Countless surveys and polls indicate that a more engaged workforce is more productive and profitable. When truly engaged, staff remain in their positions longer or climb the corporate ladder faster, and organisations potentially save millions of dollars on recruitment and training to replace their best and brightest.

Yet maximising employee engagement has become one of the 21st century’s biggest corporate conundrums, with alarming statistics showing far more than 80 per cent of staff lack workplace engagement.

And it’s not just about the money. Today’s workers are more likely to prioritise job satisfaction over financial reward – unsurprising, when you consider full-time employees spend about one third of their lives at work. Several recent studies have identified an annual income of circa $75k as being the point at which employees look to value day-to-day happiness over and above increasing personal income.

So how does a modern business look to improve upon this? As both individuals within the corporate machine and designers of workplaces, we at Hames Sharley suggest a two-tiered approach.


Make better places…

An effective, functional and carefully considered workplace design is crucial in inspiring employee engagement.

Over the last forty years, technology has significantly altered the way in which we undertake our day-to-day tasks. Chances are you aren’t reading this while sat at your desk; perhaps you are on the train or grabbing a coffee between meetings; wherever are, the point is that our work life now extends beyond the time we spend at a workstation.

Despite this the office remains the hub of all work-related activity, and as designers our challenge is to allow a fluid movement of people and information within that hub. We do that by strategic consideration of flexible spaces: the simple question of open-plan versus closed-space offices is a thing of the past, replaced by levels of nuance and detail that were unimaginable to even the most creative interior architect ten years ago.

Design for creativity

Creativity is a basic human instinct. Regardless of your role, to some degree your daily responsibilities will require it, along with a smattering of innovation. Designing spaces that encourage creativity has been empirically proven to increase user engagement.

Collaborative works best

Fostering collaboration increases motivation and engagement. Planning not only the footprint of the office space but also the positioning of differing personalities and teams of individuals within it will also lead to a more engaged workforce. Furthermore, research indicates that the higher up an organisation you look, the greater the engagement amongst individuals. One of the reasons for this is that managers and executives are more likely to understand and employ the strategy and direction of the organisation in their day-to-day activities, whereas those lower down are less so. The design solution to this issue is to create environments that maximise communication while maintaining discreet rooms and office spaces for sensitive conversations and meetings.

Function over form

The initial wow factor of a beautiful space is an asset when welcoming clients or guests to the office, but the effect dulls over time for the workers who return every day. To them, the continued functionality of the space is paramount.


Prioritise shared values and goals

It is a straightforward exercise to visualise the tangible results good design can have upon workforce engagement. To truly improve engagement at a deeper level, however, businesses must look to the more esoteric aspects of working life.

Every organisation is the product of its people and history

Regardless of how in-depth a company’s recruitment policies happen to be, businesses tend to settle upon forming groups of like-minded individuals with common values and shared goals. Over time, outliers move onto other opportunities while the longest-serving, key personnel (whether junior or senior) tend to be of a similar mindset.

At Hames Sharley, we have asked ourselves, “What makes us tick?”

As with all big questions, the true answer should evolve over time. We have, however, settled on eight core values that underpin our working days: trust, collaboration, imagination, insight, innovation, communication, passion and sustainability.

From our Chairman to our newest graduate designer, every member of staff is encouraged to implement these shared values in every action that they undertake. Indeed, rather than enforcing a set of fixed behaviours that are drawn from the core values, each individual is simply asked to consider (and, more importantly, share with others) ways in which they can be applied. This approach allows the entire workforce to have its say on the direction of the company, rather than be led by directives from the executives.

The ultimate aim is to create a set of guiding principles that can dictate every behaviour and action from every individual within the practice. This in turn creates a closer group dynamic and results in increased employee engagement.

As someone whose income is dependent on my company designing buildings and spaces, I’m apprehensive about saying this, but perhaps consideration of a group’s shared values is even of greater significance than the design of the shared spaces that it inhabits…

 

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