What’s in a workplace?
For forward-looking organizations, the answer is about more than just providing a space where employees do their jobs. Employee engagement and satisfaction are vital parts of the employee experience, and more organizations are broadening their focus to include optimal workspaces.
Of course, employers aren’t doing this just to be generous. Employee satisfaction is strongly correlated with customer satisfaction and financial performance. The Gallup State of the American Workplace study found that companies in the top quartile of employee engagement experience 10 percent higher customer ratings. And a study conducted by Washington State University determined that customer satisfaction is directly linked to employee satisfaction, and that financial success is directly linked to customer satisfaction.
Workspaces play an integral part in the holistic strategy to recruit, train, and develop employees to succeed. Companies are examining employee journeys, studying the needs of their workforce, and using surveys and metrics to understand the entire employee experience.
Redefining the workplace
In today’s competitive marketplace, employers are realizing they must create a place where employees want to work. The competition for talent in many industries is incredibly fierce. And platforms like LinkedIn have made it easy for recruiters to steal talent from a company’s competitors.
A side effect of the increase in competition is that companies are now studying the workplace in an effort to create flexible, collaborative, and productive environments. Apple, Facebook, Google, and LinkedIn, for example, have introduced innovative new workspaces that bring together recreation, collaboration, and individual work in innovative ways.
So what can organizations do to create a work environment where employees can thrive? Before making any changes, observe the various ways your employees work and look for opportunities to enhance them. Employees need spaces where they can concentrate, collaborate, learn, and socialize. Is your company lacking in any of these areas?
The answer isn’t just an open floor plan or rows of cubicles. Instead, give employees multiple modes of working. Progressive offices don’t have a single floor plan; they have multiple options. In addition to an open floor space and cubicles, the office may include a collaborative innovation hub, entertainment area, and conference rooms of various sizes. If your organization doesn’t have a lot of space, consider allowing employees to work from home and the office. The key is to shift away from a one-size-fits-all mentality to one that emphasizes flexibility.
It’s also important to update the workplace when necessary. Just as companies upgrade their software and tools, the workplace has to evolve to keep up with employees’ needs. Some organizations with a large footprint are frequently experimenting and testing new office layouts and environments. Even if your organization can’t do the same, pay attention to the details. Would the break room benefit from better lighting and a larger television? Do employees need more places to collaborate and/or work privately? Even small improvements can have an impact.
A holistic strategy
A fantastic workspace alone won’t be enough to keep employees engaged if they’re poorly managed or don’t have the right tools. In addition to outfitting an office with modern comforts, make sure there’s a strategy in place to help employees be successful at their jobs.
It starts with the recruiting and training process. When recruiting new hires, for example, is the HR department working in conjunction with other departments to ensure there’s a clear understanding of the role that needs to be filled? What are the career paths and options for professional growth? Are efforts being made to hire candidates who fit the company’s culture in addition to possessing the right skills?
Research has shown that one of the main reasons people like or dislike their job is based on how they feel about the support they get from their immediate supervisor. In many cases, though, managers oversee their teammates without any formal training. A more effective approach is to have managers take a training and certification course in addition to training front-line workers. Even experienced managers can benefit from a brief refresher course. Training internal employees for a promotion to a managerial role can also lower attrition and other personnel costs.
If your company doesn’t have the internal resources to offer extensive training, consider working with a partner. In addition to acting as an extension of the company, an experienced partner can suggest best practices for further streamlining the training process or point out discrepancies that went unnoticed.
It is also critical that companies regularly measure their efforts. For instance, consider taking a regular survey of employee opinions and sentiment. The survey could be as short as three questions:
- Do you know what’s expected of you?
- Does your supervisor care about you?
- Do you have the tools you need to do the job?
The survey results can help the company quickly identify areas that need further assessments or adjustments.
Managers and supervisors should also be open to informal discussions with employees. For example, perhaps an employee would be more productive in a quieter setting, but doesn’t want to formally state that in a survey. An astute manager may be able to suggest a solution. Taking these steps can help identify issues before they escalate.
Finally, it’s also critical to have a system in place for listening to employees and implementing improvements. For instance, when it comes to maintaining office spaces at companies with multiple locations, every location needs a point person to ensure the space meets the company’s standards and to report problems to headquarters.
The best workplaces are the ones that are designed to suit the employees’ needs. But optimal workplaces are just one part of the equation to improving and maintaining employee morale. Ultimately, companies need a comprehensive strategy for empowering employees to be successful at their jobs, starting with the recruiting and training process. Because the more satisfied employers can make their employees, the happier employees can make their customers.