How to recruit and assemble a great coworking operations team?
Flex and coworking are emerging as dynamic industries driven very much by hospitality and not just real estate. As much as we embrace technology, it’s the good, old fashioned human interaction & building those long term relationships that remain key aspects of the value & ethos that we bring to our members.
So how do we determine the perfect coworking job description in 2023?
I was delighted to be asked to moderate a panel discussion at the recent Coworking Europe Conference in Porto discussing this topic with three best in class coworking and flex operators with locations in UK, Europe and beyond:
We could have talked forever on this subject, there was so much to unpack from those all important soft people skills, driving community forward & really engaging right through to decision making, autonomy, talent attraction & retention.
Here’s a roundup of our Q&A and top takeaways and considerations which are by no means exhausted given how this industry is continuously evolving at such a rapid rate:
What are the core functions to be covered in a coworking operations team?
The panel all agreed that effective community management, events, sales and marketing are a big focus. Alongside are more specific functions such as accounts management, biophilia & horticulture, buildings facilities, maintenance & compliance.
What are the soft people skills that should be given the highest priority moving forward?
A really engaging area of discussion, soft people skills are a must, the rest can be learnt! Proactivity, engaging with not just the coworking team but particularly the member community, relationship building, open-mindedness, kindness, inclusivity, fantastic listening skills are but a few.
Is multi-tasking here to stay or should we move away from this mindset?
Everyone has different strengths and it’s so important to embrace this magic and let skills develop. Yes, in many coworking spaces everyone is asked to take on an element of sales, marketing, building those long term relationships for example but each team member also develops and brings a unique area of expertise that shines through and benefits the member community and the operator brand.
We also discussed job rotation (covered in more detail under talent attraction & retention) but in the main team members are moving away from multi-tasking.
Is there a correlation between the departure of key team members who embody the culture of your space with the retention and happiness of your member community?
Yes and no!
Naturally our members build up relationships with our community teams & vice versa over time. At the end of the day that’s part of the role and it’s why members join our spaces, for the community and support. However, it’s also important to ensure that the culture and feel of our coworking spaces are embedded enough to prevent this from having a long term impact. At the heart of recruiting and assembling a great team is enabling interaction and relations, networks and support between not just the operations team and its members but within the member community itself.
In what ways can coworking operators attract and retain talent?
Naturally, given the different geographic locations, roles & functions, talent supply there were mixed answers but similarly there were a lot of overlaps.
Attracting & retaining
- Given the hospitality aspect of the roles in coworking there is often a struggle to recruit due to current supply challenges in many locations. That said, many applicants see our industry as an exciting opportunity with plenty of growth potential.
- Recruiting from various industry backgrounds given how coworking has evolved from pure real estate, coffee shops through to ‘hotelification’ (the repositioning of residential, retail and office space).
- The opportunity to work with a multitude of member businesses, build relations, gain exposure to a variety of job roles was a huge bonus.
- Coworking is a fantastic grounding in business, entrepreneurialism.
- The ability to have autonomy, decision making, have ideas genuinely listened to and embraced.
Is it viable to consider remote and part time working?
Again, yes & no!
- Once a team member has grown into the role and built that trust then if the day to day to responsibilities lend themselves to remote working then absolutely. However, generally not 5 days a week, it’s a people facing business.
- Often sales & marketing roles can be done remotely but a lot of the time these functions are built into the job descriptions of Community Managers again, very much a member facing role.
- In terms of part time, several of the panel discussed how well job sharing has worked and the skills sets and strengths of team members can have a really complimentary effect.
Are you as operators implementing internal mobility programs to enhance the skills & careers of your teams?
- All of the panelists are embracing this and very effectively either through rotation of job functions or opportunities to shadow other team members.
- We discussed the preference of internal recruitment & rotation if and when there are movements within the team enabling higher retention.
- This approach can work well for larger, multi location operator brands but doesn’t necessarily lend itself to smaller, independent coworking spaces.
What are the merits of hiring talent from within your local communities versus further afield?
- Hiring locally, having an understanding of the local culture, likely to know many of your member businesses and possibly be easier to build relations
- Hiring from further afield can bring new opportunities, skills, cultures, diversity. It also brings a new pair of eyes and perspective, ways of doing things that perhaps hadn’t been considered or they might see gaps or potential in your operations that could be improved.
- Either way, new talent can bring fresh energy and ideas to the team
Wrap up & takeaways for managing a great coworking team:
It’s a loaded topic but one that’s very exciting and with it comes huge opportunities moving forward given the scope of the industry and it’s partners. At the heart of any great operations team is the front facing element coupled with human connection and relationship building and there is plenty of potential to attract top talent if we look not just to real estate backgrounds but to hospitality and beyond.
Embrace the magic of individual strengths and personalities, the diversity and possibilities they bring.
If any of this resonates with you and you’d like to learn more then I’m here to help.
I am Suzanne
A thought leader with over 11 years experience within the flexible workplace industry
ℹ️ A particular focus on regional v city centric workplaces
Enabling energy, performance & sustainable growth
Support through 1:1 mentoring, coaching & consultancy – flexible workplace solutions & workplace & career transitioning