In this 21st century business climate where many products are increasingly commoditized and where quality of service and experience separate the so-so from the successful, many leaders are naturally (and appropriately) focused on their clients and customers. These leaders dig deep into the details that matter most to their clients, setting strategies that help customers overcome their challenges now and in the future. After all, the success of an organization often depends on the success of its clients.
But there’s another group that is just as important (if not more so) to consider: employees. In reality your organization depends on them – the people on the inside. The people who take care of your clients and customers. The people who go home to talk about their jobs and their bosses and colleagues. The people who (hopefully) live and breathe the company’s brand. Are they getting the same level of attention – the same quality of service and experience – that clients and customers receive?
The High Cost of High Turnover
Creating a platform for employee engagement might come more naturally to a consumer brand, or to a technology company that has built a fun and fulfilling place to work. Browse Glassdoor’s 2019 list of best places to work and you’ll likely recognize many of the names at the top of the list as companies whose products or services you use both personally and professionally. This shouldn’t come as a surprise; these consumer-facing companies understand the nuts and bolts of experience and engagement and can apply them to both customers and employees with relative ease. But it’s important for all of us, in every industry, whether we’re a small family business or large corporation – and now more than ever as a younger workforce has a bigger presence in the workplace. This is a generation that prizes experiences and that moves from job to job in order to try new things and find and more fulfilling opportunities, with or without a defined career path. According to a survey of 2,000 millennials, 53% have already had at least three jobs. On average, it takes a mere 20 months in a job before a millennial will start looking for a new one. As Gallup reports, that kind of turnover costs the U.S. economy $30.5 billion every year.
Want to improve employee retention? Think again about those strategies that you employ to attract and retain customers and consider how you might apply similar strategies internally. Experiences that today’s employees seek include flexible schedules and options for occasional remote work, powerful technology, a great office environment and culture, and a clear path for career growth with strong support along the way. People want to feel like they’re having an impact and want to know that they matter.
The ROI of Workplace Design
That can sound like a lot to deliver, but fortunately by focusing first on one of those elements – a great office environment and culture – the other elements can more easily fall into place. Consider that your real estate and your employees are your two most valuable (read: most expensive) assets. By applying thoughtful design strategies to your physical space, you’re generating tremendous ROI in the form of happier, more productive employees, and lower turnover. And when your workplace embodies your organization’s mission and culture, you inspire a deeper connection with your brand – creating a place where people want to work.
Workplace branding that represents the visible elements of your brand are a great first step in developing an engaging workplace. In fact, given today’s prevalence of social media, a strong visual workplace can often turn into a series of “selfie moments” – spaces that people will be excited and proud to pose within and snap a picture for all to see. This can take the literal form of your logo, or perhaps it’s a more subtle, artistic representation of your organization’s legacy, or even of a future goal that aligns with your mission or values. Elements of art and design can remind your employees of those goals and of the contribution they can make, and they become tangible backdrops for all kinds of personal interactions.
Bringing Your Legacy to Life
A thoughtful design strategy also supports recruiting efforts, as well as ongoing employee engagement and training programs. Interviewees are already carefully scoping out their potential workplace, looking for a mix of quiet personal space and comfortable collaboration zones that will support the way they work. But because a sense of impact is so important, adding a strong visual system of branded graphics, whether they’re digital or static, is just as critical to the recruiting experience. Graphics can be used to illustrate an organization’s mission, values and goals – showing potential employees what they can be part of.
Current employees also benefit from these visual displays. Exhibits or timelines that tell the story of an organization’s history can instill a sense of pride and can motivate and inspire team members to be part of the company’s next chapter. Branded graphics are also powerful tools for teaching employees about the organization’s culture and brand – the mission, values, purpose, as well as its products or services. By defining your reason for being with authenticity and clarity, there’s little room to doubt why you do what you do, and your employees feel a much deeper connection by sharing in that core purpose.
There are many layers to an organization’s culture, and your workplace should address each one. Through design, employees not only gain a clearer understanding of the corporate vision, they also benefit from touchpoints that teach them about learning and development initiatives, inclusion and diversity practices, health and wellbeing initiatives, and other programs and policies that go deeper than day-to-day work. While many aspects of the culture and brand remain steadfast and consistent over time, others may evolve with new programs and practices. Digital design assets can be used to educate employees and visitors about initiatives that are more fluid and flexible to current needs, while more permanent installations emphasize the strength and stability of other organizational fundamentals.
Thinking Through Every Touchpoint
Consistency is key to successful engagement strategies, so every interaction must be on-brand – representing your mission and culture with honesty and authenticity – from recruiting and interviewing to rolling out employee policies and procedures. Even everyday tasks like staff meetings or new technology installations that might otherwise feel mundane are additional opportunities to engage when they’re linked to your brand.
Look at every touchpoint that your employees (both current and future) have with your organization from their perspective, just as your organization probably does for its clients or customers. When you consider every interaction as an opportunity to connect and engage, you remind people that you care about them. And just as customers often become more loyal to the companies and brands that show genuine respect and appreciation, employees become more loyal when they feel supported and valued, too – and a loyal employee is your best brand ambassador.