Hello Everyone! This time on Coworking Values Podcast, we have one of the speakers in the upcoming Coworking Symposium. We have Manuel Mayerhoffer of the University of Economics in Prague.
We will be talking about the Coworking Symposium, the Visegrad Fund and other various projects Manuel is busy with. Manuel will also be sharing with us about their study about the growing coworking industry and naturally, the growth of its communities. He will also be delving on talent attraction, retention mechanisms and brand identity of the Coworking industry and its effects on the local environment.
What do you mean when you say Good people and talents in Coworking spaces?
Sure, that’s actually one of the questions that we had as well because what you see in coworking spaces is, increasingly, that they are mapping skills of their members.
So, there is some kind of perception of talent. However, there’s no study yet that looks into what talent actually means for coworking spaces. And by, kind of, mapping the skills of the members in their space, they create these what we call human talent pools.
So you have all these different people from all sorts of different backgrounds, individuals, groups. And you co-locate them in your coworking space.
So, what we looked into is how they are actually going about attracting these people to the space. And what do they do, what are the mechanisms in place, to make them stay and contribute further to the community.
Bernie J Mitchel 0:08
Hello ladies and gentlemen and welcome to this week’s episode of the Coworking Values podcast and we’re heading 100 miles an hour to, I don’t want to say the biggest, but the biggest online coworking event in Europe, the Coworking Symposium. Is that enough hype Zeljko?
Željko Crnjaković 0:23
I think we need to say so far the biggest, so far, or the biggest in the next month or something like that, so we don’t step on anybody’s toes. But I’m going to say the biggest, baddest coworking symposium is going to be held on the 27th of May, completely online from 9AM CET, so for all of you in the UK, it’s going to be pretty early.
Bernie J Mitchel 0:53
I’m ready for that.
Željko Crnjaković 0:57
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Bernie J Mitchel 1:31
After we sat through all the hyping and marketing world about the biggest, boldest and everything. I am really, really looking forward to this. It was going to be 100 or so people in the University of Prague, and now it’s just expanded and we’ve been going around and connecting with all the speakers, because it’s online now, you know, we could get a million people in there. And people from outside of Europe are able to make it too, and it’s beautiful. The thing I like about the research group for collaborative spaces is always coworking industry people, and academics. And I spent about four years, this is going to make me sound way smarter than them, but I spent about four years hanging around this group of people. And I always find really, really, really interesting things I never knew existed, about coworking. And today we have Manuel. I’m sorry. I’m married to a…
Željko Crnjaković 2:29
You had one job.
Bernie J Mitchel 2:30
I had one job, yeah. Well, what are you known for and what would you like to be known for?
Manuel Mayerhoffer 2:36
Hi guys. Yeah, it’s fine with the name. No worries. So, actually I think I’m not really known in the coworking community at all. I guess I’m not really known yet. I would like to perhaps be known at some point as somebody who brings a new perspective into the field, and can help further to connect practitioners and those who are in academia, because there’s still quite a gap, so there’s lots of room for improvement there.
Željko Crnjaković 3:21
One of the biggest things I noticed in coworking is that this is the biggest field I’ve been involved in, and this is a comment for both of you, that it is in such close cooperation and of such interest to academia, in that sense. So no other business niche has been researched that much. I’m in video production and I suppose there is a part of academia that’s interested in, but you don’t get that hype around that.
Manuel Mayerhoffer 3:54
Yeah, I guess the scholars who are researching according are really hyped about it. It’s an awesome thing and what you see in coworking spaces – there are so many things that are just fascinating that you don’t see, for example a traditional office setting. You look at open plan offices for instance, there are numerous studies that tell you that an open plan office, actually is negative if somebody was working from an open plan office, but in coworking it’s the exact opposite, it seems. People are loving it and I guess that’s why it deserves the hype.
Željko Crnjaković 4:25
Yeah, because you don’t actually work with, it’s not mandatory to work in an open office. You choose to do so in coworking. That’s my take on it. Manuel you are a part on a wider project, it also is behind the Coworking Symposium. That’s why we are talking about the symposium at the beginning of the podcast, but you have also some other roles within that project. Can you tell us more about the entire fund than and the project.
