Editorial Roundtable: What A People-First Workplace Must Prioritize First
Managed By Q, Soma, Workbar, Primary, AltSchool and thinkPARALLAX on why employee fulfillment is a journey and not a destination
PSFK’s Editorial Roundtable series takes its inspiration from the traditional roundtable: bringing together industry insiders to share their insights on emerging and compelling trends in an idea-friendly manner. PSFK guides the discussion and our roundtable helps guide the future.
In the crusade to attract, please, and retain consumers, companies have lost sight of their most precious capital: their employees. The PSFK Future of Work Report reveals that it’s high time for all companies—whether operating in a converted loft or from the top floor of a Midtown skyscraper—to adopt a people-first workplace. Or, as our report tells it, “corporations run the risk of fragmenting internally if they continue to separate employees from the high-value service they provide customers.”
Although many organizations have acknowledged the need to respond accordingly—some perhaps more enthusiastically than others—the matter remains: how do you go about adopting a people-first workplace? And, perhaps more importantly, if somewhat paradoxically, how do you go about enforcing one?
Our Future of Work experts include:
Jacqueline Kurdziel | Head of Marketing & Communications of Managed By Q – “the operating system for offices,” Q helps keep offices of all sizes and capacities running efficiently and smoothly. In addition to reimagining the workplace, Q has spearheaded its own Future of Work discussions.
Mike Del Ponte | Chief Hydration Officer of Soma – makers of smart and elegantly designed hydration products who value the personal development of their employees as much as they do the clarity of their water.
Devin Cole | Director of Business Development of Workbar – a flexible workplace company that caters to teams, entrepreneurs and mobile professionals.
Jonathan Hanwit | Co-Founder & CEO of thinkPARALLAX – a purpose-building creative agency that has received its fair share of accolades and attention for its employee empowerment and its PARALLAXploration initiative, a company-sponsored travel program that allows the thinkPARALLAX team to pursue personal and professional enrichment.
Itamar Goldminz | Head of People Operations at AltSchool – an educational startup comprised of a collaborative community of micro-schools that values its company mission as much as it does ensuring its employees receive frequent and transparent feedback and performance reviews.
(Below is the second part of a four-part editorial).
‘Transparency,’ ‘mentorship,’ ‘a sense of purpose,’ and ‘internal career advancement’ are just some of the numerous employee priorities and expectations that dot the Future of Work. How may time or resource-starved organizations accommodate a laundry list of competing employee asks? How realistic is it for all organizations to take these on in one fell swoop?
Mike Del Ponte | Chief Hydration Officer of Soma
“Sense of purpose is the most important priority, especially for millennials. If employees do not see how their day-to-day work is contributing a compelling company mission, their motivation will deflate. Fortunately, providing a sense of purpose doesn’t require a lot of time or a large budget. It requires a company to know and communicate its reason for existence. Every company should start with sense of purpose, and then add in other priorities based on business and employee goals.”
Jonathan Hanwit | Co-Founder & CEO of thinkPARALLAX
“It’s impossible to fulfill the desires of all employees in one fell swoop—that would be unrealistic. Furthermore, the notion that employee expectations can somehow, somewhere in an imaginary future eventually be ‘fulfilled,’ frames the discussion of human-centered work in a way that’s flawed from the beginning.
From experience, we’ve seen with our own employees that progress toward employee fulfillment is not a destination—it’s a journey that is shared by both parties in a working relationship—both employee and employer.
At thinkPARALLAX, we use quarterly meetings and surveys to get feedback around what’s working and not working in our process. We then share all feedback with our team, discuss, and try to make changes based on feedback. Sometimes these changes stick. Sometimes they don’t. But, according to our employees, the important thing is that we show that we are trying (as illustrated by our specific actions) to make progress.
Based on our internal experience, we’ve helped several companies develop internal tools that allow employees to map their career paths and provide feedback about what would make them happy and more productive. With these clients, we encourage management teams to implement suggestions when possible and useful for the organization.”
Itamar Goldminz | Head of People Operations at AltSchool
“The laundry list is not as long and it appears to be. It is driven by four fundamental drivers of intrinsic motivation (the first three are credited to Daniel H. Pink’s Drive and the last one to Maslow):
One of these four is at the heart of almost any priority/expectation. To connect to the above examples: transparency → purpose (I understand what we’re trying to accomplish together) and to some extent mastery and autonomy (I have the information I need to do my job well); mentorship → mastery; internal career advancement → mastery.
The path to handling these requests in a resource-starved organization is to not take them at face value, and instead understand what driver they map to and make the highest ROI investment that advances that driver.”
Jacqueline Kurdziel | Head of Marketing & Communications of Managed By Q
“To us, investments in these priorities don’t necessarily have dollar signs attached but they do require time and focus in order to make them a core piece of a company’s culture. If a company values these priorities enough, they will make a concerted effort to invest the time and resources required.
For example, we have something at Q called the Q Code, which is a list of about a dozen values and principles that define how we want to operate as a team. This is a huge cornerstone of our culture that we built together and bring to the forefront often.
When we were about a year old, every employee at the company got together in a room, we ordered some pizza and beer, and wrote down on index cards what it means to be ‘Q,’ i.e., what makes our culture unique and a place that makes employees happy to come to work every day. We went through all employees’ submissions and from there we solidified the Q Code. It’s a set of principles we live by and bring to the forefront regularly in order to ingrain it in our culture. For example, before every team meeting, any employee can submit a ‘Q Code Shoutout’ to celebrate a member of the team who is a living example of the Q Code. Honoring our members of the team in this public forum and on an ongoing basis helps us to further integrate the code into our culture.
The bottom line is that it’s the actions both big and small that your company takes on a daily basis that contribute to the work environment you build. Building great culture is a collaborative process. Similar to how you would build your product or company based off customer input, you need the feedback of your stakeholders (your team) to build an optimal office environment for everyone. From there, you then have to design habits and processes that enable all members of the team to contribute to building that culture and reinforce what it is that you’ve collectively defined is most important to your organization.”
Devin Cole | Director of Business Development of Workbar
“It’s important to recognize that no organization will ever retain every single employee, regardless of whether they implement transparency, mentorship, sense of purpose, et cetera. Providing this sort of support and mindfulness of employee needs is about ensuring that people are able to accomplish everything they’d like to accomplish and to see their future in the organization. Companies should focus on developing solid process and in communicating their decision-making in order to produce returns over the longterm.”
Lisa Skye Hain | Co-Founder of Primary
“A transparent environment focused on collaboration and innovation does not require additional resources or time and should be the priority for any company. Nothing happens overnight, but as long as the company prioritizes transparency, collaboration, and innovation, employees will find value in working for them and trust that the rest will come in due time.”
Download PSFK’s Future of Work report to gain insight into the policies and tools that leading organizations are adopting to attract and cultivate tomorrow’s leaders today. Take advantage of the full findings, summary presentation, workplace visions and exclusive articles to get your company up to speed on the transformational workplace strategies that are driving innovation in business.
Note: If you would like to participate in a coming PSFK Editorial Roundtable, please contact us here.