Editorial Roundtable: The Arrival Of The People-First Workplace
Managed By Q, Soma, Workbar, Primary, AltSchool and thinkPARALLAX enumerate the reasons why companies need an employee-embracing workforce in order to exist
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 first part of a four-part editorial).
We can hear the working masses now: hasn’t this always been fairly obvious? If a company takes care of its workers, it stands to gain more than it stands to lose. So, why the arrival of the people-first workplace now? Is it a matter of metrics telling us to get our act together? Are companies just deciding to be more magnanimous for magnanimousness’ sake? Are the high-minded millennials hitting the labor market to blame?
Jacqueline Kurdziel | Head of Marketing & Communications of Managed By Q
“At Q, we recognize that the people-first workplace isn’t a new concept. In fact, we’ve studied many great companies of the last few decades—such as Starbucks, Costco, Trader Joe’s, and others—who have taken this employee-centric approach, which in turn has helped them operate successful businesses.
Why it may feel like it hasn’t always been in the forefront is because companies are always juggling competing demands. It’s easy to fall in the trap of addressing short-term gains at the sacrifice of longer-term investments. We’ve seen this not only in how companies treat their workforce but also in how they develop their products, build their growth strategy and approach their business in general. Our instant-gratification culture feeds this tendency to have a short view, which may not always set a company up for success.
At Q, we’ve been disciplined about investing in longer-range strategies that will help us grow and scale. It’s not always easy in the short run, but we’ve seen the data and past examples that prove the longer view is much more beneficial for the health and success of the company over time.”
Devin Cole | Director of Business Development of Workbar
“At Workbar, we look at the satisfaction of our staff as a key indicator of how we are doing as a company for a lot of reasons. First, it’s important that our staff feels respected and valued because how they feel about their work is worth considering on its own.
From a more self-interested perspective, the friendliness and supportiveness of a coworking community is often what determines whether members feel good about their workspace. Our staff sets the community tone, so ensuring that they are respected and nurtured also ensures that they will provide high-quality customer service, support and nurturing to members.
At Workbar, we also believe that we must ’embrace the blur’ between work and home life. Our members value the productivity they are able to achieve in our spaces, but they also value that Workbar is a community where they can find friends, a fun evening at a happy hour, running partners and other personally value things. Bringing your personality to work is a fact of life and we see embracing this as key to our success because we know that a valued staff will let the community in on their interest in Liverpool FC, reading, dancing, civic action and much more.”
Jonathan Hanwit | Co-Founder & CEO of thinkPARALLAX
“All of the things mentioned above (the birth of big data and metrics everything, millennial expectations, and perhaps even brand magnanimity) absolutely support the worker-first trend and help explain its rise.
Our society has shifted away from an economic model that is based on production and/or repetition of tasks (manufacturing jobs, production work, etc.) and moved into an economic model that is fueled by ideas. In the idea economy, entire industries are turned upside down (sometimes almost overnight) by upstart companies with a vision for how the future should look and the courage to turn that vision into a reality. (If you’re reading this, I imagine you can name at least three such companies without batting an eyelid, but I’ll mention a few here just to cement my point: Warby Parker, Airbnb, and Uber. In the idea economy, companies are no longer competing over pools of labor—they’re competing for ideas.
In this economic climate, business survival depends on attracting the best and the brightest minds to envision the future and rethink outdated ways of doing things. Competition for visionaries with transformative ideas is fierce and modern workers have lots of options at their disposal. (Thanks to technology, launching your own business has never been easier.)
Businesses know this well, and now offer a host of perks (mentoring, work-life balance, free breakfast) to attract and retain the best and brightest. The Future of Work exists because companies need it to exist. Additionally, with transparency as a new paradigm with businesses, it becomes clear who is a good employer and who is not, what perks are offered and where and with whom you want to work with as an employee.
In this light, it’s no surprise companies are now willing to put people first.”
Mike Del Ponte | Chief Hydration Officer of Soma
“As a startup, we’ve learned a surprising practical benefit of being a people-first workplace. When you have a small team and not the budget to grow headcount quickly, the best way to increase results is increasing the capacity of your team. While our headcount is unlikely to triple in one year, the skills and productivity of our team can. The key is matching the right work environment with personal development programs.”
Lisa Skye Hain | Co-Founder of Primary
“In an age of social media and oversharing, a stuffy workplace (where everyone is forced to wear a suit and sit in a cubical rarely interacting with their peers) does not promote inspiration and feelings of empowerment which millennials thrive off. With millennials currently occupying the majority of the workforce, it is, therefore, them that led the movement of the people-first workplace with statistics following in support.”
Itamar Goldminz | Head of People Operations at AltSchool
“The people-first workplace is arriving now as a result of getting to a ‘critical mass’ of progress on three fronts:
1. Scientific Progress – For many decades businesses were operating under a ‘machinistic paradigm’ thinking about humans as an organic extension of the machines on the assembly line at worst, or as an animal that should be incentivized to work using Pavlovian tools at best.
2. Technological Progress – had a double impact:
It enabled the automation of many rote/algorithmic tasks and enabled humans to focus more on solving complex/creative/heuristical problems that require a different approach to motivation and collaboration
It expanded the toolbox for reducing the ‘transaction costs’ (Coase Theorem) around collaboration, offering digital alternatives for supporting the complexity of large scale collaboration that are more humane than hierarchy and standardization.
3. Economic Progress – raised the bar on people’s expectations of their work, thinking about it not purely as a means for sustenance but also as a critical enabler of personal self-actualization.”
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.