Worth $55 billion, Salesforce is one of the Fortune 500’s fastest-growing companies, increasing sales by more than 30% for the past four years straight. This rapid growth has forced it to stay agile, and it has developed a workplace philosophy that is all about “Ohana”, the idea in Hawaiian culture that family members are all responsible for one another. “Every single person knows that they’re playing an important role, regardless of their division or job function,” says Lawson.
That Ohana culture extends to the workplace as well, he says. “In order to move fast, stay agile, constantly optimise our programmes and processes and to continue to transform our industry, we must cultivate a workplace culture where everyone is encouraged to share information widely and feel confident about sharing their opinions. Great ideas can come from anyone, at any level of the organisation.”
Input is encouraged at all levels, says Lawson, “We want all employees to have a voice in how we run our business. We do this by encouraging feedback at all levels throughout the business and by using the latest technology platforms to solicit input and respond to our employees.”
Listening is a core part of Salesforce’s corporate DNA, and conversations happen via Chatter (its collaboration platform). “With Chatter,” says Lawson, “all of our employees are instantly connected, motivated and engaging with each other. They take to Chatter to share insights or propose new ideas. Salesforce recognises that the feedback received from its employees is fundamental both to employee satisfaction and to our continued success.”
Still, productivity is not measured in any concrete way at Salesforce, Lawson says. But employee feedback is good and, says Lawson, “We’re continually collecting it.”
Planning the needs for the Salesforce workplace is done on an ongoing basis. And again it comes down to the bottom line. With a company growing as fast as Salesforce, constant communication, complete alignment and agility is crucial.
Thomsons Online Benefits
“I have driven and continue to drive the culture of values behind Thomsons,” says CEO Micheal Whitfield. “And I am convinced that it is the original culture and behaviours that allow us to be productive as a business.
“We are a client-focused business but for certain types of people, and in particular software engineering, it doesn’t matter where in the world they work. They are more productive in an environment they’re enjoying.
In the good old days we’d measure productivity with time and motion. Now we use the Net Promoter Score, in which you work out your percentage of detractors and promoters. We ask staff the question every quarter and this is how we see whether someone in the direct client space is being productive.
We believe that if you take care of the clients, the revenue takes care of itself.
In terms of the workspace, we believe that it provides a stable home to go to for work. But the workplace has to be representative of the company values. Our offices all feel and look very similar. We don’t want to be overly funky. The workplace is important but not so much so that you need to do things for effect. There’s no point if it doesn’t match your culture.
We have never had facilities management but we do have people looking after the office infrastructure. The people who look after the facilities work in HR, in conjunction with me. I am not a designer but I have a clear picture of how you bond people with brand and environment. I tend to sit down with the GM in each area of the business with a core theme and vision of what I want to achieve. Then we adapt it locally. But the core values are the same.
A workplace strategy doesn’t have to come from someone who works in facilities. It just has to come from someone who understands the business. When people come to our offices, they feel who we are before they see who we are. You can’t create buzz by putting stuff on the walls but you can create an environment where people feel productive.
Four years ago my CTO told me that the engineers were going to work in Whistler, Canada, for the season. I was, naturally, quite concerned but I went along with it. We measured their productivity in terms of coding output. Compared with the London office, they produced 25% more while working fewer hours. I was gobsmacked. From then on we have allowed much greater flexibility for that type of worker.”
“We don’t believe there is a one-size-fits-all answer to measuring productivity,” says Mark Tyson, solutions director at Mitie Energy. “The answer lies in individual companies’ own productivity measures and linking them to the built environment they occupy.”
UK plcs are dependent on advancements in science, technology and knowledge as a competitive advantage, says Tyson. Individuals’ cognitive function is key to this and Mitie uses the idea of marginal gains theory (breaking everything down to its constituent parts and improving them all by 1%) to show that small improvements in recruitment, motivation, wellbeing and environment can positively affect cognitive performance.
Mitie is collaborating with Red Bull Racing to provide advanced building telemetry at its Milton Keynes factory. At the heart of the solution sit live data and the building’s users. Mitie is collecting and analysing live environmental data from the factory buildings using custom-built sensor technology. This works on the principle that monitored variables such as air quality, light levels and humidity can affect both physical manufacturing processes and human performance. Collecting this data allows the company to optimise working environments for enhanced performance.
“If you can’t measure it you can’t improve it is the initial wave of focus from our teams,” says Jamie Hall, head of analytics at the company, which is also working with Sheffield Hallam University on an Innovate UK Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP). “We are keen to introduce true transparency and measurement of variables that haven’t been measured closely before (such as air quality and noise) and their relationship with existing FM and maintenance data. The next stage for us is working with the academic community to develop evaluation models on optimum working conditions, linking to wellbeing strategies and overall productivity.
Through improving productivity, we will improve employees’ output (both the quantity they produce and the quality of that output), helping businesses to grow.”
He adds, “Over time we believe there will be models, rules, algorithms which apply to demonstrable productivity improvements at team or activity level. These activities will then be the cross-referenced between businesses as a lot of activity is duplicated such as in the back-office for example.”
What this will mean, says Tyson, is the creation of roles within data science, “to advise on the best actions companies should take based on what they are learning about their built environment and their employees”. This, he says, “will inevitably mean a crossover from FM and property into HR, IT and long-term business strategy”.
“PokerStars was founded in 2001 with 350 employees in four locations. Since then it has grown by almost 500% and today has 2,000 people across eight locations.
Productivity for us is about the whole workplace experience. Measuring it in itself is hard so we try to measure satisfaction in more of a holistic way. We use the Leesman survey but we try to understand which of the different measures are more important to us and, crucially, our staff. If the satisfaction is low we then know where to allocate our funds. Then we use the scores to see whether we’ve achieved that.
The important thing for our staff is different work settings. Open-plan was a great idea back in the day but has created a nightmare for facilities management from a satisfaction point of view. You have some people who are very happy because they can chat to people all day long but then you have other people who aren’t because they want to be isolated.
Our workplace operations department recommends how to do things based on our staff satisfaction levels. We would go to the board and say, “People are saying air conditioning is important to them.” Satisfaction is 20%. That means to us that either there is a big problem with the mechanical plant or it’s an issue because of open plan. We would then look at the Leesman top 10 buildings and see that the average is something like 28% so we know not to spend money on it. But our chairs are 20% and top 10 is 80% so this is why we’re going to spend money on it. We explain our rationale to the board and back it up.
We are luckier than other companies in that we are taken seriously by the C-suite. I used to report direct to the CEO and I was able to work with him to make the workspace better by identifying best practice. One technique is to use case studies to show that they have added value. It is important to carry out a pre- and post-project survey. If your post-project survey shows that the workforce is happier, then you can demonstrate that. But it doesn’t always happen overnight and often takes time.
We have a three-year strategy. By using staff satisfaction levels we can have an action plan showing areas that need improvement and we can filter it against other similar companies. Then we communicate this to the office. Year-on-year we have always shown improvements.
We’re a money-spending business but we’re spending money to improve the workforce and the workplace. It can be very difficult for a CEO to sign off money when they think it’s just you making things pretty. If you can say you’re doing it via an industry-respected metric, then they’re going to start listening to you.”