Workplace Strategies for Keeping Employees Engaged and Present

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Workplace Strategies for Keeping Employees Engaged and Present

by Daniel Rosen
The CBRE headquarters in Los Angeles is the first WELL-certified commercial office space in the world.
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Thursday, September 3, 2015 - 8:25am

CAMPAIGN: CBRE People and Culture


It may be harder than ever to keep an employee at a job for the entirety of their career. Recent research has shown that the average worker stays at his or her job for just 4.6 years. What’s more, that worker is likely to have had 10 jobs before reaching the age of 40. This type of volatility poses a real challenge to companies trying to retain top talent and keep their employees happy, engaged and productive.

To meet this challenge, companies must focus on providing their employees far more than just a desk and a phone.

“In today’s global, hyper-connected economy, a company’s people are among its primary assets,” says Jamie Georgas, managing director of the occupier business in CBRE’s Chicago region.

“People want to be in an environment where they can thrive—where the workplace is less about the physical space and more about the experience and the opportunity. This is what the best talent is demanding, and employers are increasingly eager to heed their call.”

Fighting Employee Flight
In today’s digital age, workers are always mobile, always plugged in, and often overwhelmed—which leaves them feeling impatient, distracted and with little time to develop their careers, according to Bersin by Deloitte’s “Meet the Modern Learner” report.

In fact, workers surveyed in the report said they had only 1 percent of a typical workweek to focus on job training and development. Job candidates value opportunities and professional development as a key consideration when looking for a new position, and eventually to “craft a sustainable career,” writes the Harvard Business Review.

If workers don’t feel that there’s a chance for them to develop their careers inside a company, they will likely (and quickly) be gone, says Georgas.

“A super-talented person in a good job market will be presented with opportunities, and an ambitious person will likely go where the best opportunity is,” says Georgas.

The challenge for companies is how to keep such an ambitious person engaged while also providing them the workplace experience they desire.

“Talented personnel thrive on challenge and opportunities for growth, so why not expose them to a variety of different viewpoints and disciplines within the company, and in doing so, satiate that desire for something new, different and challenging?” says Georgas.

To do this may mean introducing these workers to different divisions or business units within a company, to foster innovation and collaboration with other team members.

That, says Georgas, is where the workspace comes into play.

Using Space to Foster Collaboration
“It’s all about the workplace experience—using the space you occupy to support and foster the energy, culture and community demanded by today’s talent, while at the same time honoring your corporate values,” says Georgas.

That experience, like the space itself, should be “nimble,” she adds—and fluid. For instance, a smaller room in an office that might have been designated for file storage or some other purpose might not be optimized for its best use. “Instead of storing files in cabinets or holding on to an underutilized conference room, you can build out a team space that fosters both scheduled and opportunistic interactions,” says Georgas.

Then, collaboration becomes a valuable opportunity for workers.

“The reality is that people are at the office for longer than before. When you’re able to carve out space for collaboration and social interaction, you create opportunities for people, and ideas, to collide. You create space for ‘buzz’ and for business. Often, the best work comes when you engage with a coworker who you don’t regularly work with in your day-to day activities,” she says.

Wellness Counts
The age-old motto, “first to arrive, last to leave,” was a good way to get noticed by your boss as a hard worker with promotion potential. In today’s 24-7 culture, however, employees prefer to be more mobile, says Kevin Bender, executive vice president at CBRE, who represents office tenants throughout Los Angeles and Orange County.

“People want to work in different environments, and not be penalized for it by their bosses or peers,” says Bender.

As a 100 percent “free address” workspace, CBRE’s global corporate headquarters in Downtown L.A. places an emphasis on collaboration. There are no assigned desks or offices for anyone, even for management and top producers.

“People can sit with a different group of people every day, depending on the project, the opportunity, or even their mood,” says Bender.

Placing an emphasis on collaboration can be budget-friendly, too. A report by CBRE Research showed that the cubicles at its previous L.A. headquarters were occupied only 48 percent of the time. CBRE now occupies 10 percent less office space at its headquarters, with room for 25 percent more people.

“This is not simply about driving efficiencies—it’s about building a more collaborative, mobile and healthy environment,” says Lewis C. Horne, president of CBRE’s Greater Los Angeles-Orange County region.

Delos, a firm that partnered with CBRE on its Downtown L.A. office, helped incorporate wellness features into the design of the space in order to optimize “the health and well-being of the employees.” The office was the first commercial office space to be certified under the WELL Building Standard pilot program.

“The office is a place where people spend a lot of their time, and investing in employees—and especially in their health and well-being—is one of the most important things a company can do,” says Paul Scialla, founder of Delos.

And workplace well-being counts to the average worker. In a report by Unum, an insurance company based in England, 26 percent of workers surveyed said that poor workplace well-being would make them less likely to stay with an employer for the long term, and 21 percent said this would make them less motivated and productive.

Making the workspace open, collaborative, ever-evolving and exciting is key to improving an employee’s workplace experience and, in the end, their obligation to developing their careers at the same company.

Says Georgas: “If the physical space can help get people excited and engaged about what they do, there is immeasurable value in that for any company that wants to retain top talent. We’re seeing it, and our clients are seeing it.

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CAMPAIGN: CBRE People and Culture