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Build a place of experience for your people

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Bernice Boucher Head of Workplace Strategy, JLL Americas
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When she’s not working to help people and organizations reach their potential, Bernice loves getting out on the ocean in her stand-up paddle board.

Any workplace optimization strategy needs to start with your business drivers. And for many today, the key driver for success is talent. How to attract the best, yes, but most important, how to keep them happy when they’re onboard.

While it’s easy to chalk the talent war up to a competition for millennials, it’s important to understand that the reason attracting younger employees is so important is because there are so many more of them than anyone else. Millennials in the workforce outnumber Gen Xers two-to-one, and baby boomers are retiring by the thousands every day.

Your problem: A talent war

When we talk about a millennial talent war, what we’re really talking about is a battle for the best people to build the future of your business on.

And they can be fickle.

Although the most current research is finding more similarities than differences among generations, the data that does stand out about the millennial cohort is their willingness—and even eagerness—to job hop. According to Gallup, 21 percent of millennials have changed jobs within the past year, and 60 percent are open to a new job opportunity at any time. They’re the least engaged generation in the workplace, and that lack of engagement and loyalty costs the US economy US$30.5 billion per year.

Your solution: Not just a workplace, but a place of experience

So the question is, can you create a workplace that keeps millennials—and all your employees—happy, healthy, engaged and productive? And if so, how?

The latest strategy to address this challenge is to make the workplace an experience place. Top companies today are thinking beyond an office that offers “live, work and play” opportunities in the neighborhood, and bringing ideal lifestyle experiences inside their building’s—and even their office’s—walls.

I guess another question many people have is, what’s the purpose of an office when people can work anytime, anywhere and from any device?

In our view, the purpose is community, as well as an environment in which people are enabled and empowered to do their best work. To support that, you need a workplace that offers many environments—places for people to work in many forms, whether alone, in groups, indoors, outdoors, supporting concentration at some times and collaboration at others.

Here are some ideas on how you can provide a variety of environments for your employees within the same workplace.

Collaborate spontaneously with in-house social hubs. We’re seeing more offices with in-house social hubs—places where people can congregate and collaborate; places that fuel accidental collisions. This isn’t the traditional office café or kitchen. We’re talking an on-premise coffee bar, where your employees can sit, have a coffee, and chat and relax with a colleague for a meeting or a break in the middle of a busy workday.

Howard Schultz made Starbucks a resounding success not just by making great coffee, but by creating a third place for people—a place for community and comfort between work and home. Leading companies are adopting this strategy and bringing that third place feel in-office.

Fuel innovation by setting up cross-functional spaces. We’re also seeing a rise in innovation hubs—areas within the office created with the intention of sparking new ideas that soar. Sometimes, these innovation hubs double as showcase rooms, where companies can present the cool things they’re working on to employees, clients, customers and prospects. Sometimes, they are places to bring in smart ideas from the outside.

One growing trend within the innovation hub mentality is corporate coworking spaces, where companies invite others in similar fields or industry startups into their space to create. Do you outsource a lot of work to freelancers or agency partners? Why not give them a space to work within your office, so that they can really get the feel of the brand and culture—and your people can feed off their creativity and fresh ideas?

Do not compromise on connectivity. A critical component you can’t overlook in all of this is connectivity. Too often, we see companies run with these great ideas of creating multiple work environments, but their people can’t actually work within them because they don’t have a place to plug in, or the Wi-Fi is super spotty. If you’ve ever seen people crowded around the one outlet in an airport terminal, you know this scenario. Power and connectivity must be ubiquitous in all spaces if you want your people to be able to use them efficiently.

When you think of your workplace beyond just as a place to work, but rather, as a tool enabler for your business, you make it a place of experience.

The office should be a place your people want to be, not a place they have to be. And that is how you begin to engage them.

Interested to find out more about Future of Work? Learn more about our outlook on the changing world of work here.

Interested to find out how else you can engage your workforce or have other thoughts? Share them with me; I’d love to hear your views.