The “mom and pop” attitude is, perhaps, one of the things that has made the small business what it is. Customers love a personal touch. But when it comes to hiring employees, you need to take other things into consideration, such as utility. Unless you’re the best in the world at what you do, high-caliber employees will not be attracted to working with you unless they smell something good, and I’m not talking about filling your office with air fresheners.
Most successful small businesses have little to no trouble getting their hands on the best employees they can hire. Their secret: the office environment.
Jon Eggleton, the CMO of Turnstone, a maker of furniture for small businesses and startups, kindly agreed to speak with us. Kevin Kuske, Turnstone’s chief anthropologist, considers that a certain office culture could breed a strong foundation for businesses to attract talented employees. We were curious. How does having a corporate/office culture help a small business recruit talent?
Eggleton answers: “A small company’s culture can be a great recruiting tool as it speaks to their values and gives a sense of the personalities that work there. It’s also a way for small businesses with a vibrant or distinctive culture to differentiate themselves in a highly competitive marketplace for talent. The best talent can work anywhere, so why would they choose someplace that isn’t a rewarding place to be?”
Indeed, you must make your business look like it’s got the environment (the spunk, in other words) to compete. The “attraction factor” is an important part of attracting talent, about as important, perhaps, as giving them a decent paycheck. Eggleton continues: “Small businesses should seek to create and promote an authentic culture that best represents the company and their employees. The best small businesses realize you have to consciously build a culture; if you don’t, one will be created for you, and in our experience it very likely won’t be as positive.”
But what is the ideal office “look?” Should everyone wear a suit, have leather couches, and polished tile floors?
“A corporate look does not necessarily mean a buttoned-up, white-walled workspace. Rather, it means a place where people have the tools needed to do their jobs and a space that supports them. A workplace should include a palette of places for different types of work as well as hospitable areas like a kitchen and lounge area. Believe it or not, employees who have the option to move between spaces throughout the day are often more productive and creative than those who are stationary for long hours,” he said.
Well, that makes sense! So, elbowroom is essential for productivity. Perhaps it isn’t a good idea to offer a few square feet of working space for your employees. But what about the “professional look?” How does that fit into the picture without sacrificing the small business’ own persona?
Listen closely to what Eggleton says here: “Creating a professional space does not mean a small business should sacrifice personality. Add color to the walls (the color blue is great for creative tasks, while red helps to boost focus and accuracy) and encourage employees to personalize the spaces they work in. You certainly don’t need a slide or ball pit to show personality, but you also don’t want to create an environment that feels sterile and unwelcoming – it won’t resonate well with employees or clients.”
When he spoke about “sterile and unwelcoming” spaces, I remember hospitals. I guess this is a good analogy: Don’t make your business look like a hospital room. But, of course, each business needs to design their spaces according to function, and that includes making use of every inch of space they have to ensure that services are delivered well and employees are content. How does a small enterprise make sure that they keep the appeal of a small company and make the most efficient use of space during the design phase?
“There are many ways serious companies – those that are professional and passionate about the work that they do – promote their culture through their workplace. Serious companies understand what their employees need to get their jobs done well and efficiently and find ways to provide them with those necessities. For example, if daily employee duties include consulting clients, brainstorming with coworkers and working on individual tasks, these companies understand the need to provide private meeting areas, collaborative spaces as well as quiet areas for focused work,” he said. “When designing a workspace, SMEs should make sure they understand the types of tasks their employees do on a daily basis. They should also do their best to promote their culture through their space. Successful companies are confident in their values and aren’t shy about showcasing who they are through their space. A great example is Fracture, a startup based in Gainesville, Florida that provides customers with a unique and affordable way to print and frame personal digital photos.”
The lesson here is: The office environment you provide is essentially a message that you bring to potential employees. If you’re recruiting, make sure that you give candidates the best working space possible, especially using the advice from Jon Eggleton where it applies!