Highly successful companies invest a lot of their resources into organizational development and training and take particular notice of their key employees and clients’ feedback and interests. As a former executive in Human Resources for a billion dollar company I spent a large part of my career analyzing data from employee feedback questionnaires and creating employee-centric cultures. In many instances requests for some form of company improvement would be shed to light. Through the years, it dawned on me there was a need in the strategic planning process to integrate culture and the work environment to continue to drive beliefs forward.
The workplace (and design thereof for this matter) does not typically receive the attention of top management that it needs and deserves. It is an after-thought - once the plan numbers have been achieved or worse, as a result of an impending problem. More and more successful businesses however are including workplace design as part of their strategy linking it to key metrics such as employee attraction and retention, employee and client perceptions and safety initiatives. Here’s why you should too:
1. Saves time and money.
Incorporating design in your strategy allows you to proactively identify where opportunities lie and in doing so plan for a thoughtful and perhaps phased solution. This relates to minor repairs as well as full scale renovations. As in most situations, repairing something “after the fact” is never less expensive. By documenting your existing findings and productivity gaps you create a benchmark and reference for business planning meetings to assist in identifying your workplace needs, creating a manageable schedule and phasing your investment.
Furthermore, focusing on the daily functionality of your work environment allows you to improve process and efficiencies delivering substantial savings. Deliberate design incorporates the way departments work together, for instance analyzing a manufacturing process can help cut production costs or studying the way a restaurant kitchen is utilized can reduce the number of times a dish is touched before it goes to the guest. Being aware of how departments work together and industry specific regulations aids in compliance with such regulations and also impacts cost effectiveness.
Motivated and engaged employees generally remain longer within organizations. For those who live up to this challenge, this is good news because according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) it costs an average of 9 months’ salary to replace a salaried employee. For a manager making $40,000 a year that’s $30,000 in recruiting and training expenses. In addition to providing challenging and gratifying work, (an entire subject of its own) there are a number of other ways to instill a strong sense of company pride and improve your employees’ workplace experience.
Your business should reflect a space that cares for its employees. Ask them what’s important to them! According to Dr. Noelle Nelson, a clinical psychologist and best-selling author of "Make More Money by Making Your Employees Happy," "When employees feel that the company takes their interest to heart, then the employees will take company interests to heart." Maybe they are seeking a private space to make personal phone calls or an additional white board to capture ideas generated in a meeting. You’ll never know by only guessing from your own office.
Company branding also plays a significant role in culture and employees’ emotional connection to their companies. A branded work environment is a continuous visual reminder of a company’s belief in themselves and their products or services and one that stimulates an emotional connection with employees. Your people are your best marketing tool so creating an environment that supports the idea of your brand is your culture and your culture is your brand is a win/win proposition.
3. Improves customer experience. (which makes money)
Design helps us differentiate from our competition -often before services are even provided. It’s the difference in feeling you get walking into a potential Financial Planner’s office with an old smell, tattered rug and window treatments from the 1990’s compared to the entrance into a well-kept current office setting. The latter suggests the company does well and cares about their customers, endeavoring to impress them at every step of their experience.
Your workplace shows your customers how your culture is different and can be an extension of your marketing plan. Companies invest millions of dollars into continually evaluating and planning for ways to meet their customers’ needs overlooking inside their very own doors. When you deliberately design a space for the customers you work with you create an experience they remember. Customers enjoy sharing their experiences with friends. These personal endorsements become a powerful communication tool for your business.
4. Improves safety and health. (which saves money)
A lack of ergonomic awareness in today’s workplaces is costing employers big money. The U.S
Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 650,000 work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) with mean costs of $8,070 per case versus a mean cost of $4,075 per case for all types of work-related injury. MSDs account for one-third of workplace injuries. Worker's Compensation claims per injury cost individual employers $29,000 - $32,000 per year.
Conversely and perhaps ironically, the best ergonomic solutions are shown to have an excellent return on investment and improve productivity. Designing a work station to allow for good posture, less exertion, fewer motions and better heights and reaches allows employees to perform at their best level, thus increasing productivity.
5. Encourages creativity and spontaneous interactions.
Revenue and profit grow from innovation so encouraging this behavior in the workplace is fundamental to success. Spatial layout and circulation contribute to the ease of collaboration and create a foundation for your culture’s character, or the “mood” of your workplace. Creating environments that encourage spontaneous interactions fosters cross-pollination among departments, socialization and engagement.
“Huddle stations” outside of meeting rooms allow for employees to meet casually before or after more formalized meetings where ideas may be shared more freely.
In anticipation of your next strategy meeting challenge your team to identify ways design is a part of your existing strategic plan. If their answers appear murky, perhaps it’s time to develop a creative space so that you can brainstorm how every square foot delivers its share of profitability.
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