5 ways experience design can drive innovation and collaboration in the workplace

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For the average company, 80% of costs are allotted to talent, meaning that even modest changes to workers’ productivity, satisfaction and engagement can yield demonstrable returns on investment.

After all, on average, happy employees have 31% higher productivity, 37% higher sales performance and creativity levels three times higher than their unhappy counterparts.

For this reason alone, getting workplace strategy right—and making a commitment to tinker with it in real time to accommodate shifting workplace demographics and demands—must be a top priority for any successful company in 2017.

This summer, Colliers International released its Global Workplace Trends report, which outlines its case for why businesses—and commercial real estate companies in particular—should make five key changes to their workplace strategy over the next five years.

Among the trends Colliers explores, the one that is most imperative is to make employee experience a core part of business strategy.

Because an unengaged workforce presents a number of missed opportunities and business risks, companies are well-advised to put at least as much effort into the experiences they create for their employees as the ones they create for their clients.

Before revamping your workplace strategy, here are five things to consider:

1) Appoint an employee “cruise director”—a.k.a., a chief experience officer (CXO)

Co-working company WeWork has appointed a “community manager” at each of its locations to coordinate employee activities.

In this way, says co-founder Adam Neumann, it has created a “physical social network” where authentic interactions happen.

The CXO’s focus should be not only on curating employee experiences that blend business and pleasure, but also on establishing metrics for measuring company progress toward goals ranging from retention to productivity.

2) If you build it, they will come

If yours is a company that values having employees spend as much time as possible in the workplace, consider ways to improve the quality of that time by establishing a campus-like environment.

Google, for example, has famously packed its workplace with perks in an effort to create no less than the happiest and most productive workplace in the world.

With play areas, cafes and coffee bars, outdoor terraces and well-appointed conference rooms, not to mention access to yoga and pilates classes, massage and more, Google’s workplace has become a top selling point for job candidates.

But even small ideas can bring employees together in meaningful ways: to encourage what it calls “casual collisions,” international design and consulting firm IDEO introduced a weekly tea time across offices that sees employees take a 10-minute break to mingle over tea and baked goods.

3) Choose your neighborhood wisely

If you do not have the resources or desire to offer Google-level amenities to employees, another option is to locate your business near someplace that does.

In 2020, Booking.com will do this spectacularly in Amsterdam, where it will open an office in a new and vibrant part of downtown called Oosterdokseiland, a small island that has emerged as a hub of urban business, recreation and environment.

To encourage employee relaxation and socialization, albeit off-campus, companies are wise to place themselves strategically within an attractive environment that will act like catnip for potential employees.

4) Share amenities

Another idea: Consider pairing with other companies to share amenities like a cafeteria or fitness room. Look for spaces where landlords or multi-tenant facilities provide these kinds of spaces for occupants’ shared use.

Or consider third-party service providers like Covene, which works with building owners to create conferencing spaces and casual meeting hubs, complete with food and technology that draw tenants in.

5) Bring a hospitality mindset into the workplace

To make your employees feel welcomed and appreciated, think like a hotel and put the concierge model to work in an office setting. Colliers has found that by establishing one central place where employees can come with needs and questions, nearly 60% of everyday workplace issues are resolved on the spot.

The key to this service model is to not just seek ways to add perks to employees’ lives or to offer practical assistance with things like technology and scheduling. More important, see what can be taken off of an employee’s plate to reduce friction—e.g., scheduling maintenance on their car—so there can be more time for both productivity and leisure (both of which drive engagement).

This model acknowledges the simple fact that the pressures of life affect performance in the workplace.

Whichever approach(es) a business opts to take, those that make these shifts sooner rather than later will find themselves ahead of the curve and among the winners of the new talent arms race.

It is not easy to create an agile and “sticky” company culture that is rich with opportunities for connectivity and feel-good moments. But it is always worth the effort it takes.

About Keith Perske

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