Collective Ownership: LaSalle’s Journey to inspire Innovation and Collaboration

Posted on October 6, 2014 in Viewpoints by admin

Debbie Brin, Vice President of Human Resources at LaSalle Investment Management contributed valuable perspective at our NAREIM’s past HR meeting in August. She recounts LaSalle’s innovative journey to activate hidden talent and leadership within the company.


“There is no such thing as sole ownership,” noted NAREIM CEO Gunnar Branson at the 2014 NAREIM Human Resources Council Meeting in Chicago this past August. As an HR practitioner, this hit home for me. Organizational change and human capital development isn’t a standalone function; talent management and accountability for personnel belong to everyone in a company, not just human resources. When executed successfully, programs aimed at change and employee development can come to life. This can only be executed with what I like to think of as collective ownership, which is something I believe many organizations today are striving to achieve. I’ve witnessed LaSalle’s implementation of this type of philosophy, and it is a powerful workplace tool that translates to shared responsibilities. Innovation and developing talent is not something you persuade leaders or managers to buy into; instead, they need to own it.

Below are two examples of LaSalle’s execution of collective ownership: LaSalle’s “innovation journey” and the 360 review process.


LaSalle’s Innovation Journey

LaSalle’s innovation journey began two years ago, when our senior leadership recognized a gap in collaboration across the firm that was impacting our overall business efficiency. Good ideas and best practices developed inside various teams were not being broadly shared and implemented. LaSalle’s leadership saw an opportunity to bring employees together to collaborate and drive consistency in best practice implementation across the firm’s North American platform. The first step required that we ask our employees how the collective “we” could do a better job. Over the course of 2012, nearly every employee in United States and Canada was interviewed. We asked each individual to identify: 1) where the drag in the system existed; 2) processes that either worked well or underperformed; and 3) changes they would make to how we operate our business. LaSalle’s employees responded with tremendous transparency and provided us with a treasure trove of feedback on how we could improve our overall operational performance.

In response to the feedback received, LaSalle created forums and pathways for our employees to work together and drive the changes they recommended. We launched several new initiatives, including formal development training opportunities, cross-functional innovation boards / task forces to reimagine how we work. The output of these training exercises and innovation boards has produced solutions we may have missed if we had not taken the time to empower our staff and allow them to question processes, think about solutions, debate new ideas, and ultimately execute new and better methods of getting work done. As the recommendations of our employees are being implemented, LaSalle’s platform is becoming more efficient, effective and nimble due to the collective ownership of our employees. We have also seen that when we are all owners of our business process and share responsibility for ensuring that we are as efficient and effective as possible, it can also improve how we deliver services to our clients. Our employees have demonstrated the power of driving ownership and accountability deep into the organization.


Developing Leaders and Talent

Ownership at LaSalle has extended beyond our business processes, programs, or other real estate investment management initiatives. We are fortunate to have senior leaders who recognize that developing leaders and talent is something they and the firm must own. LaSalle has shifted from a sole ownership to collective ownership approach of developing leaders and talent via our newly created 360 review process.

LaSalle’s 360 review process is in the process of being rolled out globally, after successful testing by several pilot groups within the firm. Our approach is based on the idea of our employees owning their feedback, and assisting each other in their development as professionals and / or leaders. We have endeavored to create an employee review process where multiple perspectives are needed to paint a complete picture of strengths and opportunities for individuals and our organization. We allow participants to gain feedback from all directions; down from managers, up from direct reports, and across from various peers, internal clients, and others. The ultimate goal of the 360 review process is for our organization to be able to gather cross functional feedback, penetrate team silos, and unite our employees across functional areas.

In addition to the above, we include traditional processes or mechanisms to evaluate and promote talent that are critical to any business, including succession planning, talent reviews, and annual performance management between individuals and managers. By merging our traditional processes with new ideas based on collective ownership, we believe we have successfully raised the bar in evaluating and developing our people.


Pushing Forward

To sum the above programs up, LaSalle has embraced the concept of collective ownership. We will continue to engage our employees to own their business accountabilities, firm-wide goals, and individual career plans. To remain competitive in today’s market, we must push ourselves to have a global mindset and be thoughtful about our brand, services, and product offerings across the globe. Our employees are all owners of the processes, business outcomes, and evolutions our organization requires to remain competitive. Without collective ownership, we would simply be asking for “buy in,” and lacking a genuine connection to pushing forward and achieving the success that really matters for our business. We will continue to use this model down the road, as we reach for larger goals and accomplishments for the firm, our employees and, most importantly, our clients.