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The Power of People: Staffing Tactics for Thriving Coworking Spaces

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Nothing can make or break the growth momentum of your coworking space like turnover in the sales and administration teams. These professionals are the face of your business, and members look to them to provide practical support for day-to-day needs and build a sense of community. A coworking space is not just another office building but an engaging, cohesive entity – not a building but a community; they accommodate members, not tenants.

Whereas a traditional office staff can have a lot of division between operations and front desk roles, a coworking space needs personalities with a blend of hospitality and community engagement with a dash of sales prowess. The coworking staff sets the tone for the entire community. They should anticipate individual members’ needs while keeping the space running smoothly from behind the scenes.

Who’s on your team

The coworking space needs at least two critical team members: a Community Manager who handles operations and member support, and a Sales Director who leads the recruitment of new members.

Think of the Community Manager as your “Director of First Impressions,” a welcoming figure who’s on a first-name basis with everyone and is thoughtful, courteous, and tidy. The Sales Director should be comfortable in social settings, tenacious, and hungry to meet or surpass your goals.

Depending on the size of the space and your membership community’s needs, your team should grow with the space. For instance:

  • Dedicated sales reps: If you do a high volume in event spaces, meeting rooms or other features, consider hiring a sales rep for that feature.
  • Virtual mail room: If you plan to manage commercial mail for your members, you might add a part-time manager as that customer base grows.
  • Phone answering service: You might need to hire two to five additional staff, depending upon the number of clients and volume of inbound calls.

I recommend having a balance of full-time and part-time staff. The staff who manage the front desk and membership community should be full-time, so members have a consistent team to work with, which helps them to feel warm, welcome, and at home in the space. However, having a part-time person to fill in for vacation and sick days is highly recommended. I also recommend having a full-time salesperson dedicated to keeping new revenue flowing in. If you have the demand and available inventory to warrant the extra sales help, additional fractional and/or commission-based sales reps can strengthen their efforts.

Who’s not on your team

Depending upon the lease agreement with the landlord, some staffing is covered by the property owner rather than the coworking operator. Security isn’t typically an expense a coworking operator has to take on, and cleaning is usually outsourced to a third party.

A view of an Office Evolution coworking space.

How to find qualified staff

For coworking spaces, applicant sources aren’t so different than in other industries, but you may want to look for some special skills or experience.

  1. Where to look
  • Colleagues and local businesses: Word-of-mouth referrals can be your best source; you trust the referring person and can start getting a sense of the candidate’s skills. Let business contacts and networking/lead referral groups know you’re hiring and what you’re looking for. I find these referrals have a higher success rate than others, but you may not get the response you want, so you’ll need to look elsewhere.
  • Online job platforms: Posting openings on traditional platforms like Indeed, Monster, and ZipRecruiter can have mixed results, and you often have to weed through many candidates to find a good fit. LinkedIn can be an excellent source because your posting can be seen and shared across a considerable network of professionals, and you can target your search to the coworking industry. Plus, it’s free!
  • Staffing agencies: They’re expensive but can be effective in a pinch. You’ll get applicants who’ve been pre-screened and qualified, which can save time and headaches when a million other things in your space need your attention. However, I don’t recommend them as a primary staffing source; you’re better off seeking teams loyal to the coworking space and its community. I recommend that you hire directly for permanent needs and use an agency as a backup for temp and overflow needs.
  1. What to look for

Our industry is still new, so you’ll probably have to consider coworking experience “plus not must.” You may have to do some digging to find the skills needed for roles like Community Manager or Engagement Coordinator, which are also still emerging. Other competencies can be more valuable in your coworking staff. You can teach the job duties and principles of coworking to someone who’s never worked in the space, but you can’t train these:

  • Attitude: Are they service-oriented? Will they treat your members hospitably? An upbeat, service-oriented style is one of the most essential traits for the community manager/front desk staff.
  • Cultural fit: Can they adapt to the different company cultures in the space? You’ll likely have a diverse membership base across your members’ businesses. A culturally adaptive and eclectic staff is a huge benefit to developing an engaging community where everyone feels welcome and included.
  • Drive: Look for people with a high level of self-direction and hunger to succeed, not just in the sales team but also in potential administrators and support staff. They also need that sense of mission if you want to keep the members that the sales team brings in.
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Once your team is in place, have a plan for continuous review to make sure they are meeting members’ needs. Periodic polls and surveys, perhaps once each quarter, will help you see whether the staff is meeting those needs. Anonymous comment cards for ongoing feedback are another good tool.

Keeping the team successful

The staffing of the location is as integral to its success as the site selection and buildout of the space. For the best results, start by hiring team members who care about your members and know how to provide impeccable customer service.

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About Author

Rubin Beckner is the Director of Marketing for Vast Coworking Group™, the world’s largest coworking franchise company, comprised of shared workspace concepts Venture X®, Office Evolution® and Intelligent Office. Vast Coworking is a division of the United Franchise Group (UFG) family of affiliated brands and consultants. The Vast network is building and connecting consumer-focused brands to help meet the rapidly growing worldwide demand for flexible office space.

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