An engaging workplace is built on the harmony between its culture and daily life

Blog: Maija Kaski, Vice President, People and Communications, Martela

The improvement in the economy has led to an increasing shortage of skilled personnel. According to the Confederation of Finnish Industries, a third of service companies and a quarter of construction sector companies are already suffering from labour shortages. It is now truly worth holding on those skilled employees!

Employees that stay with a company for many years are valuable, not only for their skills and expertise but also for their tacit knowledge of the work itself and the industry.

The longer employees stay in a company, the more profitable the investment in their training. It may take months or even years to train new employees so that they reach the same level of the employees that they are replacing.

Functional workplaces are designed for their users

Startups and IT companies have grasped the importance of this – you may say they have been forced to do so. Pool tables, gyms, spas and other facilities that add comfort are commonplace. The message is clear: management is investing in the wellbeing of its personnel.

But do not overdo it when you are reinforcing your employees’ commitment. A company bicycle is worthless if the atmosphere in the workplace is tense.

Facilities that demonstrate the fun nature of a company are merely superficial and what really matters lies somewhere underneath. It is about appreciating and supporting creativity. Startups and IT companies know that new ideas rarely emerge when you are sitting at your desk and trying hard to innovate. People are usually much more creative when they are able to relax or when they are doing something else.

Managers and HR professionals from all sectors should look into what startup and IT companies are doing. They provide a good sounding board for evaluating the workplace: do your premises attract the people you want and do they support the practices you have chosen?

At Martela House, for instance, the premises have been designed to be versatile so that each person can choose the environment that best appeals to and inspires them at any given time. Lights, colours and green walls create atmosphere and define the function of each space.

Don’t get side-tracked: now, what was the purpose of the workplace?

However, even today, one of the most common and worst mistakes in designing a workplace is to forget its users. In an organisation that is led from top to bottom, plans are sometimes made without listening to the people for whom the working environment exists in the first place. Nothing good rarely comes from this.

It is also short-sighted to use cost savings as the reason for office modernisation. The purpose of a workplace is to support performance and profitability and to enhance the core processes of the business: this is rarely achieved if the focus is on minimising costs.

Personnel are the single most important resource of a skill-intensive company and it is the management’s job to ensure that they have what they need to work efficiently, to develop and enjoy their work.

People are affected by everything around them and it is important to take into account the full spectrum of human reason and emotions in all areas of working life. Knowledge workers enjoy the freedom and content of their work and the respect given to personal preferences.

A harmonious workplace is at one with its culture

There is an unbreakable link between work environment and culture. Genuine openness and interaction will never emerge in any activity-based office if the culture of the organisation does not encourage these things. Culture lives and takes shape in everyday work.

I believe that a workplace is a concrete expression of an organisation’s culture. When the environment and culture are aligned, conditions exist for personnel to fulfil themselves for their own and their employee's benefit. A satisfied and thriving employee produces better results and will stay with you longer, too.