Concrete Analysis

Successful organisations will be those that engage staff in a way that capitalises on their strengths

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 August, 2017, 11:33am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 August, 2017, 7:27pm

With commercial real estate prices in Hong Kong showing no signs of slowing down, extracting the

real value from every square foot means looking beyond spatial efficiency to create people-centric spaces.

JLL recently unveiled our Future of Work framework which takes a holistic view of where work is going through five dimensions: Operational Excellence, Financial Performance, Continuous Innovation, Digital Drive, and Human Experience. Unlocking this value means creating spaces that do not simply facilitate tasks but cultivating meaningful experiences and connections to their colleagues and the company.

Many organisations have a false sense of how proficient they are at the progressive dimensions of Continuous Innovation and Digital Drive while maintaining a preoccupation with the traditional dimensions of Financial Performance and Operational Excellence. These dimensions, while important, are far less effective when they ignore the often overlooked but critical dimension as we enter the 4th industrial revolution: Human Experience.

Human Experience should not be confused with consensus – it is not about pleasing everyone all the time. Engaging your staff in a way that capitalises on their strengths is the what will determine the successful organisation. “Human Capital” has become a nicer way of saying “human resources” when the real issue is not a semantic one, rather that many organisations view employees as owners of tedium or “human commodities” rather than sources of inspiration. For most large companies, employee salaries and benefits represent 80-90 per cent of operating expenditure, an organisation’s ability to capitalise on their people is a competitive differentiator.

Tomorrow’s leaders are building more meaningful connections between their employees and the work they do. While brand recognition was a big attractor in the past, culture has moved to the forefront of talent attraction. JLL’s latest global research on human experience indicates that workplace experiences play a huge role in three key areas: employee engagement, empowerment and fulfilment.

Understanding the motivations and effectiveness of the people that work in an organisation has been next to impossible until recently. Now the technology that is ever present in our lives is often able to recognise patterns in us that we do not recognise in ourselves. As machine learning algorithms and artificial intelligence become increasingly sophisticated and can actualise when and how we are most productive, organisations will be forced to create a variety of settings that tap into the best in each of their employees.

Today’s leaders are relied upon to quickly respond to business challenges by having answers that are informed by their past experiences. Tomorrow’s most successful leaders will know the right questions to ask and extract from simulations, they will also empower their employees to question everything around them in a constructive manner.

The last critical factor to creating great Human Experiences in the workplace is to create a sense of fulfilment. This can come from a multitude of places whether it be activities, flexibility with scheduling, interactions with colleagues, or even the provision of healthier eating choices. What is most important to recognise is that these factors are co-dependent – your staff will never be fulfilled without feeling empowered and that cannot happen without sincere engagement.

A World Health Organisation study showed that for every dollar invested employee health and wellness there is a three-fold return. While programmes such as fitness classes and health screening might come to mind, many of the new initiatives are focused on water purity, access to natural light, and indoor air quality. The importance of air quality is especially important in Hong Kong and many spaces enjoy better air quality with the aid of plants. While we are seeing these considerations more frequently in Hong Kong workplaces, they are not necessarily new but are echoes of one of Hong Kong’s oldest traditions: feng shui.

Second generation master Thierry Chow shared with me one of the many creative ways she is trying to update this ancient practice for the 21st century. She has been working with Red Fin Aquarium Systems, a local company that manufactures jellyfish aquariums creating an almost futuristic answer to the old gold fish in green tanks of the past.

The kind of fresh thinking that Miss Chow is bringing to a practice that is often seen as anachronistic or mystical must also be applied to the archaic business practices that Hong Kong is addicted to. This requires a reframing of not only the spaces that we work in but the way we work.

As man and machine become increasingly collaborative, successful organisations will recognise that Human Experience will be the keystone of their success because it is the glue that unites tradition with progress.

The customer will always be king, but great customer experiences cannot come from a machine (yet), or from a miserable workforce.

Jordan Kostelac is senior consultant for workplace strategy at JLL in Hong Kong