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There is no firm agreement on the when the change began, but there is little question that a major shift is taking place in the way people spend their money. Placing a higher priority on experiences and less on material possessions is becoming more and more noticeable statistically, a trend toward what is being referred to as “The Experience Economy”. Modern consumers, and millennials in particular, are increasingly looking to be engaged and inspired rather than simply buying “stuff”. They are finding greater satisfaction through memorable experiences than owning things.
And nowhere is this more true than in the modern workplace. Just as millennials are looking for something more when they spend their money, they are equally focused on finding a position that is something more than just a traditional job. There has been plenty of research into workplace culture that confirms a significant shift in the goals and requirements of today’s employees.
Not surprisingly, technology has been the major driving factor behind many of the changes. Increased connectivity, instantaneous data sharing and widespread mobility have noticeably affected our workplace parameters. No longer is it necessary to be chained to a desk or to have the entire team gather in person for information briefings. Shared data apps and company-wide communication systems allow everyone access to all the answers they need right at their fingertips. And with less reliance on in-person interaction, remote and mobile employees are becoming the norm.
Those are the key factors that play into the employee experience from a practical standpoint, but millennials are also looking for a more comfortable, energising and rewarding atmosphere. With most of the previously standard office structures quickly falling out of favour, Gen Y employees are coming to the realisation that they don’t necessarily need to settle when it comes to surroundings and ambience. Contemporary office plans that provide themes, increased comfort and more communal space have been rising in popularity for some time now. Many companies are ramping up the social experiences of their staff, both in and out of the office.
In the same way that life experiences are now more respected than simply owning nice, expensive ‘things’, workers are no longer simply judging jobs by the salary and impressive titles they are given. Finding a role that allows them to be enthusiastic about their workday is now the main goal. What this means for employers all depends on the specifics of the industry and business. Obviously, shelling out big bucks for an in-house spa or sending fifty employees on an all-expenses paid bonding cruise to the Bahamas isn’t financially feasible for most companies. But finding ways to enhance the overall workplace experience - big or small - is something that can be done regardless of the size or profitability of the business. Flexibility, a willingness to give employees a voice and prioritising the day to day experience of all employees are three key themes being implemented by successful modern companies.
Making the work environment more convenient, social, enjoyable and rewarding goes a long way toward achieving the crucial work/life balance that has become so important to the currently emerging generation of employees. And this doesn’t necessarily have to mean spending big on new lounges, office gyms or therapeutic support staff. Every business is unique and, as a result, has its own distinct needs when it comes to employee experience and staff retention. Investing in ‘People Specialists’ who can offer talent development & retention programmes to meet the specific experiential needs of each workplace is often a more cost-effective and sustainable long-term solution.
In the end, this economic trend doesn’t necessarily mean a shift away from spending, but more a shift in how we spend and what we spend on. Businesses that hope to thrive in this new environment will need to transition their practices accordingly, with regard to not just their customers, but their employees as well.
Companies facing a war for talent and increasing competition across all sectors are seeking to understand how the built environment can provide a competitive advantage. A positive workplace experience and culture is a strong hiring tool, and ensuring employees are happy at work has been proven to boost productivity.