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    February 5, 2022

    Employers: How to use your workplace to win the battle for talent

    Published on November 15, 2021

    Jacob Aarup-Andersen
    Jacob Aarup-Andersen
    Group CEO hos ISS A/S
    2 articles

    Many years ago, I had my first job interview for an entry-level role at a major investment bank. It was a standard interview: they asked the questions; I tried my best to answer them. As I recall, not once did they ask what I was looking for in a work environment, or how the company could help me to develop professionally.

    It was a case of take what’s on offer, or we’ll take on someone else.

    But now the power has shifted.

    After several decades in which global labour markets favoured employers, now employees are the kingmakers. The coronavirus pandemic has led workers to prioritise job satisfaction and for many to reconsider their career paths. A survey conducted by Microsoft in June this year found that 41% of workers globally were thinking about handing in their resignation. Combined with the current labour shortage, workers are now in a strong position to dictate the terms of their employment.

    Flexible working arrangements, stylish workspaces, lucrative job perks… employers are under pressure to deliver on workers’ demands or run the risk of losing them to a more agile competitor.

    As is often the case, a moment of high risk also offers a golden opportunity: businesses should embrace the changes brought about by the pandemic and use them to create an attractive, productive, and future-proof workplace.

    At ISS, our 400,000 placemakers work with more than 40,000 customers across 30 countries worldwide to help them to achieve just this.

    We use our industry insight. Every two weeks, we use ISS Pulse surveys to gather the latest information from our customers on their working habits, their priorities, and their ambitions. With this information, we assess the trends and pre-emptively answer the big question:

    “How can a workplace help win the battle for talent?”

    Embrace hybrid – and nurture human connection

    As little as two years ago, working from home was viewed by many companies as a last resort offer in exceptional circumstances, as a privilege for freelancers, or a money saver for start-ups. Conversely, so-called ‘face time’ at the office was often viewed as a pre-requisite for promotion – or at least recognition.

    Fast forward to the end of 2020, and only 33% of business meetings were taking place in person. Working from home had become the norm.

    The trend has continued in 2021. Our latest customer survey (Pulse by ISS) shows that while many companies are gradually increasing both the number of staff allowed in the office at any one time, as well as the maximum number of permitted days in the office, the reality is that, unless enforced, fewer than 50% of those permitted to come in are actually doing so.

    However, we do expect to see people returning to the office, at least on a part-time basis, in the mid- to long-term. Studies have demonstrated that, while some work is well suited to remote working arrangements, the use of a central office serves a vital role in breaking down silos, enabling cross-functional collaboration, re-enforcing corporate culture and strengthening employees’ sense of belonging. The power of human connection cannot be underestimated.

    In the battle to retain and win talent in the current labour market, the winners will be companies that embrace the hybrid work system for the long-term, provide maximum flexibility to accommodate their employees’ needs, and, at the same time, make the office environment worth the commute.
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    Prioritise health, not hype

    As coronavirus restrictions have been gradually lifted, companies have become creative, offering temporary perks such as free breakfasts at the office or travel reimbursements to lure employees back from 18 months of pyjama bottoms and a smart shirt.

    At ISS, we look at the real motivations behind employee behaviour and concerns. Rather than a one-off social event or company-branded goodies, employees want a workplace that is safe, supportive and enabling. A recent study showed that 65% of office workers remain concerned about the cleanliness of their workplaces, and our own data backs this up: 66% of ISS customers will continue to increase their visible hygiene measures over the next two weeks.

    The most desirable workplaces will offer options and initiatives that focus on the physical, emotional, and financial wellbeing of staff. Dedicated areas for exercise and relaxation, including ‘digital detox zones’, social spaces like lounges and terraces, as well as attractive canteens that serve both as meeting places and a place to grab healthy, tasty food, are must-haves.

    Bearing in mind the future hybrid working model, companies will also have to cater to their employees’ health at home. Building in company-wide lunch breaks to facilitate a daily walk, or making a financial contribution to sport classes, for example, could tilt the balance from one firm to another.

    Take on tech

    In a hybrid work system, companies need to enable their staff to do their very best work regardless of their location. On the one hand, providing state-of-the art, portable technology is a no-brainer, but to keep office spaces relevant, embracing new technology throughout the working environment is crucial.

    At ISS, we’re helping our customers to meet the needs – and demands – of their empowered workforces: mobile apps that find quiet spaces or set up meetings on the fly; or when looking a little further ahead, artificial intelligence that shortens the morning commute; and security systems that feel safe but not intrusive. We also advise our customers on how to make best use of reduced office space through creative, flexible seating and room arrangements.

    At the moment, our insights data shows an increasing demand for pandemic-related technology: booking systems for desks and collaborative workspaces; food ordering systems that help both to avoid a rush and cut down on food loss and waste; and the latest cleaning technologies to put minds at ease and minimise any risks of contamination.

    To optimise employee experience and therefore remain competitive, companies need to embrace technology and innovation throughout the work environment.
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    Show moral fibre

    The link between a company’s brand and its environmental, social, and governance performance is nothing new. But it’s no longer enough for companies to simply put pen to paper on a strategy; employees are looking for their company’s actions to keep pace with declarations.

    ISS helps its customers to deliver on their values-based agendas. With sustainability a priority, we have introduced initiatives, for example, to reduce food waste, and to prioritise renewables – whether in infrastructure or energy consumption. At many of our Nordic sites, we have seen a consistent drop in food waste because of our new food concepts switching from a buffet style service to plated food. From our innovative Power Plant food concept headed up by chef Matt Yuen and Bill Billenstein to AI food waste management solutions, on-site gardens and bee farms to innovative composting, we are putting sustainability and reduction of food waste at the core of our business. I can personally vouch for the tastiness of the mushrooms grown from used coffee beans from our cafes!

    Another increasingly important area for workforces is in diversity, inclusion and belonging. Research has already documented the business case of a diversified workforce, and we work closely with our customers to design workspaces that accommodate people with disabilities, as well as spaces that can be used for different cultural or religious purposes. Being able to be your authentic self at the workplace is key.
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    An increasingly socially aware and socially mobile workforce means that creating and maintaining a positive brand is crucial if companies are to succeed in fostering belonging. Those companies that don’t match up to their employees’ expectations will struggle to attract and retain talent.

    It’s worth pointing out the obvious: there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Not every company will – or should – create the same working environment and conditions. But every company will be faced with the challenge of a demanding and in-demand workforce.

    Whether companies are able to create an attractive ‘work experience’ will ultimately determine whether they sink or swim.

    Many years have passed since that first job interview. Nowadays, I’m fortunate to sit on the other side of the table. But now I know where the power lies, so I always ask: “What can ISS do for you?”

    #EmployeeExperience #Management #Workplace #WorkCulture #FutureWorkplace #OfficeDesign #Innovation #HybridWorking

    #OneISS #PeopleMakePlaces


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