Visions of Renewal with Dinesh Acharya, Education Solutions Lead APAC, JLL, Melbourne, Australia
In this collection of conversations with business leaders, entrepreneurs, educators and creatives from around the globe you will hear from some of the best and brightest, and weird and wonderful sharing their thoughts, ideas and insights on industry trends and opportunities as we journey through 2021 and beyond, and provide us with some short advice on how to lead, learn, and live and love.
Dinesh Acharya is currently the dynamic lead of Education Solutions at JLL in Melbourne, Australia.
Dinesh is one of the most generous, supportive, and über intelligent thinkers I have ever known.
I met Dinesh when he was Head of Workplace Strategy for JLL a few years back. I was leaving in Singapore and desperate to move to Australia and into the field of Workplace Strategy, so I reached out blindly to Dinesh, and Dinesh being his giving self, made time for me to discuss and provide advice. He made time for me back then, and again 5 years later to explore and chat with me what he's doing and where he thinks the future will lead us. Enjoy!
"I think there’s a real honesty and authenticity that comes from just sharing ideas or sharing information with a view to help other people."
What 3 business trends do you believe COVID-19 has accelerated in your industry for 2021 and beyond?
I think the big one in our industry (real estate) is the uptake of remote work and online learning. This means that organizations are reassessing their real estate requirements and are looking to find the right balance of virtual and face-to-face interaction. Most of our clients are still grappling with this issue.
In addition, technology adoption has accelerated. Technological change had been slow for some organizations, but in response to the pandemic and office closures, those same organizations have rapidly embraced technological change. It's been pretty impressive to see how quickly some of these organizations have responded and it just goes to show that we’re more capable and resilient than we think.
Related to the first two themes, there is also an increased emphasis on personal wellbeing. Prior to COVID, there was a separation between work and personal lives. In a strange way, we’re better connected to one another now because we’re all going through this challenge together which allows us to be much more understanding and empathetic.
We’re also getting a glimpse into the lives of our colleagues and clients. There are no false pretenses and the world gets to see a pure and unedited version of ourselves. For example, my daughter will often crash my Teams meetings or we’ll see people's pets stealing the limelight in virtual meetings!
Getting to know people at a more personal level means that we’re much more understanding about work-life issues and allows us to genuinely care about the wellbeing of their peers.
The risk with remote working is that maybe people start to feel a little bit isolated, or perhaps their personal circumstances are not conducive to remote work which can take a toll. So, I think that wellbeing is really critical issue.
What opportunities lie ahead as a result of the pandemic situation?
I don't think we necessarily need to go back to the way things were things were. To be quite frank, things weren’t perfect before the pandemic. Some organizations are starting to scenario plan and calculate out how many people they can bring people back to the office or campus. But I think the big question is what is the compelling offer or experience these organizations are going to provide to encourage people to come back? When I go into the office, for example, I don’t just want to sit at a desk and do my individual work. I want to participate in group culture, learn with my peers, and socialize and network and find out what's happening across the business.
People are craving meaningful, memorable, and symbolic experiences that they can be a part of and if you cannot provide this as an organization, then you might just find that the alternative is more appealing. After all, there are many benefits to having increased flexibility - reducing commute time, less downtime, ability to spend more time with family, being better able to juggle work and life commitments etc.
Because I straddle education and corporate sectors, I can see how the future workplace may become much more like a learning environment with a focus on hospitality and wellbeing.
In addition to the physical experience, we also need to think about the digital experience for the hybrid workforce. How do we support remote workers? - because they also want to learn, participate in culture, and have their wellbeing needs met.
What do you believe matters most to your clients or customers right now?
Most organizations have been impacted financially as they cannot access their customers in the same way and projects have been put on hold. The financial viability of these organizations has been brought into question because the ‘demand’ side of the equation has dropped off precipitously. So, in the near term, these organizations are trying to steady the ship and figure out ways to take excess cost out of business. And at the same time, they need to figure out how they can continue to support and service their customers, both internal and external customers, wherever they might be.
If your customers can’t come to you, how do you deliver services to them? For some, it might be via digital services or maybe looking at more of a distributed model where you can service customers closer to home. Some business models may no longer be viable in the current climate. Therefore, organizations will need to adapt their business model and/ or adapt the services and products they offer. That’s what we’re seeing at the moment.
For example, in the education sector, international students are unable to travel and so the industry is taking a massive hit in Australia. This means we must find ways to reduce cost to offset the loss in revenue while continuing to create a compelling experience for students so that we minimize attrition and can position for growth in this sector over time.
Would you care to expand upon the digital capabilities and conversations?
In the education sector (higher education sector), there's obviously been an uptick in online learning. But it hasn't been without its challenges. Staff have had to adapted coursework to online formats, learn new methods, and students have had to figure out how to get the most out of online learning and make meaningful connections with their peers.
This is a good example of business model disruption. If students are now paying for online education, do universities need to adjust their pricing model or can they provide a compelling virtual offer to justify full fees?
One of the big challenges we’re facing at the moment is how we manage internal/external customer experience in a distributed world. Most organizations have been designed for in-person experience, where people come together in one campus, under one roof, and there's a commonality of experience within that environment. The question is when you've got a distributed model, and individuals are scattered all over the country, how do you support those individuals?
You need to think about the service delivery model very differently. And I think some of these new technologies, including digital assistants powered by AI, will allow for that as this allows organizations to extend their reach where physical proximity with the customer is not possible.
How was your company’s product/service “sold” before Covid-19 - in what ways? And now?
We were already well on a journey of realigning our business to deliver integrated solutions consistently across the globe, so I think we're probably ahead of the curve there. The big shift for us has been having to deliver services online. In the past, we might have done more face-to-face stakeholder engagement. From a consulting perspective, we're now able to deliver all of that online, and that's