There has been a good deal of press as of late focused on companies with innovative work cultures. Whether it is leisure, employee training, or eLearning in an online training software, creating an innovate workspace is important for employee content. Images abound of workplaces that look like playrooms. Much of the discussion highlights the unique and enjoyable nature of cutting-edge workspaces without probing the very clever logic behind these designs. It isn’t just about the perks. It’s also about the kind of employees these experiments in work culture allow certain organizations to attract and retain. Google and Shopify are two organizations that have repeatedly been praised for their unique approach to work, inside and outside the office. It’s worth taking a closer look at what these two workflow innovators are doing.
As an organization with 37,000 employees in 40 different countries, Google has a lot of reasons to stay on the cutting edge of work place innovation. Beneath the endless list of generous benefits Google bestows on its employees is a persistent logic. Google understands that the quality of their products is 100% dependent on the ability of their employees to create them. For Google, talent retention is king. This explains the perks, but it also highlights why Google leaves the door open for their employees to engage directly with management, work flexibly and find tasks that inspire them. Top talent generally becomes top talent because they like to work and are good at it. If they are happy and feel appreciated, they probably aren’t going to be spending their time drafting resumes for competitors.
Shopify, a Canadian firm, has a similar approach to managing their workforce. They offer a number of rewards to their employees, including funding for travel to conferences, childcare, gym memberships, a sports allowance, housecleaning services and flexible work hours. Shopify has been growing quickly of late, spreading their award-winning e-commerce software beyond their Canadian base. Pictures of their office interior reveal open work spaces for collaboration, beer taps, video game consoles, foosball tables and free lunches. Talent retention is certainly the priority here, but so too is productivity. If work is a fun place to be and your house is already clean, it’s increasingly likely that you will spend more time at work, enriching the office culture and collaborating on innovative new initiatives.
Shopify and Google are perhaps unique because their profitability is heavily dependent on intellectual labour and exceptional customer service. People are the root and trunk of their business. But no matter the industry, all organization want to attract and retrain the best people. Your workplace doesn’t need to look like Google’s or Shopify’s, but you need to understand why their workplaces look the way they do and how the kind of people you need influence the kind of workplace your organization should be providing. The lesson from Google and Shopify is to know who your workers are and understand their role in creating value. Once you know what you have and what you need, you can design your workplace and workflow to consciously reflect and attract the right kind of people with passion and drive for your organization and your product.