate real estate? Is it in tech? Is it in HR? At the end of the day, the employee doesn’t really care. The employee wants a great experience when he or she comes to the office every day. So, if we can create value through doing that kind of in an egoless way by creating that experience, to me, we all win. The company gets what it needs, the employee’s happy, and we’re making a more productive work environment.
Mike: Totally agree. Awesome stuff, Adam. This has been great. I really do appreciate you sharing your insights with us. Thank you so much for taking time to be on the Workplace Innovator Podcast.
Adam Hoy: Thanks, Mike. I enjoyed it.
Mike: There you have it, everyone. Adam Hoy of GSK sharing with us just a few of his perspectives based on his long career and experience in the world of real estate and facility management. I hope you enjoyed that conversation as much as I did. If so, again, I would appreciate it if you would share this with a friend and if you are a long- time listener of the program, I would certainly appreciate a rating and a review over at Apple podcasts. It really means a lot, and I thank you for being a part of this podcast community. Join me again next week as we continue to encourage and inspire each other to be a workplace innovator. Peace out. You’ve been listening to the Workplace Innovator Podcast. I hope you found this discussion beneficial as we work together to build partnerships that lead to innovative workplace solutions. For more information about how iOFFICE can help you create an employee- centric workspace by delivering digital technology that enhances the employee experience, visit iofficecorp.com.
Connect with Adam on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/adam-hoy-72a2ab7/
Learn more about GSK: https://www.gsk.com/en-gb/
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