A sense of pride
Last week, The Sunday Times announced the winners in this year’s annual survey looking at the best companies to work for. The list got me pondering what the magic formula is for organisations to achieve and maintain employee engagement.
Looking at the list, I felt enormous pride to see that Nationwide had climbed 5 positions and is ranked as the 6th Best Big Company to work for in 2015. The results of the survey, which take into account organisational leadership, employee wellbeing and personal growth, show that my colleagues believe Nationwide makes a positive difference. More than 80% feel a sense of pride about working there.
In a competitive market where customer value is key, how do organisations balance the need for cost savings with the less measurable expense of providing an engaging working environment that motivates and inspires employees? With companies being asked and funded to recognise talent, look at their working environment, and engage employees, how can they make sure they see a return on their investment?
Entering the (work)space age
The provision of space has particularly caught my attention. It’s been on my mind for a while, and I’ve been consciously considering it while reading about other organisations and during recent visits to partner companies, where I’ve had the opportunity to witness their workspaces in action. Red Bull’s London HQ provides an example of deliberate and overt investment in how employees feel about the space where they work, which of course fits seamlessly with the company’s overall brand. Employees use ping pong meeting rooms and a giant slide for moving between floors (almost, but not quite, giving them wings).
Offices are no longer built. They’re designed with a purpose in mind that combines both the movements and, crucially, the feelings of those using them. As creative space replaces the traditional and industries move to embrace customer-centred design, the physical working environment becomes a manifestation of the connection between employee and employer. It can make all the difference when bringing the right individuals in to the environment, getting the best work from them while they are there, and making them want to stay longer. Employers are, in short, entering the workspace age.
Sparks without friction
Gaining the energy, commitment and dedication of staff is about more than just the the colour of paint on walls though – it’s as much about the things we don’t notice as those that we do. Being an employee should be easy, from arriving and parking in the morning, to having a clean, functional and suitably-equipped space to work in. Let employees focus on what they do best by removing hygiene factors.
The environment should be a reflection of how the organisation wants to operate. I’ve visited the HQs of some iconic brands including Apple, Google and Facebook, and while they all operate very differently, they share the ability to use the physical space to communicate and reinforce culture. Tangerine bank in Canada recently tweeted photos and a video clip of their new office, which reflects their cultural values perfectly and is well worth a look. This ability to synergise the environment, the input and the output, is what makes employees effective.
“I work here”
Creating the right environment breeds success, but it’s about more than just furnishing the office with gadgets and gimmicks. A humanistic approach is needed. By developing employees as individuals, encouraging and celebrating their personalities, and helping them achieve their own agendas and personal successes, companies will see returns on their investment that go way beyond traditional measurements, PowerPoints and spreadsheets. There’s a buzz, an energy, it’s infectious and inclusive and it’s apparent to every visitor, every customer and every employee, at every touchpoint. That’s the magic that happens when employees are proud to say resoundingly: “I work here”.