In an evolving workplace where new ideas are being tested, efficiencies are being pushed and talent retention is key to a corporate’s success, keeping your staff in the loop through participation is one of the simplest and most important responsibilities.
A workplace is no longer a stagnant cookie-cutter model, but something that changes with the requirements and objectives. We’ve seen standing desks, treadmill phone booths, hot-desking and offices that have shrunk in size. Leading the employee through these processes is mandatory, so allowing employees to affect these changes is the ideal starting point.
The JLL offices in Johannesburg are a great example of employee engagement, where staff were once used to their own space with a pleasing photo of the kids or their cute new puppy in the nativity. We engaged them by making the move from a conservative one-desk-one-person approach, to a no desk ownership environment. ‘Neighbourhoods’ allow teams to collaborate and break-away areas enable privacy, think tanks and focused concentration. We took staff through the journey, creating change champions for coffee, furniture and more technical challenges such as telecoms and IT. By and large, it worked. But employee engagement is ongoing, it should never stagnate.
Assessing the status quo
We went on to distribute a Workplace Experience Survey last year aimed at understanding how the new environment had been adopted, where the pain points were and indeed, where we had succeeded. The outcomes were fascinating and have alleviated a pressing problem where an overwhelming number of staff wanted to be more flexible in terms of their hours and ability to work remotely. With time remaining on our lease and pressure on our space, we began engaging further on this topic, to understand the appetite for co-working subscriptions.
Co-working shaking ‘things’ up
Co-working is truly going to shake corporate workplaces up in a way that has yet to fully be realised in South Africa, you can read about the Workplace of the Future in my next blog piece. To wrap it up into a neat little bundle, co-working enables flexibility, collaboration across sectors and inspiration. For us, the flexibility was key, without fully predicting our employee growth over the next two years, the ability to add desks as and when we require is hugely attractive to the CFO.
When I talk about co-working, I’m not referring to the typical serviced office that has become a go-to in this market, we wanted an inclusive environment that enables our employees to sit alongside someone from a completely different sector. We wanted a space that inspires and offers something unique and different from our existing offices. These spaces are not simply to cater for overflow, they enact productivity, fulfilment and empowerment.
Engaging talent through co-working
Through our new-found co-working environment, we found that our staff have been engaged from the word go, this engagement has helped us ensure that time wastage is minimised, projects run smoothly, and that staff feel empowered to add their piece to the project, inspiring a strong buzz of anticipation through the office before the project goes live.
None of this would be possible without the initial survey to establish the existing sentiment and status quo.
Running location analyses was vital in ensuring the right locations were selected; how do teams work? Is it feasible? Does it suit certain divisions more than others? What spaces encourage innovation and focus?
Engaging talent through boardroom configuration
Another simple engagement and positive outcome come in the form of boardroom configuration. The Workplace Experience Survey indicated dissatisfaction with the internal meeting rooms. Whilst it is ideal to perform a utilisation study around these rooms to truly understand the usage versus the perception of usage, it is also important to continue the engagement. How many people are typically in your meetings? Are your meetings usually client facing or internal? What meeting room would you like to see more of? When we implemented this change in configuration to cater for these needs, employees owned the change and did not resist it. They are pleased to have been heard and the perception of meeting room dissatisfaction was alleviated, creating a happier, more productive work environment.
Engaging talent through the power of choice
Obviously, we cannot allow every employee wish to become reality, but when you trust your staff and provide them with choice and power, it is remarkable the insight you gather and the forward momentum you deliver.
Engaging staff is critical to a successful workplace, it is something I recommend you start with sooner rather than later – no change should occur without it.