Diane Danielson on Conscious Capitalism & Real Estate

Towards the end of 2015 Diane Danielson, COO of SVNIC, co-led a live interactive talk for NAIOP Commercial Real Estate Development Association to fill in for SVNIC’s CEO, Kevin Maggiacomo while he was on paternity leave. For this event, called “CEO Insight: Conscious Capitalism in Commercial Real Estate,” Danielson teamed up with Joy Hou, Co-Founder and CEO of MREN to conduct a structured open discussion about what motivates individuals, particularly Millennials, to jump into the commercial real estate industry.

Diane Danielson, SVNIC COO on Conscious Capitalism

Follow Diane Danielson on Twitter at @DianeDanielson.

First off, what isconscious capitalism” anyway? Conscious capitalism is the basis of your bottom line, as opposed to CSR — “Corporate Social Responsibility,” which is more of a program. What differentiates conscious capitalism is the “3 P’s:” planet, people, and profit. At SVN, this translates to a specific focus on diversity of all types: ethnic, gender, generational, and so on. From a business standpoint, this approach opens us up to new markets and to new employees who can offer fresh and valuable skills and opinions.

As Danielson and Hou pointed out, members of Generation Y (“Millennials”) have come to expect companies to practice conscious capitalism. In SVN’s Millennials Commercial Real Estate Survey, (results to be released later this month) 75% of the Millennial men and women who responded indicated that conscious capitalism is an important factor when considering where to work. Luckily, this value that Millennials place on conscious capitalism has the potential to work as an advantage for the commercial real estate industry. Danielson explains: “Real estate is uniquely positioned to work with communities,” especially those in need. Projects like eco-friendly “green” buildings can solve a lot of problems within communities. The conscious capitalist approach is about “people first” — building not just for profit, but to better the lives of the people in the community. Emphasizing this side of commercial real estate could be one solution to the “brain gap” problem: with senior leaders in the field approaching retirement, the commercial real estate industry will likely face an employment crisis, Danielson explained. “Sometimes it takes a little extra effort to capture these Millennials, to capture diversity.”

Conscious Capitalism in the Millennial Workplace

Conscious capitalism is just one of the many workplace preferences that will become increasingly important as the oldest Millennials, who are now 35, move into leadership roles. According to Danielson and Hou, in the next 10 years, Millennials will be in control of the money, and as the SVN Millennials CRE Survey preliminary results indicate, the vast majority of them consider “purpose” when making investment decisions. Clearly, there’s a social element at play. Our SVN CRE Survey further revealed that the traits Millennials value most highly in an employer are collaboration and flexibility in work location and hours. Younger adults don’t necessarily want to just work from home, but it’s not always convenient to go into the office. They want flexibility, which today’s technology can easily facilitate, even in the CRE industry.

With the increasing demand for highly skilled workers in the notoriously lucrative technology industry, what can our industry do to compete for the “brains” to fill the looming talent “gap”? As Hou emphasized, when looking for new Millennial hires, employers should try to convince them that what they do has purpose. This means taking away that corporate mentality of “I say, you do,” which most Baby Boomers and Gen Xers are accustomed to. Instead, the Millennial mentality is about “How do we work together?” In the dawn of the Age of Millennials, collaboration is key, and as Danielson said,”when you change your mindset, you see opportunities.”


Listen to the full audio recording of “CEO Insight: Conscious Capitalism in Commercial Real Estate” here.

To learn more about real-life examples of companies that practice conscious capitalism, check out the book Firms of Endearment here.

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