A friend recently shared a story about her nephew James, a university student who’s interning at a big-name tech company. In his first week on the job, before he’d received a single work assignment, his manager told him, “You know we’re going to try to hire you, right?”
The manager’s assertion was based on nothing but first impressions. He had no proof of James’ talent. He only knew of the company’s need for fresh programmers. The talent war is real, and competition is intense.
Designers have a key role to play in helping their clients attract and retain good talent. That’s because, Gallup says, at a time when half of employees are on the lookout for their next job, the workers who stay put are those who are highly engaged—who feel attached to their work and have a sense of shared purpose with their colleagues. And Steelcase research shows that two key factors in employee engagement are satisfaction with the workplace and control over their workplace experience.
Capital One’s just-released 2018 work environment survey strongly echoes the Steelcase findings. Of the 3,500 U.S.-based office workers surveyed, 83 percent said they “have their best ideas when working in flexible space options”—spaces that let them choose how and where to work within the office.
And a full 80 percent said they are “more productive when they move to a different room or environment while working.”
Workplace design matters to employees. Both the Capital One survey and Steelcase’s experience with its redesigned and reinvented headquarters point to the significance of design factors like these for employee retention:
Of course, this kind of workplace design will never be effective without support from an organization’s leadership. Designing for flexibility requires a culture that supports and encourages employee agency and creativity. It requires leaders who communicate shared goals and then trust employees to do their best work.
For some organizations, this calls for a change in mindset. A cultural shift. But the challenges companies face today are often too large or complex to meet using older approaches. To attract and retain great workers and inspire great work, companies need to provide great spaces.
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