MATTER. Photo by: Garrett Rowland

Employee Engagement: A Core Business Strategy 

By Deanna Siller 

Successful business leaders realize that having engaged employees is not an HR program, but a core business strategy. We know that companies with engaged employees outperform those with less engaged employees. Yet, according to Gallup, a staggering 87 percent of employees worldwide are not engaged.

A great workplace plays a key role in driving employee engagement. In order to design a workplace that successfully affects employee engagement you must think about it differently. In the last two decades, technology has completely transformed the way we work and the way we think about work. In essence, we are connected to our responsibilities at any time and no longer bound to physical workplaces, giving us the choice and freedom to work in many different environments and in many different ways. These changes have inevitably altered the way we think about work. We’ve moved beyond the office…. Work is an activity, not a place.

With the realities of work continuously evolving, the conversations that we as designers and workplace strategists have with clients, peers and each other about workplace design are constantly changing as well. In the past, clients would ask, should I be in an open or closed office? What’s the correct square footage per person? Do we fit in our current space? How can space promote collaboration? All excellent and important questions, but only ‘halfalogue.’

So, what’s the other half of the dialogue? When looking at employee engagement, it’s not enough to just answer those questions. Space is also a powerful tool in addressing topics such as, how can we fully harness the creative potential of our people? How do we make it safe and smart to take risks? What is our ‘WHY’ and how do our people carry it forward? How can we be better at sharing knowledge? How do we embrace and even initiate change and disruption.

In order to address such questions, Gensler’s Sustained Engagement model looks beyond traditional planning, programming, stacking and adjacencies. We are focused on five key impact areas of today’s dynamic workplace. By themselves, none of these areas will ensure success. They are part of an integrated system where the most benefit is derived from addressing all five.d from addressing all five.

Creative Engine

Game changing creativity is ignited through diversity of thought—different types of thinkers coming together to collaborate, challenge and build off each other’s interesting ideas. Whether you work in engineering or education, in order to innovate, you must embrace the knowledge economy and foster cultures that are rooted in curiosity, experimentation and learning. But it’s not enough just to design creative spaces. What we have learned from our 2016 U.S. Workplace Survey results is that having better designed spaces is significant for creativity, but not enough in isolation, and that only 25 percent of workers believe they are living to their creative potential. Highly creative environments require intention supported by practice, tools and processes that help support, nurture and inspire the creative spirit.

Better Together

Successful relationships fuel successful business. And they fuel successful business because they complement each other; trust each other; build off each other’s strengths; and mutually benefit through sharing knowledge, skills and a common goal. Though most organizations focus on forging strong ties with customers and external partners, there is also real untapped value in turning some of that focus inwards and nurturing relationships within your organization; in fostering the type of collaboration, mutual respect and shared successes that you aim to achieve with your external partners.

Purpose First

A strong sense of purpose isn’t just good for morale; it’s good for business. Whether used as a strategic starting point, product differentiator or marketing tool to attract customers, purpose rallies the troops behind a shared goal, gives meaning to exercise and shapes individual approaches to different activities. Most importantly, purpose moves an organization’s focus from managing people and resources to mobilizing and inspiring them. Finding and expressing your purpose is a powerful and essential pillar in creating a strong, sustainable and scalable culture.

Sparked Talent

Growing the success of a company is not just about growing profit margins; it’s about growing talent. In the current market, that is easier said than done. More than ever, today’s workforce values being a part of a company that stands for something positive—and having an impact on their organizations. They also seek recognition for their unique talents and efforts—and want to know that they have opportunities to grow. Being able to hold the trust and excitement of this new wave in the workforce is the key to finding success in the future, yet according to Gallup, 70 percent of U.S. employees feel disengaged and a staggering 87 percent of employees worldwide are disengaged.

Working Wellbeing

Creating a functional work environment that allows employees to do their jobs is table stakes. In order to attract and retain the top talent, you need to invest in engaging and energizing your employees by having supporting values and a structure that encourages health and happiness in the workplace and looks at work life integration vs work life balance. By investing in an environment and creating processes that support the wellbeing of your people, you can create a catalyst for higher productivity and innovation, while ensuring a sustainable and competitive advantage in a volatile market.

Because things have changed so radically around the concept of work, it is time that the conversation we have around work changes too. At Gensler, our goal is to help clients move beyond the outdated concept of employee satisfaction and embrace the idea that engaged employees is a core business metric. Armed with this mindset, you’ll be better prepared to innovate, thrive and adapt to constantly changing circumstances.

Deanna Siller is a principal in Gensler’s Washington, D.C. office and a leader of the firm’s global Consulting practice. She has a deep understanding of how design can impact business performance. A trusted advisor to her clients, her strategic insights result in innovative and powerful strategies to differentiate user experiences and foster connections. Deanna focuses on global trends and research, user insights and design thinking to establish thoughtful approaches to change management, workplace strategy and strategic communications.