The growing role of HR in workplace design

To ensure a smoother convergence of people and places, HR teams are playing a strategic role in workplace design.

February 28, 2018

To ensure a smoother convergence of people and places, HR teams are playing a strategic role in workplace design.

In times when office space can help companies win or lose the war for talent, taking up a larger and more active role in workplace design is a natural way for HR teams to up the ante.

The workplace as an experience is emerging as a priority among HR leaders, so much so that organizations ranging from GE Digital to IBM and Forrester are reviewing their HR value proposition, and focusing on instilling a consumer mindset to HR solutions. HR now creates great employee experiences that empower creativity, collaboration and innovation, and design thinking is a way to achieve it.

Design thinking molds HR into a new role. It transforms HR from a “process developer” to an “experience architect.” It empowers HR to reimagine every aspect of work: the physical environment; the way people meet and interact; how managers spend their time; and how companies select, train, engage and evaluate people. And this focus on making the physical environment employee-friendly is only going to increase.

“Good design is invisible. Good design enables users, it is purposeful and thoughtful. Good workplace design can articulate the company’s core values, help reflect and express its culture and promote inclusion. Organizations that integrate culture first design principles and workplaces that articulate philosophies and values are more likely to meet with success.” 

Michelle McLaughlin, Client Development, Project and Development Services, JLL Canada

A recent study by Unispace asked participants if they foresaw greater HR ownership of the physical workspace. Globally, 80% said yes. The regional responses, however, were varied, with Australia being the strongest (86%), followed closely by New Zealand (85%), then the US (73%) and Europe (67%).

As per the study, HR directors at leading international organisations such as American Express, Juniper Networks, DLA Piper and Dexus believe that culture, employee engagement and sharing knowledge are all substantially affected by a change of work environment. Though wellness, talent attraction and retention are less affected, and there is still a significant perceived correlation between these areas and changes in physical space.

This is why when a large number of organizations think Future of Work, workplace design is top of mind.

The earlier, the better.

Therefore, in order to strike an alignment between the physical environment and strategic objectives, HR are now being actively involved in planning a new workplace or relocation. Interestingly, the trend identified is that organizations are getting the HR team in early to perform preventative maintenance, not simply trouble shooting after the problems arise.

HR has taken note of the tactical role they can play by implementing right design to business and strategic goals, and they are taking it seriously.