Take a minute to look around your office. Is it an open space, a team space; do you sit in a cubicle or in a private office? Maybe your employees share an office, or your team has its own room. What does your workspace structure say about the workplace culture? Is it a creative space where individuals can thrive and innovate?

The concept of an office has an interesting history but perhaps most relevant for us today is the rise of the open-plan workspace toward the end of the 20th century. The Japanese first created open-plan offices, believing the ergonomic design would boost productivity. The western world quickly caught on as knowledge workers increased and technology improved—prompting the evolution of the modern office.

But today, we are again on the cusp of a revolution. Business Insider predicts that “the workplace of the future is going to be less centralized, more mobile, and more flexible than anything most people outside the startup and freelance economy have experienced before”.

As digital technologies advance at a rapid pace and disrupt every industry imaginable, it’s time to think about how the right digital tools in the right workspaces will enable your future workforce to thrive and innovate.

Who is the future workforce and what do they expect from their workplace?

Experts predict that by 2025, 75 percent of the workforce will be millennials. For millennials, workplace culture and technology are two important factors when choosing their future employers. They’re also looking for flexibility, agility, trust and personalization. According to the 2018 Fjord Trends, in the ethics economy customers and employees have greater expectations of companies’ morals and ethics—their willingness proactively to do the right thing. As Apple CEO Tim Cook said in September 2017, “People should have values. Companies are nothing more than a collection of people. So, by extension, all companies should have values.”

Your company’s values, culture and commitment to its people are most visible in the space where they work. What does your workspace say about your company?

A cool place to work

When you think of cool office spaces, the first name that springs to mind is Google with its philosophy “to create the happiest, most productive workplace in the world” (Google spokesperson Jordan Newman).

Google’s flexible workspace design encourages workers from different teams and structures to interact and the playful environment is engineered to break down barriers and encourage creativity.

Google’s engineering director in Manhattan, Craig Nevill-Manning, told The New York Times in a 2013 interview: “Google’s success depends on innovation and collaboration. Everything we did was geared toward making it easy to talk. Being on one floor here removed psychological barriers to interacting, and we’ve tried to preserve that.”

It’s no surprise that most people, if you asked them, would say they’d love to work at Google. Another company that is leading the way in attracting top talent is Nike. Nike’s job specifications put the employee at the center of everything—they see the employee as pivotal to their philosophy of innovation:

“At Nike, every employee is an explorer. We unite diverse perspectives—scientists and shoe designers, coders and quarterbacks—to share knowledge of the body in motion. We house countless designers and innovators. That includes computer scientists, biomechanists, physiologists, chemists, materials developers—even a planetary astrophysicist.”

On the Nike jobs page, potential employees are encouraged to “find the right fit”—the job that’s best for them and their individual set of skills, as opposed to the outdated idea that employees must fit in with their work. Potential employees can also explore the different Nike locations and work spaces via video to see exactly where and how they will be working. The company lists its achievements and qualities in a CV-style format, showing that Nike is as much applying to you, as you are to them.

How will you attract the future workforce?

These trends towards a more collaborative workspace and a different employer-employee relationship mark a definite shift in talent and organization where employees are in the driving seat. To attract top talent, employers need to know what prospective employees want from their workplace and how they can give it to them.

So, when you think about the future of your company, ask yourself: Who is your ideal future workforce? Why would they want to work for you? What does it look like when your employees go to work? Is it a traditional office, a shared office space, or do they work from home? What does your workspace say about your work culture and your leadership style?

If money were no object and you could create a space with the right digital tools to help your teams thrive, what would your future workplace look like?

In my next post, I’ll talk about digital tools and technologies in the future workplace. To find out more about digital HR in financial services or to join us at the Change Directors Forum and People Innovation Forum in London, please contact me here or on Twitter @knott_nic.

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