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The future of the workplace – follow suit or miss out on talent.

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Corporate culture, working environment and the work/life balance dilemma have been HR buzzwords for a while now, but have also steadily risen up employers’ agendas due to their clear link to talent attraction and retention, not to mention productivity and motivation.

Working closely with my clients in Property, Construction and Infrastructure affords me a thorough inside understanding of their culture, benefits, flexibility and workplace – vital information for finding the candidate who will be the perfect fit. However, a growing trend has also seen a number of calls to me from HR and Talent Managers trying to find out exactly what their competition is offering, such is the importance being placed on employee wellbeing and satisfaction.

You don't have to be a Google or a Facebook with futuristic power-nap pods or treadmill desks outside of the boardroom, but a number of incentives and practices are fast becoming the norm, and late adopters may soon find themselves losing out to the competition when hiring. Flexible working (hours and location) is probably the biggest change we have seen over the last few years – enabling parents to incorporate school runs and childcare into their working day and facilitating women back to work after maternity leave. Companies insisting on monitoring desk time and praising the first-in-last-to-leave mentality are immediately losing access to a huge percentage of candidates for whom flexibility is paramount.

A number of recent surveys by reputable sources such as Harvard Business Review and the World Economic Forum show positive results supporting a creative, healthy culture and perks. Employees were considerably more innovative and dedicated at companies that supported healthy habits, for example. This could be anything from free fruit to offering breakout yoga classes, or simply time away from a computer screen in a breakout area or a brief leisure activity in a games room. 

While more traditional benefits such as pensions, death in service, holiday entitlement and company cars are all still important; today’s candidate views them more as part of the overall compensation package. It’s the cultural benefits and workplace environment, often unpublicised, which are becoming just as relevant. Architecture, design and layout must be considered – the workplace needs to be comfortable if you want people to stay. Free food, leisure distractions, sofas and relaxed dress codes all keep people motivated and working.

Among my clients, I’ve seen flexible working and benefits introduced, including reward schemes, discounts and enhanced training and development. Property and Construction firms also featured in this year’s Sunday Times Best Companies To Work For list, so the sector must be doing something right, but could it be doing more? Does your company offer employees anything unusual to position itself from the rest or would you ever consider the sleep pod in the office?