By Tamara Sheehan
Director of Business Management
How to motivate your team and keep them motivated is key, but too many companies that recruit based on the office perks they offer are likely hiding something. They’re building a culture based on fleeting moments of pleasure and distraction, not on the stabilizing tools that attract and retain a strong workforce.
At a recent conference in New York City, Deano Roberts, senior director of workplace and real estate for Slack, presented his company’s approach to creating a workplace where people are excited to work—and it had very little to do with free perks like weekly meditation, ping-pong, beer on tap, and other superficial freebies
Every business wants to stand out. When Google and Facebook launched, each touted perks like Lego rooms, intra-office scooters, and free daily lunches. Other companies clamored to differentiate themselves with equally desirable perks. Roberts believes those freebies are a disguise. “[I]f that’s the reason you think folks are doing their job, if that’s the way you’re recruiting, you grossly misunderstand what motivates individuals to come do their best work.”
While nice touches may give employees something to look forward to on particularly difficult days, your office should already be running smoothly or the perks may seem like they’re covering up real problems. In fact, too many extracurricular workday activities are more of a distraction than a motivational tool, especially if the work and office are already disorganized or poorly managed. If your goal is to operate an efficient, productive, and pleasant business, layering on company-sanctioned interruptions is counterintuitive.
At the core, it’s simple: we want employees who are excited about the work they’ll accomplish. This value is what motivates every generation in today’s workforce. We’re not going to find a dedicated team if all we can offer is cupcakes. Managers should focus on the tools often hidden to the average employee—temperature-controlled rooms, fully stocked supply cabinets, company directories and seating charts, and printers that aren’t jammed or out of ink. No amount of free kombucha can hide the fact that your office is freezing in January and the light above your desk has been out for weeks.
In the past five years alone, we’ve seen tremendous upheaval in the business software available to us. Human resources and recruiting tools have streamlined hiring and review processes, enabling us to give a better first impression to would-be employees and monitoring their performance once hired. Accounting software is more robust, so gone are the days of using multiple spreadsheets with complicated formulas to monitor the organization’s financial health. Better communication technology is available to connect across multiple time zones and workplaces.
But a tool often taken for granted in building an enthusiastic workforce is facility management software. This industry sector hasn’t been updated in nearly two decades—and the time has come to do it. Roberts stated in his presentation: “The highest calling in a great facility management system is that you don’t even know it exists. You just walk to look for somebody and they’re there, or that when a guest comes to visit, you get a notification on time.”
In discussing how Slack designs and operates their many offices across the country, Roberts puts his focus on making sure nothing is broken or dirty, which he believes are the most significant distractions in any workplace. For him, this means employing technology that immediately alerts facilities managers to problems and gives employees the tools to find answers quickly. “We want to remove all those incremental problems and distractions” before they happen. He employed a phrase he learned during his time on active duty in the United States Army: “Never late to meet.” In layperson’s terms, it means that any person or company is anticipating the future needs of employees.
Consider all the moments in a day when a person needs to pause to add more paper to a printer or call a colleague to learn where they are seated that day, or find a conference room or quiet space for a phone call. These events are frustrating for an employee who wants to complete a task, not to mention the time it takes that person to regain focus on their main goal. What Roberts focuses on for Slack, and what other companies are beginning to embrace, is that the perks of an office should be a well-managed office. Everything else is secondary. Even cupcakes.