Putting user-experience at the heart of the smart workplace.

June 5, 2018    Andrew Peers     ,

Running a business demands an understanding of user-experience. In most organisations, the term user-experience will conjure the notion of the customer and how they interact with your brand or service. However, it’s the employee user experience that businesses should pay more attention to if they want their workforce and organisation to thrive.

With the arrival of smart buildings and new technologies that change the way we live and work, our expectation for simplicity and immediacy has grown. In the workplace, we expect continual connectivity, to have the right tools and facilities to hand and for technology to look good and be intuitive to use. We expect our employers to help us thrive in that endeavour too, to be supportive of the way we work and invested in our wellbeing. It is these factors that shape the user or employee experience. Make it positive and an organisation stands to reap the benefits with heightened productivity, extra discretionary effort and a happy motivated team. Make it negative, and the knock-on effects of inefficiency, frustration, eventual apathy and staff attrition will have costly consequences.

Employee experience is directly linked to employee engagement. Engaged employees are the most productive, happy, healthy and committed because their experience has been considered at every stage – from the benefits and salary they are offered to the design of the workplace, the technology used, the career progression on offer and the day-to-day work processes they follow.

Some organisations have already embraced growing employee needs and created roles such as ‘Head of Employee Experience’. A sort of HR-IT-Brand manager hybrid whose job it is to give employees a more social, mobile, brand and consumer-style experience, these new ‘heads’ show the tide is turning and that employee experience is now a chief consideration.

The Senior vice president of Human Resources at General Electric, Susan Peters described this increasingly employee-focused mindset in an article for Forbes: “We define employee experience simply as seeing the world through the eyes of our employees, staying connected, and being aware of their major milestones. In the last year, we have appointed a Head of Employee Experience and we are developing a strategy to create an employee experience which takes into account the physical environment our employees work in, the tools and technologies that enable their productivity, and learning to achieve their best at work.”

As more knowledge-based businesses are born into a highly competitive and talent-poor market, the importance of nurturing and protecting human capital will grow exponentially. Creating positive user-experience is essential to heightening productivity and smart buildings certainly work to that end. The flexible, personalised and responsive nature of smart building technology makes it possible to put the user first and set about making their day-to-day experiences efficient, productive, effortless and creative in every way.

With an increase in business agility and the density of our cities’ populations, we will need greater adaptability, connectivity and efficiency in our buildings too. By capturing data about how we occupy spaces and our behaviours while we’re in them, it is possible to make real-time decisions to optimise the performance of buildings, workspaces and people.

There is no denying that smart buildings offer commercial benefits in abundance. They are easier to run and flex and adapt as occupier needs change. They create happier more productive environments, leverage intelligence to inform workplace strategies, better manage all assets including people to improve decision making and efficiencies, support wellbeing and corporate reputation and provide new levels of personalisation for an improved user experience.

The technology is everywhere already, seamlessly connecting us with many of the environments we occupy. Forward-looking business leaders can capitalise on this by recognising the opportunities that connected real estate offers and should look at the holistic impact of their buildings in the search for greater efficiency and employee engagement. However, we must not forget the human component of the smart building discussion. As the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors says: “Smart buildings will be the workspace of the (not-too distant future) through a combination of the Internet of Things, ubiquitous connectivity and an explosion of data. It is not only buildings that will be more efficient and production, but also people.”

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