Mersive Solstice

5 Macro Trends Reshaping Workplace Innovation

5 min read

5 Macro Trends Reshaping Workplace InnovationHere at Mersive, we sit at the nexus of employee engagement, workspace usage, and digital convergence. We develop cool in-room wireless collaboration software which runs on a tricked-out AV platform (digital convergence) that makes it easy for any number of colleagues to share any kind of content from any kind of device in any kind of space (workspace usage) thereby making meetings or ad hoc discussions more engaging and productive (employee engagement).

Given that we have the opportunity to hang-out at this pretty fascinating and unique intersection, we’d thought it’d be interesting to share 5 driving forces that we see shaping workplace design and usage today:

1. Employee engagement has always been serious business…but it’s even more important now that Millennials are the largest part of our workforce.

According to Gallup’s “State of the American Workplace 2017,” only 33% of American workers are engaged. That number is 70% for the companies with the most engaged employees. Given that level of employee commitment, it’s no wonder those companies experience phenomenal success including 115% growth in earnings per share compared to 27% for their competitors over the same time period. Employee engagement has never been more important now that Millennials make up the largest segment of the workforce. Millennials cite several factors that drive their engagement, some of which we’ll talk about below, that are quite varied from older generations. Moreover, their likelihood to leave a company if their engagement needs aren’t met are higher than other generations.

“…115% growth in earnings per share compared to 27% for their competitors over the same time period…”

2. Workplace flexibility was previously just a nice to have, but more recently it’s become a must-have, especially given the ubiquity of today’s collaboration tools.

Gallup cites the two most important considerations when employees, especially Millennials, consider jobs are (1) being placed in a position where they can do their best work and (2) achieving a higher level of work-life balance. From our experience, these two are not only highly related but also highly synergistic. A key driver in driving work-life balance is being able to do some portion of your week’s work at the time and place of your choosing, aka workplace flexibility. We all know from personal experience that there are certain places that enable you to get into a flow. For many, it’s as simple as spending the morning at your favorite coffee shop. For others, it’s working from home on a regular or as-needed basis. Regardless, numerous sources provide strong support that these flexible working arrangements drive higher levels of employee productivity and retention. Due to continuous, rapid improvements in communications technology, it’s never been easier for people to do their jobs remotely. The ease-of-use and low costs of tools such as web conferencing (eg, Skype) and collaboration tools (eg, Slack) make it so much easier to enable workplace flexibility nowadays.

“…97% of companies claim that open innovation is important or critical to improving performance…”

3. Both companies and employees want workplaces that synergize innovation, collaboration, and community.

In our increasingly digital world, customers, partners, and competitors are all moving faster. To keep pace, companies have to innovate faster than ever. A recent Accenture paper “Building a Digital Ecosystem: Collaborate for Growth” states that 97% of companies claim that open innovation is important or critical to improving performance. The concurrent trends of workplace flexibility and accelerating innovation is creating a tremendous synergy in the work environment. The more workplace flexibility companies afford to their employees, the less real-estate they need to allocate to employees. In doing so, they are also rethinking how to arrange the floor space to maximize co-working, community, and innovation. They are enabling new, more productive ways of collaborating by blending architecture, space design, interior design, and technology. These new innovation-inspiring workplaces are being created in large part for Millennials who “place a high priority on workplace culture and desire a work environment that emphasizes teamwork and a sense of community” according to PwC study “Next Gen: A Global Generational Study.”

4. Workspaces that best enable innovation and collaboration are all about form to function (not the high-end fixings) and effective utilization.

“Purpose and function outweigh aesthetics” in designing workplaces for innovation and collaboration, according to the Brookings Institute report “Innovative Spaces: The New Design of Work.” Given that innovation is oftentimes inadvertent, unscripted, and multi-disciplinary, architects and designers must create spaces that “create communities,” “facilitate collaboration,” and “create serendipitous encounters.” It’s one thing to create spaces that foster these actions, it’s another to actually make them happen. In this regard, culture is incredibly important as there must be norms that encourage ad hoc conversations across departments. Moreover, there must be people who create the events that foster the relationships that create these ad hoc collaborations. Companies need to really think through the high opportunity cost of a meeting-heavy culture as well as the high return-on-investment of togetherness. Share a meal, celebrate a little victory, go out for happy hour, do a simple community service project. These gatherings don’t have to be elaborate or expensive. Far from it. They just need to authentic, fun, and habitual.

“…we are seeing an explosion of small meeting rooms, huddle spaces, break rooms, transitional areas, and even offices armed with displays…”

5. When it comes to innovation, there is no substitute for face-to-face interaction and the technology to support these dialogues is now there.

Given the increased desire for community and innovation, face-to-face communication is growing in popularity. In-person dialogue is particularly crucial to innovation-related collaboration as these interactions tend to be more complex involving more information. The presence of WiFi on corporate campuses is driven in part due to its ability to enable any conversation at any time using any device, regardless of complexity. Architects and designers are designing workspaces based on this ubiquity, which is why we are seeing an explosion of small meeting rooms, huddle spaces, break rooms, transitional areas, and even offices armed with displays to support the sharing of digital information during face-to-face discussions. There’s also a new generation of collaboration technology that allows all meeting participants to share content wirelessly to the display eliminating a cable or dongle as a restriction to the number of people who can participate. This kind of digital sharing is exactly the kind of technology that attracts and encourages Millennials. According to Deloitte University, “Nearly two-thirds of millennials reported they use their businesses’ social tools or networking applications for instantaneous collaboration, and nearly 80 percent of millennials agree that as technology develops further, their work lives become more fulfilling.”

If you’re interested in learning more about these topics, we would love to have you attend our panel discussion on the Future of Collaboration Technology in the Workplace on August 9th in Philadelphia. Shortly thereafter, we will also provide an on-demand video of the panel discussion as well as a video case study illustrating many of the above concepts. Sign-up to our blog below to get notified when this happens.

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