Manuel Mayerhoffer 4:57
Sure. So, it’s the International Visegrad Fund, and the symposium for instance, was also organized by Marco, my friend and colleague at the University of Economics. And, in addition to the Coworking Symposium, there has been a study going on, on talent attraction and retention mechanisms in coworking spaces. So putting that perhaps into plain English: How do you get good people to join your coworking space and how do you retain them there? So this is a study that we’ve been working on, and collecting data in the Visegrad countries. And yeah it’s been really amazing. We were able to finish off everything now and we submitted last week actually, so we’re excited. So, I’m waiting because you can never know.
Željko Crnjaković 5:46
When you say good people and talent, what are we talking about? So that people are very clear on that.
Manuel Mayerhoffer 5:52
Sure, that’s actually one of the questions that we had as well, because what you see in coworking spaces increasingly is that they are mapping skills of their members, though, there is some kind of perception of talent. However, there’s no study yet that looks into what talent actually means for coworking spaces, and by kind of mapping the skills of the members in their space, they create these, what we call human talent pools. So you have all these different people from all sorts of different backgrounds, individuals, groups. And you co-locate them in your coworking space. So, what we looked into is how they actually going about attracting these people in the space. And what do they do without the mechanisms in place to make them stay and contribute further to the community.
Željko Crnjaković 6:39
And when you researched this, did you like find that this is only done or was the focus only on, for example, because we have specialized coworking spaces that are kind of hubs for designers, or the creative industry or for programmers, or is it, a coworking space that attracts everybody and then sources outside, a multiple array of talent.
Manuel Mayerhoffer 7:09
I guess it’s something that evolves over time, really. So perhaps in the beginning, the selection criteria was more loose, so they’re just happy to kind of have people in the space, but the more it grows, and especially once they reach the limit of their capacity, then they start to be a bit more selective, and they try to narrow down their focus a bit more. When they really start to build this, brand identity is one of the major themes that have emerged from the study where they aren’t really fitting what they do into the local context. So as you’re saying, there might be designers, there might be people in the tech industry, very big in that specific environment with a specific city or a suburb or so. And they are really trying to fit their coworking space into this particular local environment.
Željko Crnjaković 7:56
And why are they attracting a specific sort of talent? What’s their goal?
Manuel Mayerhoffer 8:02
Well, that always depends on the space, really. Some are kind of independent smaller spaces that really just want to focus on having this strong sense of community, and everybody kind of being happy in the same space together. Others have a more business focus, where one of the main goals is to actually use the talent that they have in the space. That may be, for instance that they help companies grow in their space, and they can feed them back into the operating companies. So you see, coworking chains they operate at times, under a large office space providers. And as soon as this group of people in the coworking space outgrow the space, so to say. So they’re growing beyond what the coworking space can offer, they can feed them back into the mother company. So this is the business side of things.
Željko Crnjaković 8:58
Did you research any types of, what I’m seeing in my coworking space, for example, is that, when we opened the space, people always said, they misunderstood coworking, they said, can I come here, and get a job, and we said usually no, you have to have a freelance job or projects. Basically you have to pay to rent a desk and a chair or be a member in some sort of way. So, usually the people who come to the coworking space, are people who already have freelancers or companies or entrepreneurs that already have their load of work in that sense. So, in order to be able to pay membership and then the reasons why they are coming to the space. So, does your research show that these coworking spaces operate in a different fashion? So basically, as somebody who wants to create or find people that have room for more projects, that want to be employed and get there, because they want to be, in – as you said, attached to some other company or be in a pool that other businesses can source them from, or how does this happen?
Manuel Mayerhoffer 10:23
Well, that’s a very good point. I think that if you look at coworking spaces, they have people who are already having a company, or they’re already working. You’re very right with that. But it’s about the coworking space, understanding themselves as kind of an accelerator. They take on the role of an educator for instance, so they help them to do their business. Even better, so they don’t necessarily give them something new or kind of involve them in new projects unless they want to, but they help them be better at the job they’re doing at the moment.
