WOMEN IN WORKPLACE SOLUTIONS
Meet Kutlwano Mhlanga, a senior project manager at our South Africa head-office. Kutlwano joined Profica six years ago working on Old Mutual in Sandton, and has since delivered projects for Global Occupiers such as Google, Coca-Cola, Ocean Network Express and Bayer. Kutlwano finds that South Africa is adaptable to the latest trends, with clients willing to create high functioning workspaces, flexible working hours, a good mix of social, quiet and collaborative spaces, incorporating the technology that brings it all together. She discusses the latest trends in the industry – and her best advice for clients. #workplacesolutions #projectmanagedbyProfica
WHAT DOES YOUR ROLE AT PROFICA ENTAIL?
I perform both Project Management and Development Management functions on projects depending on what the appointment is and what the project requires. This includes coordinating project teams, managing information flow, stakeholder management, programming project activities and ensuring that the client’s objectives for the project are achieved.
WHAT STANDS OUT ABOUT YOUR REGION?
South Africa is a region I understand well. Even when we do projects for global clients, I only have to understand the client’s requirements and then I am able to contextualise them on behalf of the client and deliver within a market I know well. With the Ivory Coast projects I am working on, it has been interesting because there is a language barrier to overcome (with them being a Francophone country) and then we are dealing mostly with European ex-pats and delivering a project that has to be contextualised to an African country. It’s been interesting to see the language translation, the culture translation and how that plays out in design delivery and project implementation.
WHAT ARE THE WORKPLACE SOLUTIONS TRENDS YOU’RE SEEING IN YOUR REGION?
South Africa seems to be more settled and adaptable to the latest trends. Budget allowing, clients are willing to create high functioning workspaces and willing to make room for latest trends in workplace strategy such as flexible working hours, a good mix of social and quiet spaces, collaboration spaces and incorporate the technology that brings it all together. The Ivory Coast market is not yet there, we have to motivate for some of the design decisions and encourage clients to spend a little bit extra to optimise their workplaces, taking into consideration the intangible aspects of workplaces like ergonomics, acoustic properties and the use of light. However, those clients are still interested in having energy efficient offices.
WHAT, IN YOUR VIEW, IS CRITICAL ADVICE YOU WOULD SHARE, OR KEY CONSIDERATIONS, FOR A CLIENT WANTING TO OPTIMISE THEIR WORKPLACE?
Don’t just look at it as an office fit-out, it’s not just hard infrastructure, it’s an investment in your human capital. Healthy spaces make for healthy occupants. Workplace strategy is more than new furniture and paint on the walls. Our work as construction and property professionals in the Occupier Services is to translate aspirations for productivity and wellness into structural and tangible forms. However, we really need clients to consider the ‘soft’ aspects and allow themselves to dream and communicate their aspirations for their business, instead of focusing on how many workstations they need.
WHAT ARE THE GREATEST CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES IN THE WORKPLACE SOLUTIONS ENVIRONMENT RIGHT NOW?
Our biggest challenge is clients not giving themselves, and their consultants, enough time to make considered real estate decisions. If I had a penny for every time a client said, “My lease is ending in 3 months and I want to move’, I could buy the Taj Mahal! Clients need to give themselves breathing room to make decisions about their next real estate move, know when their lease is ending and make enquiries about possible spaces early on. Also, involve some construction consultants in the process for test-fits, input on reasonable program and timeline as well as due diligence for the properties you are considering. We can definitely build the plan and fly-it at the same time, we’ve done it many times before, but we will all live a little longer, have less stress and get even more brilliant results at the end if we start sooner. Also…proper change management is not optional, especially for large global occupiers.
HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE THE INDUSTRY CHANGE IN THE NEXT TEN YEARS?
I would like to see the world take sustainability more seriously. Not just in our industry but across the board. As property professionals we house all industries and all people, there isn’t a sector or human that does not have a property-related need. So, I would like to see sustainability, defined as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs. Whether in terms of energy issues, human capital or ecology, we need to consider the interconnectedness of life and change behaviour and attitudes now in a way that will allow people, planet and profits to thrive.
WHAT ARE YOUR COMMENTS ON WOMEN WORKING IN OUR INDUSTRY?
I get excited when I see more and more women involved in my projects from designers to engineers to site managers. The industry is still slow to change, especially when it comes to giving young women exposure to the technical aspects of the industry. Young women need to be given more time in the operations and technical parts of our industry and not just be bound to administrative functions.
WHAT ARE YOUR OBSERVATIONS ON GROWING LOCAL TALENT?
It’s great to see new talent and fresh ideas, especially from a design point of view. As a project manager our work can seem repetitive, but seeing innovative design and new approaches to old problems can do nothing but improve the industry.
WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE YOUR GREATEST STRENGTHS ARE?
WHAT REALLY MOTIVATES AND INSPIRES YOU?
I really enjoy the idea of being involved in creating spaces where people can thrive. Every bit of real estate is a place alive with possibility for people to be their best and produce greatness.
WHAT DOES YOU BELIEVE THINK YOU’RE GOOD AT, OUTSIDE OF WORK?
I’m a great cook!
WHAT IS SOMETHING ABOUT YOU WE WOULDN’T FIND ON YOUR LINKEDIN PROFILE?
I’ve invested lots of time into learning about African hair. I could probably consult on hair care and give tips on how to get the best out of African hair. I should add that to my bio!