the ceo magazine, employee engagement,
Doug Sharp, President, Americas Corporate Solutions, JLL

Three Ways to Improve Employee Engagement and Productivity 

Do your employees feel inspired to show up and give their best, or are they sending an S.O.S.? Mounting evidence demonstrates the real financial impact that employee engagement has on companies. Gallup research indicates that highly engaged business units experienced a 41 percent reduction in absenteeism and a 17 percent increase in productivity, ultimately achieving 21 percent greater profitability.

While perks to help attract and retain talent have been available for years, they are not necessarily what influence engagement at work. Lavish corporate cafeterias and ping pong tables certainly have their appeal, but the bump in sentiment from new amenities is often fleeting. Companies are starting to give more attention to the longer-term factors that trigger positive and negative employee experiences at work—and one of those is the workplace environment itself. We’ve found that what matters most to employees is being in a workplace where they feel enabled, empowered and fulfilled.

Shaping that ideal workplace isn’t easy and it takes conscious work and collaboration to create a fulfilling human experience in the workplace. This means connecting different functions, creating tight alignment of goals across human resources, information technology and corporate real estate. Regardless of the type of organization, encouraging cross-functional collaboration around the following three goals can have a dramatic impact on the work environment:  

#1 Shed Rigidity

Balancing the needs of different generations, varying work styles and fluctuating changes inside the organization requires flexibility. JLL recently surveyed more than 7,000 employees across 40 companies and 12 countries for its latest report on the human experience in the workplace, and found that employees want their office to accommodate a wide range of activities, particularly spaces for concentration and regeneration.

Open spaces offer tremendous benefits for collaboration and innovation, but it can’t come at the expense of everything else. In fact, a lack of quiet space can negatively impact employee effectiveness and performance. Companies can find the right balance of options for their employees by tapping into a variety of tools, such as room sensors that track usage and employee surveys to examine how space is used and where unmet needs might be leading to frustration.

The benefits of creating more flexible work environment extends beyond employee satisfaction. It’s also becoming critical to managing an increasingly fluid workforce. With contingent, “on-demand” workers comprising roughly 30 percent of the U.S. workforce—a number that’s expected to grow—companies must empower employees to work effectively whether they are inside or outside of the organization, putting pressure on both technology and real estate decisions. Analytics can help predict the ebb and flow of HR needs, providing guidance on how much flexible and unassigned space is necessary.

#2 Build Trust

Trust is a fairly allusive concept, but it’s the seemingly mundane actions that can help create a culture of trust within an organization. One of those is empowering employees to make decisions, both big and small. For example, having a variety of open work stations and private rooms available gives employees the ability to choose a change of scenery whenever their work demands it. Filling work stations with furniture on easily movable casters and adjustable desks may seem like a minor detail, but reinforces a message that the company empowers employees with choices to create an environment that works best for them.

Trust is also built upon enabling employees to do their best work with the right support, including technology. For instance, if there is pressure for greater collaboration across offices, but technologies make it challenging to collaborate with large groups, the resulting frustration limits productivity. It’s important to identify how much employee frustration stems from technology issues and where the major pain points lie.

#3 Alleviate Stress

The ideal work environment not only enables and empowers employees, but also works to minimize stress. After all, the health and well-being of employees significantly influences their productivity at work.

Creating a stress-free zone doesn’t have to be expensive. Purchasing ergonomic, adjustable chairs not only makes work more comfortable but can help minimize back issues that take people out of work. Our research found that 40 percent of employees desire a place where they can recharge their energy. Reserving a small space where employees can meditate for 10 minutes can provide health benefits and relief during a stressful day.

On a grander scale, companies can employ tactics that can serve as competitive differentiators to attract talent, such as day care facilities for children, siesta rooms or onsite gyms. Employees that feel confident that the design of their workplace caters to their needs are more likely to feel fulfilled and be productive.

Do you need a Chief Happiness Officer?

To help connect the many dots that feed into the employee experience, some companies are appointing a Chief Happiness Officer. Not ready to add this C-suite title? Happiness doesn’t necessarily need a formal role, but it does require a deliberate, collaborative effort across the organization to ensure there is a consistent focus on improving employee engagement.

How do you know if your company is implementing the right actions? Focus carefully on the why behind those decisions and connect them to a larger purpose. The minor details and actions matter—each one feeds into a bigger message about the organization and its culture. By prioritizing the human experience in your workplace, you create a culture where employees feel engaged, empowered and fulfilled. The benefits of that are immeasurable. 

About the Author

Doug Sharp is president of JLL’s Americas Corporate Solutions business, a team of professionals dedicated to helping corporations improve the cost, efficiency and performance of their real estate portfolios. With more than 25 years of experience in the real estate industry for 25 years, Doug he brings expert project and people management skills, along with a proven track record of helping real estate organizations maximize the efficiency of their national and global portfolios.


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