Better Workplace, Better Workforce

Companies are increasingly taking a “lead-with-labor" approach when it comes to the location of their workplace, according to CBRE.

There’s a paradigm shift in how companies are approaching real estate decisions today, according to a recent paper from CBRE, Group, Inc. The first in a CBRE Thought Leadership series on workplace performance, the research finds the age-old adage, “location, location, location,” is being replaced with “talent, talent, talent” as the primary driver behind corporate real estate decision-making.

workplace location
(Image: CBRE)

Top corporate real estate executives cited talent availability as a major criterion when it came to selecting a workplace location, according to a survey conducted by CBRE. This “lead-with-labor” approach allows companies to maximize talent recruitment, while also achieving potential cost savings by locating in secondary markets where real estate costs are lower, and where talent is clustering.

“If an organization is able to create a business strategy based on where it needs talent, possibly relocating certain operations to secondary markets, they can reduce both real estate costs and the labor costs compared to major markets,” said Kristin Sexton, managing director, Labor Analytics, CBRE.

While many companies still prefer to locate in gateway cities for client access, proximity to suppliers, and major transit options, many of these markets are “already tapped in terms of labor and many of our clients are asking what lies beyond, what is the next tier of markets in which to find talent,” said Mark W. Seeley, senior vice president, Labor Analytics, CBRE.

Though smaller, secondary markets often have a limit to the number of space requirements they can support, they likely represent the next phase of growth for employment, according to CBRE. Moreover, given the reduced competition, such markets allow strong companies to become the clear preferred employer.

Millennials And Workplace Location

At the core of the war for talent are millennials as companies across all industries strive to create workplace environments that attract this critical, yet still somewhat perplexing, next-generation talent.

While conventional wisdom suggests that millennials are obsessed with living and working in the center of big cities, a recent survey of more than 13,000 millennials commissioned by CBRE showed that three-quarters of employed millennials work in large towns or cities, split two-to-one in favor of central rather than suburban locations. The vast majority of the remainder work in small- or medium-sized towns.

When asked to rate each type of location according to its appeal as a place to work, the millennials surveyed said they preferred central city locations—but suburban and small- to medium-sized towns ranked a close second with 55 percent saying they find these markets “fairly” or “very” appealing. A third of millennials would be happy working in a business park or campus setting, and over a quarter find a rural location appealing.

“It’s about cost, community, and cultural values,” says Christopher J. Perri, senior managing director of CBRE’s Global Workplace Solutions business. “As young tech leaders and other millennials transition into family-oriented phases of their lives, there’s going to be more of a need to get out of the city and find alternative locations where they can still have the ‘cool factor’—but at a manageable cost profile and in a place where they want to raise their kids.”

“We believe those areas that can replicate the CBD live-work-play experience are certainly outpacing performance of other suburban areas and perhaps in some cases maybe even the larger cities,” said Julie Whelan, head of Americas Occupier Research for CBRE.


  1. I guess a lot of this has to do with who is your target workforce and employee? If you are targeting millennials then definitely you get the cool factor being in an urban area. Lots of non- millennials like the suburbs where it is cheaper to afford housing and better to raise a family

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