Cushman & Wakefield is an American commercial real estate services company. The company’s headquarters is located in Chicago, with regional headquarters in New York City (Americas), London (EMEA), Sydney (APAC), and New Delhi (Asia).
Cushman & Wakefield is among the largest commercial real estate services firms with revenues of $8.2 billion in 2018. The firm operates in approximately 400 offices and 70 countries, has approximately 51,000 employees and manages 3.6 billion SF. (Source Wikipedia)
Cushman & Wakefield is an organization that’s more than a paycheck for people. It is all about the culture and globally has a vision and mission statement that focuses on being the best at what it does.
Having had a chance to get into a conversation with Deepali Bhardwaj, Executive Director – Human Resources Cushman & Wakefield – India, our Editor-in-Chief, Ekta Capoor tries to understand how a culture of trust and rewards translates into a high performing workforce.
How would you define ‘CULTURE’ at C&W?
Culture is defined by people; they enable it and live by it, not only for themselves but also for the people around them. However, culture needs strategy to culminate into form and practice. We are firm believers in the cyclical philosophy that High Trust leads to High Performance, resulting in High Rewards. This thought process emerges from the leadership, and in the form of behavior and policies, cascades to every last employee of the firm.
We do not believe in policing our people in terms of delivery of results. A culture has been created where employees are so involved that work and results are an automatic end-result. This is reflected in our flexibility in the way we operate. Employees are trusted implicitly, and that trust is reciprocated in the form of business results and growth.
Growth is a buzzword for us- in more ways than one. It encompasses growth in terms of business, growth our people experience in their careers, and it also permeates into the mindset of each employee, influencing how they operate in their day to day.
Our growth and people philosophy form the cornerstone of our culture and policies- as a firm, we are extremely business focused, yet constantly engaged, with a focus on having fun as well. We believe in risk taking in our business, yet as a culture we remain humane.
Describe Diversity & Inclusion as a key ingredient in the culture at Cushman & Wakefield?
Diversity and Inclusion are more than catchphrases for us. They are an essential business imperative. We maintain diversity in our hiring, and ensure our culture is one of inclusion and acceptance. In the Indian context, this means inclusivity across gender, age, cultures, and sexual orientation, among others. We have also hired over 100 retired Defence Personnel.
In terms of gender diversity, while we have a concrete goal of gender equality in the workforce, it goes far beyond arriving at a number for us. As a firm, we are committed to providing and supporting a platform for women to excel professionally, and our policies are oriented towards facilitating a greater paradigm shift in mindset and psychology towards women at the workplace.
For example, we understand that several personal milestones or challenges come in the way of a woman and her career. Several women take breaks in their careers due to marriage or maternity. We welcome the idea of providing them an opportunity of starting a second inning by investing in them. Our support to women before, during and after their maternity breaks is unparalleled. Stepping away from the stereotype that women get distracted after starting a family, our alternate belief is that they return to work with renewed focus. We handhold and support them wherever need be, such that at no point is their personal life or professional one being compromised on.
A few of our stand out policies for women are as follows:
- Flexi-Timings for Mothers: New mothers are given the choice of flexible timings and even work from home options, in order to balance work and home with ease.
- Child Travel Policy – A key differentiator and highly appreciated, this policy allows women employees to travel to other locations along with their child and nanny, with travel and stay expenses funded by the company.
- Second Home Policy – Welcoming new parents back to work, we decorate their workstation as their second home- with balloons, flowers, a card and picture of their kid. This is done for both mothers and fathers, as we encourage parenting as an equal and shared responsibility between both partners, and not just a mother’s job. For returning mothers, we ensure that there is a gradual increase in work responsibilities as we’re mindful of their bandwidth to manage personal & professional priorities.
- Creche Facility: We offer a crèche facility close to office and client sites to all working mothers who find it difficult to leave their children at home while they are at work.
- Women Referral Program: We offer better incentives to employees referring their female friends and family members to join our firm.
- Surrogacy Policy – We believe in innovative thinking and hence change our policies to suit the needs of the time. Working on the principle of What’s Next, we have introduced a Surrogacy Policy for both men and women in our organization, with duration of leave equal to the Maternity and Adoption Leaves.
What are the various parameters of employee engagement at C&W? How does culture impact engagement?
In a recent survey conducted, 96% people say they love to work with us, 92% say they would recommend to their friends and families and 90% say that Diversity and Inclusion is valued in the firm and they appreciate that.
At C&W, engagement is all pervasive. From the layout of our open office, to our engagement with customers, to the commitment to deliver results and pursue growth in their career, our employees are consistently invested in the community of CushWakers, the joint goal to achieve growth, and to have fun along the way as well.
Engagement is built into everything that we do, not limited only to the employees’ experience within the office space. We are constantly innovating ways to engage employees in a holistic manner- their mental, emotional and physical wellness are all priorities for us; we aim to address aspects of people’s lives that will reduce stress, and eventually reflect in their productivity as well. Strong believers in maintaining a healthy work-life balance, we not only encourage periodic leaves and have a culture of work from home, we also engage our employees’ families at several points.
- Caring for our employees – Caring for our employees and their family is our utmost priority. Apart from insurance coverage for employees and their immediate family members, we also offer employee counseling services through 1to1help.net, and hold frequent sessions on topics related to Mental and Physical Wellness.
