How Brenda Brainard Oversees More Than 500 Offices at Once

By finding and maintaining the right facilities to serve its clients, Brenda Brainard helps EmployBridge grow

Brenda Brainard; Director, Real Estate & Facilities; EmployBridge

Even as automation is substantially changing the employment landscape, EmployBridge continues to excel in its mission: Get good people good jobs. And in spite of statistics featured in its own white paper, The Automation Effect, that indicate automation could impact 60 percent of all US manufacturing, transportation, and warehousing jobs, EmployBridge has been experiencing 8 percent growth annually. The company puts more than eighty-five thousand people to work each week across a network of more than five hundred offices in forty-eight states and Canada.

The company is a leader in branded staffing, industry-specific solutions, and workforce management strategies, and operates four divisions that specialize in commercial, general, professional, and energy staffing. Brenda Brainard, EmployBridge director of real estate and facilities, has been with the company for more than twenty-three years. She began as an executive assistant, but was encouraged by her immediate supervisor to obtain her Texas real estate license. She then went on to add a broker’s license. Now, she is responsible for managing approximately five hundred offices (including franchised locations) in forty-eight states. As she explains, her role goes beyond facilities management to decisions that impact employee productivity and engagement.

How would you describe your responsibilities?

In addition to locating and managing appropriate sites, I oversee creating environments where our employees, who have critical expertise and relationships in the industries that they service, can follow through on their passion for our business. That enables them to provide our clients with the workers and skill sets they need when they need them.

What are the greatest challenges you face in following through on those responsibilities?

Because we have a variety of industry-specific brands, we identify and design a wide variety of spaces. For instance, our light industrial brands such as ProLogistix, Select, ResourceMFG, or ProDrivers require very different spaces than our professional or energy brands such as RemX or Decca. The most challenging locations have proven to be what we call validation centers, where we test potential associates for skills like operating various types of forklifts and scanners.  These are typically 2,500 to 5,000 square feet with a fifty-fifty split of office and warehouse space with twenty-foot clear height ceilings that emulate our clients’ warehouses.

What industry trends are you implementing in EmployBridge locations?

We’re putting a lot of focus on the employee experience. In the physical space, that translates into creating more open and collaborative environments. Many of our branches are using alternative layouts that mix shared and private areas, as well as activity-based workspaces. That might mean a bullpen area where recruiters are interviewing applicants, setting up placements, and are able to easily interact with each other.

We’re also focusing on safety, comfort, and employee well-being. In many locations we’re working with landlords to replace older lighting with LEDs to create a warmer and friendlier environment. We design our offices to take maximum advantage of natural lighting, which boosts worker productivity and happiness. We’re also implementing a variety of different noise solutions. Those range from taller dividers in offices that use cubicles to white noise solutions that use strategically distributed small speakers throughout a given space. And we’re always looking into LEED certifications and green buildings when possible. All of these efforts result in improved productivity, and they also boost recruitment and retention.

What is a unique aspect of your job?

We work with locations that range from small branches to service centers with up to two hundred people, so there’s a tremendous variety in what needs attention at any particular moment. But I think most people would be surprised by how fast priorities change on a daily basis. There might be seasonal issues, like HVAC problems during extreme temperature swings, or it could be storm damage to a roof, or branch remodeling to make the applicant process flow more smoothly. We’ve even had an instance where a landlord called to tell us that a building was sold, and we were being given thirty-days notice that the lease wasn’t being renewed. No two days are exactly the same, but they’re always interesting.

How have you upgraded your processes to keep up with EmployBridge’s continued growth?

We’re always trying to streamline. When EmployBridge merged with Select Staffing three years ago, we added more than three hundred additional offices across the country. We ended up integrating the two real estate and facilities departments into a single database. We implemented a comprehensive lease management solution that enabled us to eliminate some manual processes, to improve reporting, and to be more efficient in processing monthly rent payments. My goal is to be more proactive with our lease expiration data so we can be more timely and strategic in our long-term planning and decision-making.

Are EmployBridge branches all standardized or are you able customize the locations?

Within each brand, we try to keep the office plan consistent. But we also have a locally owned-and-operated mentality. To follow through on that, we typically have a kick-off call at the beginning of each project to review floorplans and to get a feel for what the local managers have in mind, such as the workflow that they feel will be best for their clients, market, and employees. There’s a quote from Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, that our departments follow: “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.” We focus on creating an environment that our employees can enjoy so they can focus on serving our clients and the associates we place with them.