Željko Crnjaković 10:55
So yeah, of course I mean that’s, kind of, they’re improving their skills or their businesses is one thing, so I understood from the initial premise of the study that you researched. Other businesses are sourcing some of the talent from these talent pools. So, in that case, I always got to, whenever somebody asked me, most of the times the answer from my coworkers, I already have a ton of work, so I’m not accepting any new offers. So it’s very rarely that I can say. For coworking members, do you need me to find you a job or something like that? Basically, there is kind of a gap there.
Manuel Mayerhoffer 11:44
Maybe I misunderstood what you said, personally, it is not only extracted in this way, but it might also be that the coworking space for instance connects them with investors, or it might connect them to accelerators. At times we even see evidence of coworkers reserving in-house accelerators. So it’s not necessarily that they look for a job for them. But they do it. They essentially do everything that is necessary for them to grow their businesses in the best way possible.
Željko Crnjaković 12:12
So basically like incubators and accelerators, because we always saw the difference between an incubator and accelerator in coworking spaces. One is incubation, the other is in networking and then getting them up and about. And coworking spaces are usually just about the community and then rent. And that sucks.
Manuel Mayerhoffer 12:36
I think the lines are blurring so you guys think it’s more and more difficult to really differentiate like this. So, I mean, there are the different hybrid forms that have mold, others just focus on one element of this, but this kind of general tendency seems to be having in-house exploration, building the strong industry network in order to mediate between members, and the business environment and to some extent, that is really what we see in terms of the development and coworking spaces at the moment.
Željko Crnjaković 13:11
Yeah, Bernie what’s your take on all this? Did you mostly have or been a part of coworking spaces that had some of these features?
Bernie J Mitchel 13:25
I’m listening and I have a question about the attraction and marketing bit. But personally what I’ve always found is that the spaces I’ve been part of have always just been a mix of people, and probably first one I worked in was the Innovation Warehouse in 2010, in London, and helping with events or stuff there. And that was an accelerator. And at that time, obviously I know now, but at the time I had no idea what accelerator versus the incubator, and only just heard the word coworking. And that was definitely people who wanted to get in, go into some kind of boot camp and get out the other end and their product will work or not, and you got an amazing amount of support because you made it to the end. So I was quite amazed at how people came in and actually worked. They were so intent and focused and what they were doing, I felt a little uncomfortable at their level of commitment. And then, I went to different spaces which were a mix of people that were always found in community.
I’m very Freelancer based. And then I was in a place called Fast Type of Boardroom, which was, again, it wasn’t a start-up accelerator but it was like a place where like-minded, socially minded start-ups, all hung out together and got their stuff done, so the sense of purpose in there, flowed really well, and why I mentioned those two is because they attracted the same kind of people they were in the same London ecosystem if you like. And when I first saw your talk at the symposium and attracting talent, isn’t it, how much for that? Because I’ve always felt like the strongest way to get people into a place, is a referral like, “come to this space it’s really good”, and in business in general a word of mouth strong recommendation referral is the strongest thing. But how did people communicate? How did you recommend or did you discover anything as you have Marco researching about how people communicate using email or websites or the messaging they put out there. What about the outward, or the outbound kind of communication together happening?
Manuel Mayerhoffer 15:51
Yeah, well, Bernie I fully agree with you I think that referral and this is also what emerged from the interviews is still the strongest attraction mechanism that you have, and what we see is that by building this brand identity of the coordinate space. People actually. So the members of the space they self-identify with this space so much that they are happy to spread the word. So this is something that happens, organically somewhat in the background. At the same time, when I think of the kind of key elements that really are there is using events, so they do a lot of events on all sorts of different topics or maybe something fun that is not even professionally related whatsoever, but they always open these for the public as well. So, they might pay a small fee.
The members can join for free just by being in the space, perhaps connecting with some of the people there. They automatically feel, whether it’s something they would like to be part of. Or perhaps whether they don’t fit in as much. So, the community happens to be something of a self-selection mechanism. So you go to the space maybe afterwards you sign up for trial day, just breathe it in and get a feel for the space and if you say it’s something for you, then it’s likely that you also fit to this kind of local ecosystem that you have them. And if perhaps you don’t feel as welcome, and you don’t get on so well with the people there, then organically these people will leave as well. So, this is how the attraction works in the sense that you get in the end and it’s a process that takes a lot of time but you get to build a base of people that just fit together, and will fit the idea of the space.