- Leave Policy – Our innovative leave policy encourages the employees to utilize 100% of their leaves in a year. In addition to this, we have Work at Home, Sabbatical, Maternity, Surrogacy, Adoption, Critical Illness policies, etc.
- CSR: If an employee supports a cause, we tell them to bring it to us and we help him support it as well. It is heartening to see the steps employees take to invest in such initiatives, and it’s our way of expressing that we value a cause that is close to their heart.
- Celebrating our People: Celebrating our employees is an essential part of our engagement activities, and we use this the appraisal and promotion time as an opportunity to write congratulatory notes, thank you cards signed by the senior leadership, and hand-written messages awaiting the employees at their desks. We even send congratulatory letters to the families of our employees. These simple yet unique gestures support our philosophy of “All About You.”
- Appreciation Week: We celebrate Appreciation Week where employees can express gratitude through writing small notes of appreciation to their colleagues. It could be something as little as appreciating someone for what they are wearing, or something bigger as help extended or a contribution at the workplace.
- Engaging Future Leaders: Another example of our youthful and innovative culture is our workspaces. Today, millennials live in social spaces- our workspaces are designed to be a physical embodiment of spaces such as these. Most employees do not have a fixed seat; they are therefore working and interacting with different people across teams and levels on a daily basis, which often leads to an exchange of thoughts and ideas, resulting in a lot of collaboration.
The credit for such a unique workspace goes to someone who joined us as a management trainee and was not keen to turn up the next day. On being asked why, he replied “your office is very boring”. The point to emphasize here is that to us, unknown voices matter, and we maintain a dynamism in looking at ways of improvement whenever suggestions such as these come up.
This also means that we are constantly listening to the voice of our people and it is an important part of our culture.
- Happiness Jar – While there are different channels, occasions and mechanisms for employees to communicate and express themselves, we at C&W India express the positives and joyful moments at work by dropping a note on our happy moments in the HAPPINESS JAR. The messages on the note is read out to all employees during the monthly townhalls.
- You Said, We Did It: Many a times, we make changes in our systems and policies as per the needs of our people. It could be something said by an employee over a casual cup of coffee, a meeting or a formal concern. If it is a viable suggestion comes up, we take it quite seriously.
- Surveys: Conducting surveys and regular check-ins is another way to understand what our people feel about us. We especially ask new joinees how they feel about the company within one week of their induction, and then at periodic check-points after.
Our employees are our best brand ambassadors. When our employees are engaged, it reflects in all that they do- there is an energy that is instilled in every conversation they have, internally and externally, and a positivity with respect to the company comes through loud and clear. We believe that if we can affect their thought process in a positive manner, our employees’ productivity goes out automatically, and happy people make for a happy environment in turn too!
As an organization that believes in giving its people an opportunity to learn and grow, we also provide various platforms and avenues of development to our people:
- First Few Bricks: Ours is a very new industry, barely in its teens, on the onset of adulthood. Hence, there is a shortage of quality and amount of talent in this industry. To this end, we hire a lot of management trainees to build and mentor a growing talent pool of younger people within Real Estate.
- Focus on Learning: There is a huge focus on building an ecosystem of learning. Learning opportunities are made available to employees at all levels and across all our offices. Interventions such as Women Leadership Development Programs, and First Line and Middle Manager Capability Building and key Behavioral Skills Development Programs are attended and appreciated by our staff. We understand that people are widespread and hence to encourage them to learn at their own pace and time, we have introduced 7000 courses on an online platform. Employees can enroll themselves in whatever courses they wish to pursue, with options across topics, industries, and levels of difficulty.
- Fast Track Growth: To help people rise in their careers, we also provide a lot of challenging opportunities to people who are looking for fast track growth and are willing to take up new challenges to speed up their career progression.
Tell us something about your people philosophy of ‘All About You’.
People are at the centre of everything that we do; they are enabling and impacting everything that we deliver to our clients as a firm. We celebrate people and are constantly nurturing them, listening to them, rewarding them and caring for them…everything we do, is ‘All About You’!
Our workforce comprises of people across ages, cultures and backgrounds. We have employees fresh out of college, and veterans who have been with the company or industry for over 20 years. The spectrum is a large one, and we need to ensure that we cater to the needs of all. We know that growth is impossible unless we take in the fresh young voices of our millennials and combine it with the wisdom and experience of our veterans. Our “All About You” philosophy is centered in this concept, that growth emerges from dynamism, and we need to continuously listen to our employees to do better. Our people drive us; they are the ones, in fact, who drive us to improve the culture based on their experiences.
How does your people philosophy of ‘All About You’ help in leveraging your customer philosophy of ‘What’s Next’?
We promise to take our clients’ experiences to the next level. Whatever we do for our employees, at the end of the day, translates into our relationship with our customers. There is nothing that can compensate for the pride with which every employee works at C&W. When employees take pride in the organization, they translate it into passion and conviction about the firm while interacting with the clients, and that becomes a key differentiator with our competitors.
Our people are the ones who are delivering What’s Next to the clients, and consequently, the industry.
What according to you makes C&W an Amazing Workplace?
It is our sincere endeavor that when employees leave the workplace, they leave with the same energy and zeal that they brought with them in the morning. And this is what makes us an Amazing Workplace!