As we enter the new year, many of us are filled with excitement and hope about what 2016 has in store for us. Like most, your 2015 likely had its share of ups and downs, failures and triumphs. In our office, we don’t view “failures” as a negative, but rather positive potentials - an opportunity to learn and grow, bettering ourselves, both professionally and personally.
Regardless of your role within the company, your goals for this next year are likely the same; to further expand your leadership skills and, in turn, help lead your company towards continued success. And despite how successful the organization has been in the past, the future is yours to mold. You’re only limited by your drive and vision. Make the most of this opportunity and solidify your enterprise’s workplace strategy by making your workplace one where people feel empowered and inspired to do their very best.
But, where do you start? What does the workplace of the future look like and how can you create an environment that brings out the best in your diverse workforce?
What is an Innovative Workplace?
True FM leaders do not limit themselves by viewing the workplace as just a place for their workforce to hang their hat from nine to five each day. They view the workplace as a strategic business tool; one that has the power to help make goals a reality and turn jobs into careers. The workspace is, in essence, a blank canvas, ready to be molded into whatever vision management can dream up. The success of the company hinges on, in large part, the innovative and flexible mindset of those in charge.
But what exactly is an innovative workplace? Innovative workplaces, as defined by the Office of Governmentwide Policy’s Office of Real Property Management, are “cost-effective, flexible, and sustainable work environments that support organizational change and collaborative work styles. The end goal of an innovative workplace is to provide high-performance work environments that maximize employee productivity and reduce long-term operating expenses.”
Sounds perfect, right? So, what workplace principles and strategies should you adopt in 2016 to inspire and engage your workforce?
1) Embrace Technology as an Integral Tool
Part of being a great leader is recognizing the need for continuous growth, both individually and as a whole. This often means thinking outside the box, making decisions that might not always be welcomed but will, in the end, empower our people. It’s about creating an environment that is a catalyst for growth, productivity, and profits - setting our workforce up with the tools necessary to be the very best they can be.
A primary contributor to organizational growth is the technology we implement in the workplace. Technology has revolutionized the way we work, offering us the flexibility to communicate and collaborate without the constraints of time and space. And with new technology such as the “Internet of Things” (IoT) catching on, FMs now have the advantage of investing in smart equipment that will decrease waste, reduce risk, and further improve performance across the entire organization.
Whether you’re a “digital native” or still find utilizing technology a little uncomfortable, there is no time like the present. The workplace of the future is centered around technology and the ability to be mobile, so it is time to jump onboard.
2) Become Flexible to Support the Ever-Changing Workforce
As mentioned, technology has transformed how we conduct business. Stiff, defined work patterns have been replaced by the agile work day. There is no limit to how long or little our employees can work, as long as the work is complete.
As we strive to maintain a healthy work-life balance, many are seeking out more flexible work environments. Therefore, the employers who support various flexible work strategies such as flex-time, job sharing, and telework programs are seen as innovators and are attractive to both potential employees and organizations looking to stay on the crest of innovation. Those who wish to attract and retain the industry’s top talent must adopt this “hallmark of the productive workplace,” trusting in their employees to define how, when, and where they are most productive. And we must offer them the tools to do so.
Tools, such as mobile devices and their apps, which are designed to keep the team informed and in contact with each other, allow for greater flexibility and improve upon the abilities of your workforce. They also bolster the mindset of trusting in your workforce, garnering results, and reducing the need to micro-manage.
3) Strive for Creative Collaboration Opportunities
Another tenant of good business practices is making sure your team is working together. Not just because they have to, but because they understand the value of having more than one set of eyes looking at the challenges they are presented with. Because they understand that teamwork and collaborative efforts lead to more comprehensive answers. Because they value the input and expertise each other possesses.
These collaborative efforts must be cultivated and encouraged, though. The chances of them happening purely organically are fairly slim, therefore it is important to think about how people interact and come in contact, what surroundings will motivate collaborative work and how technology and other innovations can facilitate even more connectivity.
“More collaboration, both face-to-face and virtual, is required than ever before… What will draw employees to the office are amenities such as fitness centers, food and collegiality. Physical proximity has the benefit of informal and serendipitous information sharing.”
The shared spaces get the people together, the culture of community helps build understanding and trust amongst the team, and the technology reenforces the connections and allows them to move beyond borders.
4) Education Sets Your Team up for Success
Although you may have a top notch group of employees working for and with you, it is critical to support their personal growth and experiences in business practices. Create opportunities for your team to better themselves and promote continued education as a self sustaining practice, which only makes their overall jobs easier to perform, and at a high level.
Continued education can come in many different packages, though, and what works for one may be different for others.
Offer standard classroom-based options, as well as options for mentorship, managerial training and even role reversal, where employees are asked to step in and help make big decisions, so as to understand the levels of thought and consideration for all aspects of the decision making processes. This will boost morale, help create better understandings of job requirements and create a more interested and engaged workforce.
5) Make Decisions Based on the Numbers, not the Feelings
When considering how to move forward in the coming days, months, and years, it’s important to work to remove personal feelings from the equation. And, although there may be a gut reaction which tells you a change is needed, rely on your data to support and drive the changes. All parties involved, including any facing direct changes, will respond and react more professionally, if they are shown professional reasonings for the changes.
Data analysis can often be the most powerfully persuasive tool a manager can wield. Being able to explain with facts and figures will also show your staff that the decisions coming down from above are motivated by a desire to make everyone better and the organization productive and performance-based. And don’t be afraid to involve your team in the data analysis process, so they are able to see first-hand how and why decisions are made, thus expanding their business sense and instilling more of a sense of trust and dedication to your staff.
6) A Healthy Work-life Balance is Key to a Complete Employee
“A guiding principle of sustainable design is to create places that are not only healthy and productive, but which also lift the human spirit. The premise is a simple one: healthy, happy people will be more productive and more engaged with their work and their organization.” -Dr. Judith Heerwagen Environmental Psychologist J.H. Heerwagen & Associates Inc.
As has been discussed before, giving employees a feeling of belonging and security leads to a happier and more productive worker. The more a workforce feels they are important, the more likely they are to give greater effort and enthusiasm to their jobs. Sometimes, the little things will make all the difference. Something as simple as a lounge or casual spaces, where workers can relax for a minute, without feeling like they’re stealing time or hiding away can be good for both workers’ well-being, as well as facilitating a space where team interactions take place and the idea of collaboration is further supported.
On the other end of the spectrum, there can be incentives for added vacation days, wellness and spa days or even more options for working away from the office, either from home or other remote locations, as long as certain goals or benchmarks are met. This kind of incentive-based work scenarios can also help to create a healthy sense of competition within the team or, at the very least, more motivation for individuals to be thorough and directed in their day to day positions. This is also another chance for employees to exhibit a level of control over their situation as you can ask about what incentives or office/space designs would be of the greatest reward to them.
Making resolutions for the new year is a tradition stretching back for centuries. And breaking these resolutions is as ubiquitous a tradition. Often, this occurs because someone decides to make grand, sweeping changes that are often unrealistic in their scope. Instead, look for changes that can be made with a more natural feel to your specific situation. Consider your employees and what will work best for all involved. Then, make the changes over time and throw out the hard deadlines, which we usually impose on ourselves unnecessarily. Involve the team and help everyone see the necessity for the change. Find ways to take steps to fruition and remember at the end results you want to see. Together, your organization will see the resolutions turn into realities.