If you're redesigning your workplace, it's better to be you than to be 'cool'

Bee Heller, Partner at The Pioneers, shares her insights into employee experience and the factors to consider when redesigning your workspace.

Every year the lists go round of the coolest offices and workplaces out there. Google invariably features alongside various other successful start ups. There seems to be an expectation that businesses should provide bean bags, ping pong tables, slides, swings, fridges filled with beer and top of the range coffee machines. If they don’t, then why would people bother joining…?

But is this really what people want? Is an indoor lawn really going to create the kind of employee experience that both attracts and, critically, retains talent and supports employees to work and collaborate effectively and contribute to the overall success of the company.

Take a look at this classic list of ’18 of the coolest office spaces around the world’.

On there we have Groupon providing: "breakout spaces with indoor swings and island-themed areas to relax – random boulders included”, and Quicken Loans giving employees: “a pool table built to look like a Ford Mustang, a basketball court, and in-office scooters”, to name just two of the more eccentric office features to make the list. 

On the surface, all the companies that make this and many other similar lists have fantastic office spaces. An outsider walking around would be wowed by the space. However, if you’re not an outsider but an employee who spends every day in the space, how much do these offices really influence your behaviour and contribute to creating a distinctive organisational culture?

Contrast these ‘cool’ offices with the likes of Lego and Halfords…

At Lego their workplaces aim to be places "where employees thrive and develop”. They are currently developing a new Lego Campus at their Danish headquarters in Billund. The Campus is deliberately designed to be, “an expression of our company values and rich history, a place where colleagues can be inspired to be creative and playful, featuring a strong sense of community.” The Campus will feature, "event spaces, health-care clinic, fitness area, makerspaces, a guesthouse for employees, and a public park for the enjoyment of the local community and visitors to Billund.”

When you visit the Halfords Support Centre in Redditch it’s impossible not to be struck by how much it reflects the brand. Bikes and car references litter the office. Even as you use the facilities the pictures on the backs of the toilet doors continue to reflect the brand. But it’s not just a token gesture, as you walk through different departments, employees will stop you to show off the latest bike in their range that’s taking pride of place behind their desk as they plan a marketing campaign.

At both Lego and Halfords, the workplaces have been deliberately designed to reflect aspects of the brand and drive particular behaviours – whether that be engaging with the local community and being inspired by a sense of play, or driving a passion for the product and encouraging the sharing of new ideas. 

If you find yourself trying to go one better than your competitors when it comes to your workplace, then you’re missing a huge opportunity. Yes a swanky office might get you some publicity and attract a few candidates but if the only reason people are joining you is for what the office space looks like then they’re unlikely to stay for long. 

In our view, if you want to create a workplace that contributes to the success of your business, we think you need to apply an employee experience lens to its design.

What do we mean by this?

Every company is on a journey. Every employee within a company is also on a personal journey. At thousands of touch points these two journeys interact. Employee experience is about identifying which touch points matter most and then designing those experiences so they meet the needs of both employees and the company. 

When considering an office move or refurbishment, we think you should first understand the journey your company is on, then understand who your people are and what they want, before journey mapping the experience of your employees and how the physical environment affects this experience. As you do this consider all the opportunities for how the office space can support an experience that works for both employees and your company. Then make purposeful decisions about the design of your building in order to influence particular behaviours, ways of working and culture.

This approach is about being very deliberate in using workplace design to drive a distinctive organisational culture. If you get it right, you can create a workplace that supports employees from the day they start with you, to have an experience that is not only positive for them and makes them want to stay but also supports them in contributing to the success of your business.

If you want to explore these ideas further, TSK Group and The Pioneers are partnering on the next Knowledge Exchange event on 22nd November and will be facilitating an interactive session on this very topic. Find out more here.

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