Craig Murray, Consultancy and Design Director at TSK Group, shares his views on creating effective workplaces with people at the heart.
Creating effective workplaces
Winston Churchill famously said, "We shape our buildings and thereafter they shape us." It is easy to recognise the strength of this statement when applied to our homes, but it is equally true of the workplace.
Workplaces have changed significantly over the last few years, in part due to mobile technologies including smartphones and tablets, and possibly coffee. But also, more importantly, despite these advances in technology and changes in the way we work, including working remotely from home or other locations, there has been a renewed understanding that people work more effectively together. Organisations are wanting flexible spaces that enable collaboration and inspire creativity.
The UK’s productivity and performance are constantly reported as low compared with many other countries. Organisations have been working hard to raise the performance of their people, recognising that employee engagement, the experience for individuals and the leadership style that guides them, all have a direct impact on desired customer outcomes and market success.
Aligning your organisational needs and purpose
Workplaces have moved away from traditional manufacturing models, no longer identifying people as units of production but central in workplace thinking. Workplaces are human centred and, as catalysts for organisational performance, we can no longer look for a simple shorthand to understand what good looks like. Effective, efficient and expressive, with a size estimation of between 10m2 – 12m2 per space were once key elements of a workplace checklist, but not today.
To create an effective workspace that is aligned to the organisational needs and purpose it is about consulting and engaging across the organisation to identify workplace and change objectives. Customer outcomes sit at the centre of an organisation’s purpose, with the complex interconnectivity of people, culture and leadership drawn around this central purpose.
In addition to this, through workplace consultancy, evidence can determine the type of physical environment to be created. Businesses are changing their approach to the workplace layout and, rather than modular blocks, more open-plan spaces are being adopted to create opportunities for collaboration. Fluid, flexible spaces enhance the employee experience further, with a variety of activity-based work settings to enable people to choose the type of settings they need dependent on their work tasks.
Putting people first
In 2017, we partnered with AJ Bell, relocating 500+ of their team into their new headquarters, EQ4, at Salford Quays. Stemming from their future plans, the project was about creating a space with employee wellbeing at the core, and attracting the best talent to support their growth. From the outset, the company was determined to create a space that would best fulfil its people’s needs.
Recently EQ4 achieved a Leesman+ accreditation, which is the highest rating issued by independent workplace effectiveness assessor, Leesman. This score was a result of AJ Bell’s clarity of purpose, identifying staff engagement as a central theme in the project execution, communication and deployment.
As you arrive at AJ Bell, you pass the gym on the ground floor which demonstrates the energy of the organisation underlying employee wellbeing. You are then welcomed by the reception that radiates the brand and the core values of the organisation. Moving between floors you pass between dedicated agile work areas, then you arrive at the centre of the building which is dedicated to talent development. The top floor provides social connection and giving back to their employees some of the best views of Manchester.
The workplace for AJ Bell is a catalyst for their success, underlining their leadership ambition and their organisational values through human experience. They have built upon what they know and that is that people are the key differentiator in any business, both clients and colleagues. Everything else can be bought.
As we continue to navigate through a changing working world with evolving technology, the role of the workplace will also evolve. Through workplace consultancy, organisations can discover insights about the needs of their people and utilise these to create workplaces that harness the potential for employee and organisational success.