Increasingly, There’s No Substitute
For The Experiential Workplace

Marc DeLuca

We learn by doing, and the technical term for this is experience. This happens when we engage in interaction, participation and analysis.

We’ve all been hearing lately how Millennials prefer experience to old-fashioned conspicuous consumption. For them, a mall with a climbing wall would matter more to them than walking away with a new pair of jeans or a piece of jewelry. It’s more about what happens while they’re there, not what they go home with in the bag.

An early pioneer in the positive effects of experience first saw what Millennials are now experiencing: Walt Disney, according to The Harvard Business Review. As we all know, Disney took his company from a media giant to an entertainment experience megapower. It started with the creation of Disneyland and its untiring emphasis on customer service — and experience.

Today, the service economy is one big Disneyland; it’s a major component of U.S. employment, and is becoming increasingly commoditized. What customers crave is nothing new — positive, memorable experiences. Have a good time, and the word spreads.

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The growing trend of the experiential workplace takes Disney to the office, transferring the experience goal  from customers to employees. It’s no longer just about cubicles and corner offices and water coolers. It’s about improving the quality of work/life balance for the staff that employers long to engage and retain. The workplace has become a buyers’ market, and employers are jostling for position.

Coworking companies like WeWork took this ball and ran with it early. Their innovative experiential workplace includes hip design and amenities galore, including healthy snacks, widescreen TVs, even pool tables and massage chairs. Also included could be extracurricular activities like yoga and workout classes, happy hours, networking events and lunchtime pizza parties. Experiences all.

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Real estate investors and developers caught on fast. They are now designing and offering interactive and diverse office space, often combined into a mixed-use environment that provides integrated areas for live/work/play. For employers and landlords, this means attracting top talent and a younger workforce to a more imaginative, experiential space. Offer a good experience, and employees, companies and tenants may stay longer. In other words, win-win.

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It is believed that an experiential workplace can improve the employee experience, removing conflict, improving downtime, and, most importantly, growing community. This is meant to build loyalty, performance, and snag a great review for the company on Glassdoor.

A new social contract is emerging between employee and employer, according to a report by Deloitte. These days, employees tend to change jobs more frequently, so employers have to act fast if they want to retain them. That could mean faster promotions, more tech tools, and more autonomy.

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Cushman & Wakefield’s report on the experiential workplace found that “companies facing a war for talent and increasing competition across all sectors are seeking to understand how the built environment can provide a competitive advantage. A positive workplace experience and culture is a strong hiring tool, and ensuring employees are happy at work has been proven to boost productivity.”

Emphasizing an experiential workplace could even impact business performance, according to research by Jacob Morgan, author of The Employee Experience. Organizations investing in an experiential workplace listed 4.4 times as often in LinkedIn’s list of North America’s Most In-Demand Employers, 2.1 times as often on the Forbes list of the World’s Most Innovative Companies, and twice as often found on the American Customer Satisfaction Index.


Morgan found that experiential workplaces had more than four times the average profit and more than two times the average revenue. They were also 25 percent smaller, which may suggest higher levels of productivity and innovation.

In fact, companies are drilling down even further to provide employees with even more experiential power. Experiential workplace? There’s an app for that! Apps are being offered to employees to integrate experiences to the built environment. Programs like Cushman & Wakefield’s Workplace Edge app can help employees schedule dry cleaning, pet care and travel, as well as plan workout classes and spa appointments, among other work/life balances.

“By piquing their interest in learning, employees are more encouraged to expand their skills and improve overall performance,” says Ian Cornett, EVP of the performance training firm Eagle’s Flight.

If you live long enough, you eventually experience everything, including the advent of employees becoming guests and customers, and employers going to great extremes to please them. An experience like this is relatively new.


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Marc DeLuca is Regional President overseeing the Eastern U.S. As regional president for KBS, Mr. DeLuca is responsible for all acquisitions, dispositions and asset management activities in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast and Ohio. Mr. DeLuca is also chairman of the KBS Investment Committee that meets regularly to review and approve all new investments for the firm.