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Engagement Provides Competitive Edge
SSDG Interiors is a design and interior architecture firm in Vancouver that has worked in the corporate sector for the past three decades. Understanding the workplace culture shifts and trends that deeply impact their business has been a critical part of their 30 years of success.
Employee engagement has always been a vital part of SSDG’s process and suite of services. An assurance that the designs they create are informed by the employees who will be impacted by them on a daily basis. However, SSDG is now finding that companies are investing their own resources into engagement as well.
Instead of working directly with CFO’s whose priorities were traditionally numbers and deadlines, their team is more and more frequently working with human resources professionals who want the design process to be informed by their employees’ needs and priorities. SSDG believes this represents a growing, global shift that recognizes the positive impact engagement has on employee retention.
Partnering with Thoughtexchange has allowed SSDG to offer clients an engagement opportunity that can go much deeper than a survey without the weeks of setup that a survey would usually require. “Because there is a growing emphasis on engagement in many ways, when we talk to clients about the potential of working with them, and we start talking about the ability to engage their employees using Thoughtexchange, it helps our opportunity of winning the project,” explains Susan Steeves, Principal at SSDG.
“Thoughtexchange allows us to get a lot of feedback, from a large group of people, and really understand what their thoughts are – as opposed to what boxes they ticked in a very directed survey,” says Steeves.
“With Thoughtexchange we can dig deep into the organization early on and understand what people are thinking. That helps us understand what’s important to the people who are using the space every day and ultimately helps us design a space that is going to be better suited to the way they work,” she adds.
Cumulatively, this data is defining the latest industry benchmarks for SSDG and is beginning to reveal what the next trends and shifts impacting their business might look like.
“Because there is a growing emphasis on engagement in many ways, when we talk to clients about the potential of working with them, and we start talking about the ability to engage their employees using Thoughtexchange, it helps our opportunity of winning the project.”SUSAN STEEVES, PRINCIPAL
Removing the fear of engagement
Though engagement is growing in importance, many organizations still have reservations about having a transparent, two-way dialogue with their employees about issues relating to change management.
“One of the reasons why organizations are apprehensive about issuing surveys is because they were concerned that they will get asked to do something that they can’t do,” Steeves explains.
Because Thoughtexchange surfaces priorities based on merit, it removes the concern that smaller vocal parties will dominate the conversation and mislead the process with priorities that aren’t popular or feasible.
It does this by giving everyone equal voice, and by allowing participants to learn about the trade-offs from each other.
Thoughtexchange differs from traditional surveys in that it asks employees to answer just two to three open-ended questions, in their own words. After employees have shared their thoughts, they are able to read the thoughts of others and assign value to the ones that resonate most. What emerges is a list of the thoughts that are important to the entire group as a whole, as well as a list of thoughts that were only important to certain smaller, special interest groups.
“What Thoughtexchange has proven to be true is that the one-off requests, or the ‘squeaky wheels’, don’t rise to the top because they don’t represent the common sentiment,” says Steeves.
“The more Thoughtexchanges we do, the more we are able to convince clients that they have nothing to fear because we actually can do most of what they and their employees want to do. And, if we can’t do them directly we can address them with their budget in mind. For example if sit-stand workstations come up and our client can’t afford to do them everywhere, perhaps they can afford to put a smaller number of standing areas in and have those areas bookable,” Steeves explains.
Recommendations for success
SSDG are using their Thoughtexchange results to determine what aspects of an office transition are crucial to its success. In fact, one of the questions that SSDG asks is “Do you have any other thoughts about what could make this transition successful?” Steeves and her team discovered that “Communication” was the topic that received the most stars, and was also talked about significantly in thoughts relating to work style. They were also able to point to employee’s verbatim thoughts to demonstrate this need for their clients. “It validates what we’ve always told people, and that is you have to share as much information as you can as early as you can, otherwise people will start guessing and misinformation will spread,” says Steeves.
Double duty, engagement opportunity and market research database
In addition to complementing their clients’ growing focus on employee engagement, Thoughtexchange also allowed SSDG to better understand, and ultimately forecast, their own business needs.
Steeves and her team accomplished this by working with Thoughtexchange to create three standardized questions that they could use with all of their clients. This not only streamlined their engagement process, but allowed SSDG to collect data that could be compared across a number of important differentiators like age-range and the length of time spent with an organization.
In fact, SSDG hopes to use their Thoughtexchange results to define the Millennial influence on workplace culture. “We’re already starting to see technology surpass other more traditional priorities like the corner office, for example,” says Steeves of the shifts that have already become apparent.
As Millennials become a larger segment of the workforce, Steeves believes the success of businesses will be tied to how well they can understand and anticipate the needs of this growing demographic.
“What Thoughtexchange has proven to be true is that the one-off requests, or the ‘squeaky wheels’, don’t rise to the top because they don’t represent the common sentiment.”SUSAN STEEVES, PRINCIPAL