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Section I: how do we make people happier at the office?

In writing this paper I picked a topic that would focus on the human aspect of making a change in an office rather than, as is more typically the case, focusing on the functional requirements and cost benefit analysis of a proposed change.  Over the course of close to 20 years in commercial real estate, I’ve come to believe that the war for talent has ramped up in every sector to the point that, notwithstanding whether we are a public, private or not-for-profit organization, we can no longer use the same cost driven modes and decision-making models to make recommendations on space allocation and creating workplace environments.

Consider a statement by Jason Baumgarten, a search consultant at Spencer Stuart who said, “Today, people work for you because they want to, not because they have to.”[1] Isn’t that a revolutionary statement?  Yet how does an employer make people want to work for them?  What drives the employee’s desire in the first place?  How does an employer build a team that keeps everyone’s needs met as individuals while still executing on their overall business plan?  Wouldn’t it be fantastic to find out?

In this context, think about the time and resources expended in hiring a new employee: job descriptions, head hunters, screening candidates, interviews, compensation negotiation, and signing contracts.  With so many steps it’s a wonder we can hire anyone at all, and the new hires haven’t even shown up for work yet.

Now the real work of onboarding begins.  In a great LinkedIn piece from Josh Bersin of Bersin by Deloitte, (2013) he discusses many of the not so obvious cost centres (listed below) associated with staffing and some of the impact associated when employees leave the organization, voluntarily or otherwise.[2]

  1. Time: New hires typically require training and time to integrate with their teams. They need face time with managers who would otherwise be working in the business.
  2. Lost productivity: it may take a new employee one to two years to reach the productivity of an existing person.
  3. Lost engagement: other employees who see high turnover tend to disengage and lose productivity.
  4. Customer service and errors: new employees [can] take longer and are often less adept at solving problems.
  5. Training cost: for example, over two to three years, a business likely invests 10 to 20 percent of an employee’s salary or more in training
  6. Cultural impact: whenever someone leaves, others take time to ask why.

To complicate matters further there is the essential subjective nature of human beings trying to predict making the “right” hire and unfortunately, the best candidate screening process in the world cannot be completely foolproof.  We don’t always get it right. Sometimes the top candidate doesn’t fit the culture, or leaves due to a better offer from the competition.  But assuming we’ve found the right person, and assuming they’ve agreed to come work in our organization, how important are the non-monetary factors to their decision to stay in their jobs?  What would make them happy to stay?

That is the fundamental question I’ve set out to answer:  How to Create Happiness in the Office?

[1] GEOFF COLVIN, Fortune.com (2018)

[2] Josh Bersin of Bersin by Deloitte, August 16, 2013