Bernie J Mitchel 17:29
Did you do much, and you may not have done, so it’s fine if you didn’t, research? And what kind of sales, follow customer journey; how people kind of wake up in a city and go, and then arrive in a coworking space. What happens before they actually arrive in that space?
Manuel Mayerhoffer 17:48
Not as much, I would say, because the main focus really was on HR. But, it’s really something that we might explore further, maybe. On that note, I mean we are planning on expanding the study. It wasn’t just Marco and me, it was many other researchers that have collected the data and helped us in all sorts of different ways. But we would really love to expand the study, so this is one of the things that we might explore, so maybe I can put in a shameless plug here. So spacing and facilities that might be interested in contributing to this further, they can write an email to Marco, that’s email@example.com. So just drop him a line, we’d be more than happy if you want to contribute to that.
Bernie J Mitchel 18:35
That’s not a shameless plug. The whole purpose of the Coworking Assembly is to connect people to the world. And I’m going to sell my new book.
Željko Crnjaković 18:48
By the way, I have an online course.
Bernie J Mitchel 18:52
How to get ahead in academia.What we talk a lot about in geeky coworking circles is how to manage that trial day. And was it was there anything that popped up in the trial day that you’d like to comment on? Because sometimes people just say come for trial. Someone sits at their desk and goes: “no one spoke to me”, and they go, and obviously that’s not a good trial day. Is there anything that popped up for you?
Manuel Mayerhoffer 19:18
Absolutely. I think you really need to see the trial day as not something only for the person that comes in for the trial, but also something for you to discover more about the person, and really try and make them feel welcome, so that this going as far as perhaps inviting them sit down for lunch. Maybe informally, connecting them to some of the people there. Because, we all have that, if you’re new in this space. They all seem to be friends already. Unless you’re very much of an extrovert, you won’t just go up to people and say: “hey what’s up, let’s have a chat and go for beer in the evening”, right. So, a little help from the community managers, for instance, the people who are in the space can go a long way, otherwise you might lose all of these great people that came in for a trial, just because you were too shy to connect with those.
Bernie J Mitchel 20:08
Thank you for that. Pardon my urgency in asking the next million dollar question, the time that we were recording is not available tonight, and you handed it in last week, So COVID hit, and everyone went online and the ultimate disruption happened. And is there anything you can comment on or share that came up about how people attracted it, everything you and Marco studied and the other academics studied? By the shift from being online in person to sorry offline in person, operations to being online, did anything come up there that you’d like to share?
Manuel Mayerhoffer 20:55
Yeah, well, the data was actually collected in the end of last year. So, the data is unaffected by what’s going on, all this craziness at the moment. So it’s, I guess, refreshing as well, not to get a link to this everywhere, but obviously this is not something we commented on in the paper, nobody can say what’s going to happen. I mean there’s a lot of speculation going on. Some say that it’s the end of coding. But more than that, I have a feeling that the majority of people say that coworking will rise even further. It’s like the Phoenix from the ashes, that the flexibility that companies need after such a crisis is exactly what core disruptors can provide. So, I mean I’m hoping for that outcome.
Željko Crnjaković 21:44
I can only imagine the academia guys going; “no, COVID is not such a bad thing, we have to research, even more”. How is this affecting coworking and then so on? No positive things can happen out of this.
Manuel Mayerhoffer 22:04
To be honest, if you’re researching workspaces then something like this, that it’s just putting everything upside down is always super exciting. And even in businesses now you’d see that suddenly all these things that were not possible before. Now they have pushed through these things digitally it’s working out flawlessly. And I’m sure that a lot of the stuff that companies are doing at the moment, might be online meetings or whatever I think a lot of this will stay with us.
Željko Crnjaković 22:30
Exactly. So what I’ve been telling people is that I applaud, and everybody has managed to kind of adapt to new circumstances. I’m just hoping that a lot of good solutions don’t or didn’t just happen, just because of this time and this period. If it’s a good solution, you should keep it amongst your other offer or other revenue sources or whatever it is that you’re doing out there. So, whatever works. We have been pushed for at least two years with the way that we need to think about things and develop things and implement new things.
