By Marc Pallisco 15 June 2017

Appealing lounge rooms, dining rooms, and even small cinemas in the workplace are more than embroidery.

Employees value camaraderie at work, just as they do in their personal lives.

A great salary, on its own, is not necessarily enough to attract the best and brightest any more.

Smart graduates and industry-leading employees often have plenty of employment options. But they're likely to trade off pay against such factors as the workplace experience, leadership, brand – and culture.

So the working environment is playing an increasingly vital part in enticing the best staff. And features that might once have been regarded as annoying costs are now seen by progressive organisations as a way to attract and motivate a workforce.

Smart graduates and industry-leading employees often have plenty of employment options but are likely to trade off pay against factors including workplace experience, brand and culture. Credit: Google.

No longer just a pesky expense

It’s not unusual for modern-day workplaces to have the lounge rooms, dining rooms or small cinemas you’d expect to see in a well-appointed family home. 

Some workplaces offer services you’d expect from a resort, such as gymnasiums, pools, bars, physical and mental wellbeing classes – plus luxuriously appointed wet areas – as part of the end-of-trip experience. 

A strong sense of community is what employees care about most, according to Sydney-based global research institute Great Place to Work, which releases an annual survey of the world’s best multinational workplaces.

The group produces several reports based on its landmark Great Place to Work Trust Index survey. That survey is compiled from the responses of more than half a million employees. 

Company communities that are friendly, fair and fun not only fuel employee perceptions that their workplaces are great, but foster better business results

Google beats the rest

In 2016 its World’s Best Multinational Workplaces survey was again topped by Google – which has more than 57,000 employees.

Information technology companies are heavily represented in the top 10. SAS Institute comes in second, Dell EMC ranks fourth and NettApp is sixth. Autodesk, which employs 8,376 people, is ranked eighth. 

The Great Place to Work institute says trust, pride and camaraderie are the universal foundations of a great workplace, adding that management competence is also important to employees, as are “workplace basics” (for example, providing the proper work equipment).

A festive, inclusive community is central to what makes the World’s Best great, says Great Place to Work global managing director Ann Nadeau about the survey findings. 

“Company communities that are friendly, fair and fun not only fuel employee perceptions that their workplaces are great, but foster better business results."


Google workplace
Google tops the 2016 World’s Best Multinational Workplaces survey.
Some workplaces offer services you’d expect from a resort, such as gymnasiums, pools, bars, physical and mental wellbeing classes – plus luxuriously appointed wet areas – as part of the end-of-trip experience

Design for better engagement

Initiatives such as flexible work practices are a new workplace norm to some. But some modern-thinking workplaces go further. For example, they might offer to pay for staff to work at volunteer organisations during business hours. Funding tuition, or providing sabbatical programs which reward a length of stay with additional annual leave, are other perks organisations may offer.

The institute notes that Millennials have a highly social character that likes teamwork and a sense of community.

Human resource consultancy Aon Hewitt believes managers who are responsible for workplace design are focusing on some of these trends. 

Its business metric, the Global Employee Engagement Index, showed workplace engagement rose globally in 2016, despite a volatile economic backdrop. 

“The concept of employee engagement is often confused with satisfaction or happiness. However, the true definition is deeper in meaning,” AON Hewitt says in its 2016 Trends in Global Employee Engagement report. “Employee engagement is defined as the level of an employee’s psychological investment in their organisation." 

The survey measures employee engagement from millions of responses from more than 1000 global organisations across 60 countries. 

flexible workspace
Working environment is playing an increasingly vital part in enticing the best staff. Credit: Avant Gardes.

AON survey indicates success

“Across the globe, employee engagement is trending up. A quarter of all employees fall into the ‘highly engaged’ category and another 40 per cent are ‘moderately engaged’," the report says.

The AON survey asks whether employees will “stay” at their organisation for a long time, “say” positive things about it, and “strive” to give their best efforts to help the organisation succeed. 

Globally, and in the Asia Pacific region, 69 per cent of employees would “say” nice things about their company, and 60 per cent of employees planned to “stay” in their jobs. 

The Asia Pacific region has a greater number of employees willing to “strive” for success – at 66 per cent (the global average is 64 per cent, up from 61 per cent a year earlier). 

In the earlier 2015 survey, in the Asia Pacific, fewer (66 per cent) of employees would speak positively of their workplace. Only 58 per cent planned to stay, and 61 per cent would strive to do well. 

The survey measures six engagement drivers including company practices (for example, diversity and inclusion, existing staff talent, communication, and enabling infrastructure); brand (reputation, corporate responsibility); performance (which covers learning and development, feedback, rewards and recognition); leadership; and the actual work tasks. 

The final driver, which Aon Hewitt calls “the basics”, factors in job security, safety and work environment. 

“The improvement in employee engagement across Asia is a tremendous sign,” comments Aon Hewitt's Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa executive sponsor of employee engagement Stephen Hickey.  

“Asian organisations need to have a highly engaged and productive workforce to tap into the growth opportunities that exist. With a projected regional growth rate of 5 per cent a year through 2020, organisations need employees who are strong brand advocates, committed to the organisation and willing to exert maximum effort."

That kind of psychological investment by employees only comes about through corporate investment in their wellbeing. Welcome to a virtuous circle which recognises employee motivation as the ultimate driver of profit.
different working environments
Appealing lounge rooms, dining rooms, and even small cinemas in the workplace are more than embroidery. Credit: WeWork.

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