While industry analysts, technologists, and property managers have been talking about the office of the future for years, the pandemic radically advanced the conversation. Now, organizations accept there are other places to work productively outside the traditional office.
Around the world, companies have begun to reimagine the office for tomorrow. The office that emerges post-pandemic will combine agile strategies, activity-based design, and hybrid work modalities that will dramatically re-shape real estate and facilities management.
Business leaders are paying particular attention to employee experience and how it will impact employee engagement now and tomorrow. Employee engagement in the workplace should be one of the central drivers of your strategy. Creating high levels of engagement will be key to long-term success.
Recently, FM:Systems hosted a panel discussion with JLL Technologies and Verdantix. The topic was employee engagement and how trends such as hybrid work and space reprioritization are accelerating office transformation. FM:Systems’ own Michael Gresty was joined by Joy Trinquet, an industry analyst at Verdantix, and Akshay Thakur, Head of Technology Consulting at JLL Technologies.
The Interplay of Customer Experience and Employee Experience
In order to talk about the impact of employee engagement in the workplace of the future, we must first consider three things proven to be critical to organizational success:
- Customer experience and why that matters
- Employee experience and how that affects customer experience
- The role of employee engagement
First, let’s examine customer experience (CX). The science on this is crystal clear: Good CX significantly contributes to corporations’ bottom-line results. Because they understand the lifetime value of a delighted customer, leading organizations have invested heavily in a new model of CX that extends the customer journey beyond the decision to purchase a product or service. For examples of the impact of CX, just look at the growth results of CX leaders in various industries versus their CX laggard competitors.
What does CX have to do with employee engagement and the workplace? As it turns out, quite a lot. Research also shows that a great employee experience drives great CX. Put simply, employees who are healthy, satisfied, and engaged with purpose in your organization will do what it takes to satisfy and delight customers. Employee experience and customer experience create a virtuous cycle—creating greater value for employees in turn creates greater value for customers, and that enhances customer retention and longevity, which over time, increases sales, revenue, and profitability.
Bottom line? Experience matters. Just look at the dramatic results enjoyed by experiential organizations that excel in culture, technology, and physical space.
Whether you’re measuring employee retention, productivity, or profit, it clearly pays to focus on both employee experience and customer experience. That’s why more and more organizations seek to elevate customer experience by focusing on employee experience and improving it over time.
What drives the employee experience?
Employee experience, like customer experience, is the totality of the employee journey. The journey begins with recruitment and onboarding, then carries on through an employee’s tenure, until he or she leaves the company. Organizations need to be intentional as the design the employee journey and they need to measure the quality and impact of employee experience.
Three aspects of the workplace intersect to drive employee experience. First and foremost, employee experience is a reflection of the people within the organization as well as the culture created by company mission, organizational structure, and communication. Second, the workspace and available amenities drive experience. Does the space support productivity? Innovation? Wellbeing? And finally, employees need to be supported by the right technology and systems to get the job done.
How Employee Engagement Factors into Workplace Productivity
Employee engagement is the emotional state of passion, energy and commitment to the work, team and organization. When employees are engaged, they can be more innovative and better problem solvers. Engagement is employee self-actualization, a state of working with purpose that unleashes talent, energy and commitment.
Employee engagement is NOT the same as the activities that some companies sponsor in hopes of sparking it. These include team lunches, all-hands meetings, team-building retreats, and so forth. You also cannot measure engagement by watching whether an employee works long hours and weekends. This could be an indicator of dedication, but more likely reflects a culture of pressure and burnout.
There are three components to eliciting authentic engagement in employees: mastery, autonomy and purpose.
- Employees who have a sense of mastery over their tasks are more engaged. This is true, no matter what level they work at in the organization. Businesses that offer skills building and career development opportunities support engagement and retention.
- A Deloitte study revealed 73% of employees who believe they work for a purpose-driven company say they are engaged, versus only 23% of employees who don’t think their company has purpose.
- Employees enjoy autonomy when they have the confidence and ability to make decisions, as well as the authority to do so.
Employees need mastery and experience to make the best decisions, as well as purpose to guide them.
When these three elements combine, engagement naturally flows out of self-actualization. Leaders need to think about enabling mastery, purpose, and autonomy in the post-pandemic hybrid workplace. What will it take to create an engaging experience regardless of whether an employee comes to the office or works from home?
The Role of Technology in Reimagining the Office
Having the right technology to support your hybrid workforce will be essential in creating the workplace of the future. According to Joy Trinquet of Verdantix, real estate and facilities professionals will first invest in digital technology to support employee move and change management. This enables businesses to rearrange floor plans for social distancing and also reimagine office designs to support the hybrid workforce. The office of the future will have more activity-based design and collaboration spaces for teams.
The next biggest areas for investment are also health and safety oriented. Companies need visitor management/contact tracing capabilities, touchless access control, and space utilization monitoring through sensors.
To enhance engagement, firms will provide mobile apps that allow employees to control the environment, plan their workday, and automate daily tasks to improve the office experience. Office design will focus on workspace reservations and collaborative spaces, with smart conferencing room solutions helping ensure efficient collaboration between in-office and remote workers. Finally, the hybrid workplace will be digitally connected. Businesses will collect all kinds of data on occupancy, environmental quality, and space utilization trends through sensors and/or wearables to continually innovate and improve their future workplace strategy.
For much more information, watch the entire panel discussion.
 Inc., “How a Sense of Purpose Boosts Engagement,” Adam Vaccaro, April 18, 2014.