Tailor-Made Employee Experience
Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto, when asked in the interview Vivir Primitivo about recurrent themes in his work such as the relationship between body and space and Japanese terms like onigiri, linked to the complexity of his proposals, said: I like the world’s complexity. I like the complexity of our lives, and therefore I like making a type of architecture that inspires people to experience situations that are more and more complex and unexpected, and to not simplify situations. Yes, to create original, authentic experiences.
For Fujimoto, complexity is associated with rich, original, authentic experiences. In his words, things we’d like to happen never happen. Architecture, in its own complexity, serves as an inspiration for those unpredictable situations, a provider of experiences in our lives.
I find that relationship between architecture, complexity, situations and experiences particularly interesting when it affects workplace ecosystems. Employee experience lies at the epicentre of an ecosystem with three dimensions: space, technology and people. Ensuring a rich employee experience therefore has an objective, quantifiable impact on improving his/her wellbeing and productivity.
But why is employee experience so important? And how can we, as architects, contribute to it? Well, three key factors are involved.
Firstly, the sectors in which many companies today operate are battlegrounds in a war to attract talent. The need for highly specialised skills is not met merely by offering an appropriate salary, as in the case of airline pilots and air traffic controllers, and many employers find it increasingly difficult to attract and retain talent.
The second factor is the use of web platforms or applications like LinkedIn, which allow candidates to evaluate potential employers and thus pervade the recruitment process with a certain sense of consumerism. Just as consumers compare and contrast large numbers of brands using digitally accessed product reviews, many people seem to be using online resources to compare potential employers and choosing to proceed only with the companies that offer the kind of experience they are seeking.
Thirdly, according to some reports employees are now tending to change jobs more frequently: employers have to provide quicker training, move people more regularly, offer ongoing promotion cycles and give employees more tools with which to manage their own careers. By incorporating employee experience into its strategic plan, a company is able to address its employees’ different needs and expectations.
With regard to the role played by architects and architecture in employee experience, one of the things that impacts employees’ productivity and wellbeing is their physical environment. Architecture acts as a catalyst for situations which make their day to day experience more agreeable. It’s not a question of magic solutions, like declaring that open workspaces are not conducive to interpersonal collaboration, but of proposing a complete, original, authentic ecosystem capable of adapting to the reality of each different company.
Scientific studies have shown that the consequences of improved employee experience are objective and quantifiable. It’s therefore possible to calculate returns on investment in the creation of an outstanding workplace ecosystem, an ecosystem that will inspire unpredictable situations which will in turn optimise employee experience and thereby vindicate the role that architecture, in all its complexity, plays in the equation.