WORKTECH takeaways: Culture Drives Engagement – and Engagement Defines Culture
By Michelle Jones & Jeff Lewis
The “war on talent” has moved from tech company skirmishes over a small group of technology “gurus” to a nationwide battle, with virtually every type of business and profession needing the talents of web designers, programmers, IT specialists and others to support their technology needs.
The fact that technology is changing how everyone is working was a recurring theme at the recent WORKTECH Conference in New York. While older generations of employees are learning and adapting to technology changes, for younger generations such as the “millennials,” technology is second nature. With how much technology is used in the workplace today, it’s no wonder that the demands of this new generation are driving companies to make changes to attract them.
The workplace used to be a structured environment; now it needs to be adaptable, flexible, and offer choice to its employees. The former prestige places to work are losing appeal. In 2015, only one Harvard Business School graduate went into investment banking, down significantly from 13% of graduates in 2007. The new generation of employees wants to work someplace they feel they are making a difference, where they feel empowered, and will choose that environment over opportunities to make more money elsewhere.
Ways to ATTRACT – and more importantly RETAIN – this technology-savvy generation include:
- Providing a quality workplace experience
- Offices need to be more than just a fun place to work. They need to create a culture that emphasizes choice, hospitality, and engagement.
- Choice – Younger generations of workers view choice as equaling respect. They want control over their time, progress, and environment. This mirrors technology, which we view as an on-demand service. This choice is presented both inside the office and outside the office with a wide variety of work settings.
- Hospitality – The lines are being blurred between office design and hospitality design. Today’s office employees want ultra-flexibility and the warmth and comfort of home where they work, including amenities such as providing snacks or food, which has become pretty standard. For example, what was once the coffee break area has evolved into the “Starbucks”-themed café complete with high-end coffee makers, and all the amenities of home that promote a social experience.
- Engagement – Involves employees understanding their career path, providing them with options, and letting them know they matter to the company – the “purpose-driven” generation wants a meaningful work experience, to be a part of something bigger than them.
- Making health and wellness a priority
To keep technology talent, companies have to take care of their employees. The idea of placing a treadmill in a room and calling it the exercise room won’t cut it anymore. Employees are looking for a more holistic approach to wellness.
- Providing a work/life balance – Flexible work schedules and benefits that provide support to individuals and families depending on their current life situation
- Ergonomics – Adjustable-height workstations, once thought of as an extra cost to the company, are now standard practice
- Designing space to promote movement, so employees get up, move, and interact throughout the space.
If technology is changing how we work, “co-working” is changing where we work.
WORKTECH highlighted an emerging trend in how companies view their office footprint. Instead of buying or renting office space, companies are buying memberships for employees in co-working centers.
The early adopters of co-working spaces were start-up companies looking for office space to grow their business. It then evolved into tech companies that wanted the flexibility and the creative environments co-working suites had to offer. Now, large corporations are literally “buying in” to the idea and leveraging memberships against real estate that they previously leased.
These co-working centers are having a big impact on the real estate community, and even creating new businesses as brokers help companies find space in these sites. It will also impact lease rates, terms and durations, which will probably become more flexible in order to compete with co-working stations.
A final takeaway from the WORKTECH Conference is that now is not the time for businesses to be complacent. Everyone is asking, “How do we keep the talent and how do we differentiate ourselves from our competition?” Companies need to realize that they are designing their workplaces for a generation, not an individual, because younger employees will move and switch jobs more than in the past. Therefore, you need to always be in the mode of promoting your organization in order to attract talent and promote a culture which continues to engage them.
"Growing, high-performance cultures are all about people and how your values drive behavior. Your workplace environment sets the stage for success, helping employees, recruits and customers experience your unique brand."
Director of InteriorsCreating Workplace
"I cut my teeth on construction documents for schools and hospitals, but found my passion in interior architecture and sustainable design. I've been fortunate to work on projects for Fortune 500 companies and enjoy the feeling of accomplishment when a tenant moves into a space I've helped create for them. I thrive on the fast-paced nature of interior architecture and appreciate the intimate nature of the finished product.
I'm very active in community service and local government, and enjoy responsibility."
Office Director & Vice President