Bruce Barclay: The role of the workplace in employee experience

The war for talent is being fought out across the business spectrum with major companies offering an ever-changing and tempting employee experience to recruit and retain the best people. The physical workplace is playing a key role in that battle, as it’s now required to attract and retain talent, engage and inspire people and ensure they’re working at their most productive while they’re there.

And a focus on the workplace is much needed. Productivity is at an all-time low. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reported, in May 2018, that the global economy is still below the 4% average growth rate between 1987 and 2007.

A high-performing workplace is a key tool in the drive for improved productivity. The Stoddart Review, created to raise awareness among business leaders of the importance of the workplace as a key performance lever, revealed that an effective workplace can improve business productivity by as much as 3.5%. Economist Duncan Weldon believes that could add up to £70 billion to the UK economy.

There was a time when many companies were encouraging employees to work from home because of the benefit of a reduced real estate cost. Now they are promoting a balance between time out of the office and time in the office as there’s a recognition that competitive advantage is largely about innovation, and that usually comes about as a result of face-to-face collaboration. We increasingly want innovators and creative thinkers to come together and that collaboration tends to happen around the workplace.

At the same time, today’s workplace must support the vision, mission, core values and key objectives of the organisation. But many organisations focus most, if not all, their branding efforts on marketing activities such as advertising campaigns. Yet one of the most powerful brand assets of a company is its people. Employees crave a cultural connection to feel committed to an organisation. And the workplace plays a major role in creating that connection. It is a clear physical manifestation of the organisation’s brand. People want to be in an environment where they can better themselves and where they feel comfortable and are able to work productively; they want to be inspired. Research from JLL suggests that engaged employees add 147% to business value through higher performance. Offices are not only a desirable workplace to support talent attraction and retention but also create the right environment for improved productivity and increased business performance.

So how can we create the best employee experience in the workplace? While the design of each office is important, the workplace must enable the business rather than just look trendy. The starting point must be a deep understanding of the business both at a strategic level and operational level.  Of course the workplace must reflect the brand, but it must also enable talent attraction, productivity, innovation and business agility as well as meet the financial need of the business.

Employee experience is not one support function’s responsibility. It is shared among several teams: HR, facilities management, real estate, IT and finance. And yet, look inside most organisations and these departments work in ivory-walled silos, rarely sharing data and closely guarding their share of a budget or the favour of the board.

The challenges involved in creating the ideal employee experience – and the business impact that can have – are just too complex to be left to one team, to be fought over as a tool in a war of recognition or to be left to fall between the gaps. What is needed are for individual support functions within organisations to work together in workgroups or ecosystems. By bridging the gap between these functions to create a workplace ecosystem, we can drive this change and enable the workplace to transform and deliver the changing business objectives.

But this is a substantial change in focus for many businesses. It will require redesigning the organisational structure and putting the employee, essentially the workplace customer, at the centre, rather than a top-down approach with the employee at the bottom. This means that rather than the employee suffering a disjointed workplace experience – being passed from HR to IT, from FM to real estate and receiving mixed messages – they get an immediate response from one person who takes responsibility for dealing with the issue. This approach speeds up the response to employees and enables them to get on with their core job, delivering value to the business, more quickly.

With the individual at the heart of the workplace ecosystem,  different stakeholders with different insight and business perspectives, from HR and IT to FM and finance, can focus on the same goal – making the workplace experience the best it can be, enabling improved individual and business performance.

For further insight, watch this short video on the business benefits of creating a workplace ecosystem: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F-CR0ItIn_E&t=9s or read this longer article on the topic: http://workplaceinsight.net/get-ready-for-the-next-wave-of-technological-innovation-or-get-left-behind/

 

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About Bruce Barclay

Bruce Barclay is head of European real estate and workplace at financial services firm Elavon and US Bank.

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One Comment - Write a Comment

  1. Great piece, Bruce !
    Some organizations have figured out that a non-hierarchical design is for the greater good of all workers. This piece of the recipe enhances productivity and engagement–it also flavors the company culture and sets up for collaboration and proximity to leadership as you mentioned.
    Great foundations for an company to build upon.

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