Talent Crisis - 5 Ways your Office can Attract and Retain Staff

Against the backdrop of a talent shortage in the UK, forward-thinking businesses are harnessing the power of workspace design to attract and retain the best employees. In the third of our series on Future Workspaces, we offer five office design ideas to do just that.

On our journey into the future of work and office design, we’re seeing the secret to creating happier, more engaged and more productive people, lies as much in the workspace as in leadership and culture. Offices designed with that in mind appear to be attracting the right talent — and keeping it.

What does the future of workspace look like? Take a look at our insightful  eBook.

Workspace as a “lever”

Real estate is an expensive asset, so it needs to generate income, saysThe Stoddart Review, The Workplace Advantage. As soon as employers stop looking at their office space as a revenue-sucking, dead-weight, an “effective workplace” can improve business productivity by as much as 12%. This might seem an insignificant figure, but it makes a significant impact on the bottom line of organisations with high turnover.

“British businesses often tackle workplace productivity by making the workplace more efficient, not the people,” it says. “They think in cost per square foot, not revenue per square foot. And UK employees can tell. Only one in two (53%) agrees their workplace helps them to be productive. We can’t afford to ignore them.” The review, formed by the British Institute of Facilities Management, raises awareness of the importance of workplace and real estate as a “performance lever.”

Talent shortage costs UK £90bn

The UK skills shortage could cost the UK £90bn, and local councils warn that Brexit could make things worse, The Independent says in this July 2017 article. Meanwhile, weak productivity leaves the UK trailing behind other G7 nations, according toThe Guardian. Leesman’s databacks this up (while it differs slightly from the Stoddart Review) with only 57% of employees saying their workplace allows them to be productive). At the same time, the number of unemployed people for every job vacancy is the lowest ratio (around 2:1) since the turn of the millennium, andAgency Central predicts that ratio is set to fall below 1:1 this year.

As any commodity becomes more scarce, its value rises, which means today it’s very much a job-searchers’ market, where talented people seek out the best employers. Members of younger generations are prepared to move vast distances to do so. That’s a problem for employers on a recruitment drive. But not so for the best companies with the best leadership, cultures and office designs.

Of course, just because an office includes a slide, some bike racks and a gym, doesn’t mean candidates are queuing up, nor that existing staff are satisfied. Or does it?

The case for workspace design

After four years of research with more than 1,500 executives and workers in 14 countries, US workspace design firm, Knoll, found that employees who have choices over where and how they work report higher levels of satisfaction.

“Overall design was among the most definitive predictors of employee satisfaction,” says the Immersive Planning report, which was compiled from surveys and interviews with 150 workplace executives and more than 1,400 knowledge workers. “The relationships support the investment in the workplace not only as a recruitment and branding tool, but also as an invaluable means of achieving employee retention and high levels of worker satisfaction that contribute to good organisational outcomes.”

It seems an investment in office is an investment in staff. As the Stoddart Review and Knoll both agree, if you make the people more productive by changing the office (not the other way around) you will reap benefits in productivity, retention and recruitment. It’s no surprise that the best employers on the planet are making their offices destinations for the world’s best talent. A well-designed office is like a homing beacon for progressive-minded workers.

Talent acquisition 'top concern'

In the face of more choosy job searchers, recruitment has risen up the priority list of the world’s businesses. In Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends report, talent acquisition is the third most important trend among its top 10: “As jobs and skills change, finding and recruiting the right people becomes more important than ever. Talent acquisition is now the third most-important challenge companies face, with 81% of respondents calling it important or very important.”

It adds that: ”Attracting skilled resources is no longer simply the responsibility of HR. It now stands as a top concern of business leaders.” With input from more than 10,400 business and HR leaders across 140 countries, the 2017 report is Deloitte’s “largest and most extensive to date.”

What workers really want

According to a British Land survey of 1,000 UK workers in 2016 (The Office Agenda – What office workers really want): “If you want to attract and retain talented employees, having an office in the right location, with the features that today’s workers want, is more important than you may think,” it says. “Our survey suggests that planning workplace moves or improvements should be playing a significant part in businesses’ overall recruitment strategies, given the impact of the working environment on recruiters’ decision-making.”

With millennials making up to 75% of the workforce by 2025, British Land says that this generation, and its predecessors, Generation X, “demand the most from their employers.” Just over half (53%) of millennials claim to have changed jobs to improve the location and the features on offer,” says the report. “This is a generation of workers with strong ideas about what they want from an office.”

How is the workforce changing to adapt to new - and old - generations? Find out  in our eBook.

What’s “very important” to these two groups, says the introduction to the report, are open and connected environments, with Wi-Fi and communal meeting areas, as well as activities and events at, or near, the office.

With that in mind, here are our five ways to attract and retain the best talent through office design.

1. Keep it agile and communal

Providing a choice of workspaces for different personality types, working styles and tasks boosts employee wellbeing and productivity. Collaborative areas foster a culture of creativity and improve communication. Communal spaces add to a sense of community. Job searchers will see the effects of agile workspaces from outside the company, because those on the inside will stay longer, and tell everyone about it.

2. Bring in home influences

The blurred lines between home, work and social time are getting fuzzier. To make the office a place where employees ‘want’ to be, rather than ‘have’ to be, incorporate elements from home, as well as the cafe environment. Office design is no longer purely functional, nor aesthetic, but both and more. This is known as resimercial (where residential meets commercial), and it will attract those attached to working from home, co-working and shared, public spaces.

3. Use space for brand awareness

This reinforces the idea of shared values, identity and purpose. With more social space in offices than ever before, the entire building is a canvas for reinforcing brand identity. The effect is engaged staff who feel part of something bigger, who are proud to work for the company and believe in the shared purpose. But beware – don’t just paint your brand values on the wall. Seek advice from a workplace consultancy or brand strategist and do the deep dive brand work first.

4. Stay on top of digital

Today’s digital tech has facilitated the transition from ‘in-the-office’ to ‘work-anywhere.’ It’s improving communication, collaboration and data collection. We have connected environments, ubiquitous Wi-Fi and apps for team working, office occupancy, workflow monitoring and hoteling (systems for booking shared workspaces). The Internet of Things is gathering pace and designers are integrating tech into every corner of the office. The challenge here is knowing what you need now and predicting what will be available in the future.

5.Don’t ignore hospitality and leisure

As well as the obvious access to food, water and toilets, more and more businesses are building leisure facilities like showers, bike racks, cafe areas, slides, games rooms, libraries, even a sauna – anything goes. It’s all in the name of acknowledging the changes, caring for staff and building a complete environment, so they remain loyal, productive and proud.

The challenges, as with all new things, is to find out what suits us. What makes our office better? What makes the working lives of our staff better? You might find out the investments are not as major as you think. Take a look at the future of workspaces

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