Creating value with the workplace

The workplace is increasingly seen as an engine to drive employee engagement and business performance, so companies are investing heavily in workplace strategies which aim to better support employee performance

The workplace is increasingly seen as an engine to drive employee engagement and business performance. Companies are investing heavily in workplace strategies which aim to better support employee performance.

While this may drive productivity, companies often fail to consider if these workplace strategies are targeted at the right work processes — that is, the highest-value activities. How confident are you that your workplace transformation projects are driving productivity for work processes that generate the highest value?

In our current economic environment, cost is typically one of the metrics in defining the success of a workplace transformation project. Instead of merely focusing on crude calculations of reduced cost-per-square-foot or increased utilization rates, there are other meaningful metrics that show how workplace strategies enable value generation such as innovative solutions that could enable employees to do the same amount of work at half the time.

How can you then achieve a workplace that ensures high value performance?

Define how value looks like for your organization

The first step to developing meaningful workplace strategies that boost productivity is defining what creates value for your organization. While cost is important, focusing solely on that factor alone can hinder your organization from supporting actual business needs.

At the same time, be mindful that there is no one solution or benchmark that can be used across sectors, organizations or geographies that can help define value for your organizations. It’s essential to involve leadership to define clearly what the value proposition of your business is right from the onset.

Often, this goes hand-in-hand with the desired client experience. For example, a truly effective workplace should enable innovative and differentiated solution development — with the end-product being goods or services that are not only better suited to your clients, but delivered at a faster speed.

Focus on work processes which drive value

Now that we’ve identified what value looks like, the next step is to identify and focus on the work processes which drive value for your firm.

You need a deep understanding of all the work processes which enable value creation. Map out the full solution development cycle. Identify where the highest value processes exist — are they characterized by concentrated or collaborative work? Are they in the planning, testing or execution stage? Many argue that the whole cycle is important as each step is instrumental to creating a new product. That is not completely untrue, as the best workplace is one that supports all types of work in the right way.

However, when resources are limited, we recommend for you to work with your executives, team or consultants to agree on the processes which create the highest value for your organization. Next, place these processes in the spotlight to achieve incremental productivity for your organization. Often — to enable innovative and differentiated solution development — creative collaboration, concentrated work and face-to-face interactions are identified as the activities that create the most value for an organization.

Create a workplace that supports high-value work processes

Once the high-value activities have been identified, it’s time to start looking at the workspace. Is your workspace designed to complement and support the work that your people do?

A global poll conducted by JLL revealed that there is a huge gap between the work that people spend most of their time doing and the activities that create value for their organization. Although 74 percent of respondents indicate that thinking, talking and brainstorming create the most value for their organization, only 24 percent of them spend most of their time on those high-value activities.

Build a workspace to facilitate such high-value activities for your employees.

Strike the right balance

Many offices are not equipped to facilitate the balance between focused and collaborative work. For example, many workplace productivity programs now emphasize enhancing collaboration at the expense of concentrated work, which is equally important. Getting this delicate balance wrong can significantly inhibit your ability to develop new products and services and deliver them to your clients.

There is a wide array of workplace solutions that can accomplished. Having collaborative hubs at natural gathering areas to promote interaction, creating “no phone” zones in low circulation pathway to better support concentration or providing whiteboards, chalkboards or “idea paint” walls throughout the workplace to stimulate visual collaboration and conversation are good examples of effective workplace solutions.

In summary: what next?

We need to start moving away from the cost-centric conversation and begin focusing on how workplace transformation projects contribute to business performance. Showing a direct link between the workplace and your business performance or client experience is a more effective way to measure the success of your projects.