How to Leverage Your Competitive Edge And Meet the Needs of a Changing Workforce
At the end of the day, the workplace is about the people—and communicating that and putting it on display is a good strategy. Take pride in your culture!
Making the right choices involves many considerations, foremost of which is sensitivity to changing demographics. Today’s office is typically multi-generational, with Baby Boomers, Millennials, and Gen Z working side by side. Each generation has different desires, skills, and views on what is important to them. And each growing organization faces fierce competition for top talent. In this environment, establishing a competitive edge is vital for recruiting, enhancing employee engagement, boosting productivity, reinforcing brand and culture, and allowing employees to enjoy a balanced live-work-play dynamic. The decision-making process involves the workplace management team and C-level executives working to accommodate conflicting requests.
Increasingly, companies are striving to meet workforce demands by providing amenities that satisfy the needs of younger workers while still respecting Baby Boomers, many of whom are retiring. With this in mind, it’s a good idea to determine what the competition is doing to attract and retain talent—and then to customize solutions that meet your organization’s unique needs.
Working with the Right Balance
- Food – Having an onsite food service or a nearby café is a top requirement, with an accent on value, variety, freshness, and comfort.
- Fitness – Healthy employees are generally happy employees. An onsite fitness center is great for stress management and results in fewer sick days.
- Fast elevators – Studies show that floor-to-floor separation is a deterrent to interaction. A faster ride with adequate cell service transforms inactive time into an opportunity to catch up on memos or send a quick text message.
- Green/outdoor space – An outdoor area with natural light allows employees to refocus on their priorities when they return to their desks.
Here is a checklist to help you create a workplace with the right balance of amenities.
Ubiquitous Technology: Technology is perhaps the most important factor in attracting new talent and enhancing employee engagement. Ubiquitous connectivity and multiple devices have become integrated into our daily lives and have affected the way we interact. Working with outdated equipment or inadequate Internet can be detrimental to employees’ productivity and cause discontent and frustration. However, mainstream technology alone doesn’t cut it. Data sharing and management are essential when employees work from home and when collaborating in different areas of the workplace.
In order to create a work-from-anywhere culture, consider the infrastructure throughout the workplace along with the ease of digital collaboration. Flexibility on where to offer technology and a variety of settings within the workplace itself helps meet the needs of individuals with different work styles. Millennials and Gen Z may be more comfortable in open meeting areas for small, collaborative sessions and in lounge-type social areas for quick meet-ups. On the other hand, Baby Boomers are generally more at home in traditional offices or cubicles.
But technology only goes so far when it comes to developing interpersonal relations. Therefore, be sure that your space fosters interactions, furthers creativity, and stimulates collaboration. In the final analysis, we are all adaptable, and a workplace that offers activity-based work settings will yield positive results on all levels.
Consider Workplace Service Programs: Be sensitive to your employees’ lives outside of work. What do they enjoy doing in their spare time? How do they spend their lunch breaks? Do they have young families? A live-work-play dynamic that accents services and convenience is becoming paramount in many organizations. The idea behind this is to factor in the daily tasks and pleasures outside of your employees’ work life and bring them closer to the office.
Simple tasks – such as banking, dry cleaning, pharmacy pickups, and car washes – are faster and easier if they’re convenient. Onsite fitness centers, cafes, restaurants, and even bars are becoming more common. In addition, walk-able outdoor areas, nearby entertainment, and personal care services are also becoming desirable amenities in the workplace. Overall, centralized locations lead to happier, engaged, and more productive employees.
Be WELL: Increasingly, employees are expecting ample wellness amenities. Wellness takes into account the way people work, eat, and relax, and wellness strategies create offices that optimize space by utilizing research-backed strategies. It’s no longer just about the job and the pay. Job hunters look at many wellness features–such as air, light, water, nourishment, fitness, comfort, and mind – when determining if a company will be the right fit.
Prospective employers value space with ample natural light and good indoor air quality as a minimum standard. Providing access to outdoor space and fresh air actually helps regulate stress and improves performance.
The push to put people’s wellbeing at the center of office design has led to an evolving WELL Standard. Today, more office buildings are becoming WELL-certified as sanctioned by the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI). The IWBI estimates that WELL-certified offices achieve a 22 percent increase in organizational performance.
Solicit, Communicate, and Accommodate: Engage, engage, engage! Before you blast an email to announce changes to your amenities, develop a planning engagement strategy that solicits input and workplace solutions. What is the long-term vision of company leaders three, five, or ten years down the line? What do they want to change or reinforce? What do staff members do in a typical day, how do they interact, and what do they need to enhance their productivity in their personal space? This information helps facilitate long-term change. No one wants to see dollars wasted on changes that don’t help push the company forward. Having a clear vision helps ensure that doesn’t happen.
When deciding on specific amenities, you of course need to determine costs, keeping in mind the expected ROI. In this regard, an experienced project management consultant is critical in guiding the process.
In any event, be flexible, adaptable and customize your choices, allowing for a combination of options to meet your unique needs. Again, engage staff and consider feedback.
Ultimately, it’s not just about the features in your building; it’s about the people and the experience! One size does not fit all. Studies show that performance is enhanced when the quality of life at home and at work are balanced and comfortable. A suitable work environment crosses generational lines. So, show employees that they are the heart of the organization – and make your workplace a vibrant home away from home!
Robin Weckesser is the president and founder of a3 Workplace Strategies, a workplace consulting group based in San Jose and serving companies throughout the United States and worldwide. The firm provides a full range of project management and facilities management services, including strategic planning, change management, site selection, design, construction, and relocation oversight, space programming, and open office/collaborative environments. For more information, visit a3workplacestrategies.com or email Robin at firstname.lastname@example.org.