Workplace Branding: A Quick Win

A highly motivated workforce ranks high on the agenda of most companies – whether in the service industry or manufacturing, people are key to the success of a business. Apart from the most obvious considerations – salary, benefits, career prospects – creating the right working environment can be a key factor in determining employee satisfaction.

All too often, workplace branding is overlooked when it comes to finding a simple way of improving productivity and employee satisfaction. Yet it is one of the least complex and most cost-effective changes to implement.

In this short guide, we will share our knowledge and best practice examples, gained through many years of working with companies such as HSBC, FedEx and Kaplan.

We will help you to understand:

01 How the workplace is changing
02 How your business can benefit from workplace branding
03 The four steps to successful workplace branding
04 Six success factors

The changing face of the workplace

The digital revolution has changed the way we work, enabling an estimated 70% of professionals to work from home at least once per week. The key drivers of change in the workplace:

01 Demographics – millennials now represent over half of the workforce
02 The digital revolution
03  New ‘social contract’ between workers and their employers

The explosion of shared offices, hot desks and co-working spaces stand as a testament to the importance that people still attach to the workplace – put simply, people like to work with other people. No amount of technology – be it Skype or WebEx – can completely replace a face-to-face meeting or a quick chat at the water station. Let’s face it, this is often where deals are struck, positive relationships are forged, and creativity can flow freely. Our fundamental human desire to ‘press the flesh’ and be in the company of other like-minded people and fellow employees, is the number one reason why an investment in your work environment is a wise investment.

Given these changes, why is the physical workplace still so important?

The Millennial Factor

The millennial-dominated workforce asks tough questions of employers – unlike previous generations, they have little expectation of a career for life and are comfortable moving jobs/organisations/countries to find fulfilling work. Accustomed to having the best digital devices in their pockets, they want to work somewhere that offers the same cutting-edge experience. They are also totally at ease with online collaboration or sharing, and like to work in a social, interactive way. For older generations, flexibility is vital. As more and more parents share childcare responsibilities, men and women are looking for opportunities to work from somewhere other than the office. It may be a home, a remote office, or a co-working space.

More Than a Place to Work

When workers are in the office, the priority becomes not sitting at a desk on their own, but instead catching up with colleagues whom they may not see for the rest of the week. They also want to ensure that they cover enough ground to be able to work remotely. As it becomes less common for all employees to be in the office at the same time, your office must create a sense of connection and grounding for everyone – a kind of base camp to which everyone can return, creating a sense of unity and attachment. With so much remote working, an office has become more than just a generic place to work.

'There is a 25% difference in productivity between offices that are considered ‘comfortable’ over ‘uncomfortable.’

The Impact of Office Design on Business Performance
Commission for Architecture & the Built Environment (CABE) and the British Council for Offices (BCO), 2005

How can your workplace deliver to your business?

Workplace design is complex when taking into account people flow, use of technology and availability of space. Branding enables you to make the most of your existing space, without the need for costly and disruptive architectural changes. This can be achieved by focusing on the look, feel and basic layout of the existing workspace.

Your branding toolkit includes:

  • Printed Wall Graphics
  • Paint and Wall Coverings
  • Window Vinyls
  • Furniture
  • Signage and Wayfinding
  • Flooring and Lighting
  • Screen Dividers
  • Posters and Noticeboards

Effective branding of your workspace will create a deeper connection between you and your employees, leading to measurable improvements in:

  • Productivity
  • Employee and customer satisfaction
  • Unity and sense of community
  • Motivation
  • Attracting talent
  • Retaining staff for longer
  • Reducing absenteeism
  • Understanding of and alignment with your corporate mission/ethos

‘The employer brand provides a coherent framework for management to simplify and focus priorities; increase productivity; and improve recruitment, retention and commitment.’

The Employer Brand
Tim Ambler and Simon Barrow: Journal of Brand Management, 4 (3 December), 1996, 185-206

Workplace Branding: The Four Key Steps in Delivery

01 Know Your Audience

Where there is a disconnect between your external brand experience and internal employee experience, the result is demotivated, confused and distracted employees.

Larger organisations are likely to have identified their Employer Brand and articulated their Employer Value Proposition. This concept, first coined by Simon Barrow, helps to create consistency between customer-facing marketing and internal employee experience. Smaller companies may not have specifically created their employer brand, but it will exist – even if it is only in an intangible way through business processes and culture.

Workplace branding offers you the most visual way of expressing your Employer Brand. It creates the ideal opportunity to openly share company values and aspirations, ultimately creating the right culture for your employees. Start by understanding what you want to say, who you are speaking to, your tone of voice, and the level of ‘corporate feel’ you want to introduce.

'65% of respondents feel that if a company properly embeds its purpose in the workplace, it will have a positive effect on their work.'

How to Avoid F**king Up Purpose
Kin&Co, 2018

Case Study: HSBC

HSBC Group has an extensive and award-winning workplace branding program. With operations in 80+ countries and over 6,900 workplaces, they aim to create unity amongst their 300,000+ employees.

  • The multi-disciplinary workplace team includes Design, HR, Facilities Management and Marketing A brand blueprint for each workplace type is developed – from call centres to iconic head office buildings
  • Using a variety of design options, they strike the right balance between global consistency and locally loved branding
  • There are no logos! A central ribbon design theme, a palette of images, colours and designs are used instead
  • Everything is documented in ‘best in class’ brand guidelines, ensuring that global standards are met, whilst also remaining easily adaptable

02 Get the Right Team on Board

Remember that employees are your most important brand ambassadors – they hold your reputation in their hands when talking to others. Set up a local team to brainstorm ideas and develop strategies together. For larger projects, multi-disciplinary teams from all functions (i.e. HR, IT, Marketing, Ops, Real Estate, Finance, etc) will help to understand the bigger picture. Engagement plans could even include staff competitions with the winning design being implemented. This level of engagement creates accountability and ownership of the project, meaning that all teams have a stake in its success.