Manuel Mayerhoffer 23:15
Yeah, yeah. I mean these are things that you even see now in coworking spaces. I was just talking to some of the people of the German Coworking Federation. I was at the conference actually two weeks ago so, greetings at this point, was really fantastic but they talked a lot about this as well, and things such as virtual coworking for instance are now on the rise. And, yeah, I think this was to happen anyway, I think these things were bound to be adopted either way. So perhaps the kind of crisis that we’re in now was the final nudge in that direction.
Željko Crnjaković 23:53
Exactly and, Bernie I’d like to also shout out, so immediately after the symposium, there is another cool event for all code basis, which is hack coworking hackathon by Cowork Ease and Cobot. And a lot of other friends that are organizing, which is a three day hackathon or ideas on how to develop new coworking, ideas and services after the pandemic.
Manuel Mayerhoffer 24:23
Where is that happening?
Željko Crnjaković 24:24
It’s all happening online, and now it’s just three days, basically 28th, 29th, and 30th of May, just after the Coworking Symposium which is happening on the 27th.
Bernie J Mitchel 24:37
And I want to post people back to a couple of episodes ago with Starvos and Maria from Cube. The Cube in essence, and we need to keep checking back in with them because they were talking about the whole hackathon online and selves. And they were experimenting ways, the exact way, because obviously everyone’s doing this to some extent, the exact way they could grow and manage and connect their community online, and they were using a gaming platform, which I cannot remember the name of.
Željko Crnjaković 25:06
Bernie J Mitchel 25:07
Discord, that’s it. Thank you very much. I’m finding this, maybe not the right one. But, how many people, ever since the episode, more and more things have popped up where people are using tools that will not work for, managing coworking spaces or connecting communities online, and many of them are gaming platforms so, that whole new level of geekiness is really enchanting for me. Is there anything else you’re dying to tell us?
Manuel Mayerhoffer 25:40
Well, perhaps, I guess that was once very dear to my heart and what I’ve personally found so fascinating is just, if coworking spaces are taking more of a strategic perspective on what they’re doing. I think they can really advance only the business side of the coworking space, but I think it can make for something really amazing for all the members there. So, in a sense to understand talent or to clarify what really means for them to go further down that road, and make sure that, yeah, that they are able to get all of these people there. I think it’s fantastic for those members to see this development to be around all of these amazing people. Not in a way that you perhaps perceived it at these accelerators to everything is putting pressure on you, but the kind of positive aspects of it.
Željko Crnjaković 26:34
And he acted fantastic. So, let’s wrap up, Bernie. So, what did we learn today?
Bernie J Mitchel 26:41
Well, honestly I knew you were going to ask that question in my head. This is what I like about the academic stuff because I turn up and usually I am the dumbest person in the room. I’m definitely the dumbest person in the room when it comes to these things, and it enables me to think about angles and bits, I just never considered before, so I’m really looking forward to hearing more in the symposium. And diving deeper and anyway, if you want to send me your paper, I’ll be happy to read that. I actually have an app that reads it back to me so I can go deeper and do this stuff this this is happening at the symposium. And, ladies and gentlemen, academia never sleeps, so there’s people all around Europe that we’ve got to know over the last decade who were researching this stuff. And not only is it incredibly geeky and interesting. It will help you – help you help your community thrive. And, you know, being smarter about your business.
Željko Crnjaković 27:39
Yeah ,exactly so basically this topic specifically that is very interesting that Manuel and Marco researched, because it shows that how can you maybe focus your coworking space and draw, much more value from it, both for your members, and for the businesses around you.
Bernie J Mitchel 28:03
So what I’m trying to say is, stop reading Inc. an Entrepreneur Magazine and start reading academic papers from the University of Prague. Thank you very much.
Manuel Mayerhoffer 28:11
Thank you very much guys.
Željko Crnjaković 28:11
Thanks you so much for joining us on this podcast session. For everybody out there, join us at the Coworking Symposium. We will link under this podcast. Also check out hackathon podcast and subscribe to the ECA newsletter on coworkingassembly.eu, so you can get up to speed on everything that the European forging assembly does. Thank you, and until next time.