It is not only a "good thing" but imperative now for organisations to develop a sense of “community” and a healthy work culture to attract, engage, and retain talent.
Flexible workspaces are not only a key ingredient in this regard but also serve as a melting pot of culture, and diverse communities to offer very tangible benefits of collaboration, says Priti Shetty, chief people and culture officer at coworking major WeWork India.
In an interaction with People Matters, Shetty talks about how flexible workplace culture has not just become a critical business differentiator but also comes with a competitive advantage when it comes to attracting and retaining talent and shares some must-have strategies for building such a culture and creating inclusive workplaces.
Here are some excerpts
Strong workplace culture key to attracting, retaining talent
A lot of employees want continued flexibility after the pandemic.
Flexible workplace culture has not just become a critical business differentiator but also comes with a competitive advantage when it comes to attracting and retaining talent. Additionally, with multiple locations in every city, the advantage that flexible workspaces offer not only helps to expand the talent pool but also enables businesses to hire from anywhere, offer employees the benefits of working near home, and make them happy advocates of the employer's brand.
The workforce of the future is expecting companies to offer greater flexibility both in terms of time and location. For employees, flexibility at work offers the benefit of improved mental health as well as a healthy work-life balance.
From a talent attraction lens, flexible workspaces can help companies recruit from a wider talent pool for niche skills, due to their expansive network of locations. It also gives companies the flexibility to scale the size of their workspace as and when needed without any overhead costs or the burden of maintaining large standalone establishments.
According to the recent EY 2022 Work Reimagined report, six in 10 companies offer a degree of flexibility compared to only three in 10 employers who insist on employees returning to the workplace. Besides this, eight out of 10 companies are prepared to hire employees with critical or hard-to-fill skills from any geography and allow them to work from anywhere.
5 must-haves for building strong work culture, creating inclusive workplaces
- When every member of your diverse workforce feels heard and valued, they perform to the best of their ability towards the company’s goals and mission. A diverse workforce should ideally mirror or represent the diversity that an organisation aims to build in the long run in their target customer base - that helps to build customer empathy, better strategic understanding, and appreciation of customer needs and preferences. It is important to build adequate channels for two-way communication and access to leadership at every level.
- It is important for companies to offer equal opportunities to everyone regardless of their background, colour, gender, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, or ableness. This will make people feel welcome, included, and empowered. This needs to be reflected in talent attraction, talent development, promotions, and related policy, and practices.We follow this in practice. At WeWork, we have consistently maintained a gender diversity ratio of over 45%, above for the past three years, currently standing at 46%, and a leadership diversity of 36%. With an aim to build a more diverse workforce, we have already introduced initiatives like including the LGBTQI+ partners of our employees in our medical insurance coverage, celebrating Pride month with great fervour every year and introducing initiatives to hire talent from the LGBTQI+ community, to drive the spirit of inclusion.
- Inclusive leadership that walks the talk and demonstrates values-driven behaviour, setting the tone for a strong work culture.
- The physical space needs to reflect inclusion and support collaboration - mothers' rooms, wellness rooms, collaboration hubs, community settings for enjoying meals together, networking and events, and the right technology to include colleagues operating in a hybrid and flexible environment in the conversations that matter and decision making.
- Holding leaders accountable for both high performance and talent attraction, engagement, and retention. One does not have to be at the cost of the other. Weightage on behaviours, competencies, and values, in addition to outcomes, via the performance management philosophy and practices, is critical to set the right culture.
Refreshing culture in post-pandemic workplace
Wellness has become a critical part of the value proposition, especially after the pandemic. The prolonged work from home scenario has highlighted the importance of health, safety as well as human connection.
We have always invested in workplace design that says, “We care about your wellbeing”; our spaces offer natural light, dedicated wellness rooms, acoustic modifications, plants, and ergonomic furniture. To provide our employees the flexibility that they need, we introduced several initiatives:
- Implementation of a hybrid work model wherein employees can choose to work from any WeWork location nearest to their home. This allows them to have a routine and focus on performance, teamwork, and collaboration, without compromising on health and safety or other responsibilities.
- Announcing Mondays as “Collaboration Days”, where all employees will be required to work from the HQ WeWork building in every city to allow time for face-to-face meetings, relationship building, peer to peer networking, resolving conflicts, and setting the tone for the week.
- An employee assistance programme that provides access to confidential counselling services.
- A holiday policy to factor in diverse needs and employee preferences. Introduction of the Returning Parents or The Homecoming Program to support assimilation back into the workplace for new parents who are slowly transitioning back to work.
- ‘Workations’ that allow employees the flexibility to travel, explore the country, and work from a new place (outside their work location) for 10 working days in a year. Besides this, our tie-ups at discounted rates with hotel chains across the country makes this dream to work and travel to new places possible for many of our employees.
- Pet friendly workspaces which enable many of our employees to bring their pets to work. We also offer employees the flexibility to work from home when employees adopt pets.
- Gender-neutral bathrooms across most of our buildings to reflect inclusion in our workplace design. Approximately 75% of all our buildings pan India have a new mothers’ room to support feeding needs after childbirth.
Our aim to build a culture of trust and ownership.