Staff surveys and other metrics play an integral role, helping to establish baseline performance and providing a way of measuring the effectiveness of the rebrand project when it comes to an end.

03 Plan Your Space

01 What is it being used for?
02 Who will use it?
03 Will customers visit?
04 How do you want visitors to feel when they are there?

Office design itself is a specialist skill but a simple rebrand or refurbishment will have an immediate positive impact on your existing space – visually transforming your workplace. Clever design can be used to differentiate between social and work spaces and create different ambiences. Think of your workplace as a giant advertising board – you can be as subtle or overt as you wish with your messaging to promote your business’s culture and values. As well as being aligned to your overall company mission, your workplace should place a premium on meeting and social space, and be well-equipped for both.

04 Development Plan

  • Create a clear project plan: Specify objectives, metrics, timings, roles and responsibilities
  • Operations downtime: Often installations must be done during off-peak periods or at night to avoid disruption to regular work patterns
  • Communication is key: Make sure you liaise closely with everyone affected by the refurbishment
  • Celebrate the new space: Spread the word of your new changes on social media. It will show the human face of your business and demonstrate that you care about your employees.

Case Study: National Grid

In 2014, National Grid, owners of the UK’s electricity and gas transmission system, undertook a refurbishment of many of their properties. The results of their head office makeover speak for themselves:

  • £20 million generated in increased productivity
  • 16% saving in energy
  • Staff performance increased by 8%
  • 86% of staff preferred the new working environment
  • Space for 900+ more employees with a 30% more informal meeting space

‘Happy employees are the best advocates for your brand – here are the 7 factors for turning that satisfaction into success.’

Seven Success Factors

01 Start with your employees

Often a work environment can seem sterile and corporate. Make the environment relatable to staff at all levels and allow it to express your culture.

02 Consider your space

Think beyond the obvious meeting rooms and reception areas. Corridors, staff restaurants and restrooms are all key areas. Consider how your space will be used and how branding can be used to differentiate between social and work environments.

03 Identify your desired outcome

Your corporate identity will be the backbone for your design but think about the end result – consider what atmosphere you want to create and how you will do this. In addition to corporate colour palettes, colour can be used to set and change ambience. This may give you a slightly different ‘twist’ on your visual identity in the workplace.

04 Stakeholder engagement

The most effective workplace branding programmes involve a wide variety of staff. This helps with the practical rollout and with the levels of engagement and success.

05 Local sensitivity

If you are branding across different countries and cultures, be aware that certain design elements such as colour and imagery may not translate well. They could
do more harm than good. With a global programme, it is often wise to inject local influences into the design to help create relevance.

06 Go green

Consider refurbishing rather than replacing, for example, worn-out furniture that can be re-wrapped to look as good as new. As well as saving money, the environmental message to employees is strong. Use the latest technology: for example, we use theBreath® as artwork, a fabric that absorbs and breaks down harmful fine dust to reintroduce clean air.

07 Project management

A strong central project management team, backed by local implementors, will ensure that the refurbishment is hassle-free and delivered on time and within budget.

'An investment in the workplace is money well spent, even in times of austerity. It can quickly boost employee morale and productivity, increasing output and customer satisfaction.'

Small Budget, Big Impact:

It is possible to update an office space on a relatively small budget. Here are 4 small changes that can make a huge impact:

01 Refurb, don’t replace

Existing furniture and fittings can be refurbished rather than replaced, limiting the cost of the transformation. This approach also has the advantage of minimizing waste.

02 Economies of scale

Keep budgets low by sourcing suppliers and partners who will work with the whole of your estate. By negotiating better prices, economies of scale can be achieved.

03 Keep it local

This doesn’t necessarily mean a ‘one size fits all’ approach. It is often desirable, or even essential, to keep a local ‘flavour’ to a refurbishment – including the use of local contractors where possible.

04 Build on your brand

Build on brand guidelines rather than recreate them. A good supplier will be able to interpret and flex existing brand guidelines to create a unique offering for the workplace. Resist the temptation to reuse or repurpose external branded collateral, as the employer brand is not the same as the customer brand. In many workplaces, there are no logos featured at all, with far more emphasis on colours and imagery instead.

Case Study: Kaplan

Kaplan, a subsidiary of The Washington Post, operates specialist colleges in over 30 countries, reaching more than one million students globally.

  • We helped to implement a workplace refurbishment programme for their London head office, various colleges across Europe and university halls of residence.
  • The overall design reflected their corporate purpose but also embedded local culture to help enhance the learning environment.
  • Iconic local scenes were portrayed in the graphics, helping to create and reinforce a sense of place for their foreign students.
  • Each element was carefully selected – from big-ticket items such as full-height wall graphics, furniture and flooring to the smaller items such as notice boards and artwork.

'In a recent study, the workplace was considered responsible for 24% of job satisfaction.'

CIPD (Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development)

The workplace is the most tangible expression of your ’employer brand’. Think beyond the functionality and the bricks and mortar to harness what it can achieve for your employees and your business. By providing a focus on this physical space, you are not only demonstrating your commitment to your team but also creating the foundation for a satisfied and motivated workforce – the backbone of any business.

Speak to one our Expert team for advice and guidance on how you can quickly and cost-effectively refurbish your workspaces.

With offices in Europe, Asia and the Americas, we can help with single-site or multi-site global programmes.

+44 (0)20 7043 1322

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Success, Culture, Workplace: A Global Branding Evolution

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