What are the key ingredients of outstanding employee experience?

Great employee workplace experience is fast being acknowledged as the foundation to heightened employee engagement. An elite group of employers have recognised this and are using workplace as a tactical tool in competitive advantage.

This March, Leesman hosted an event to learn how the best are beating the rest. Jo Sutherland reports from Leesman’s London conference.

The best of the rest

What are the key ingredients of outstanding employee experience? Since 2010, Leesman has remained single-minded in its quest to understand why some workplaces deliver noticeable organisational benefit where others fail. Leesman’s business intelligence tool measures how the physical workplace impacts employees, both in terms of their overall experience and their ability to be productive. Having surveyed 300,000+ employees from over 2,000+ workplaces worldwide, the findings reveal that large numbers of organisations are not getting what they should from their corporate workplaces. Simply put, half of the UK’s offices are not fit for purpose, with many more delivering sub-optimal work environments.

But an elite group of employers buck this trend, delivering individual workplaces that brilliantly support the employee experience. To date, just 6 per cent of buildings surveyed have achieved the prestigious Leesman+ accreditation. This award, based on exemplary functionality and effectiveness scores, recognises and praises high performing workplaces. Out of the 813 workplaces surveyed in 2017, 21 organisations have made the cut and their achievements are being celebrated in a new report called The World’s Best Workplaces 2017.

What does an effective workplace look like?

Understanding how these exemplary workplaces differ to the vast majority is key in understanding how certain work environments contribute towards heightened engagement and productivity levels, not to mention overall morale. The Leesman+ buildings of 2017 are a mix of workplaces of varying concepts and solutions. But there are key features amongst them that offer intriguing clues to how they consistently outperform their peers. Of the 24 buildings, 22 are predominantly open plan concepts. Open plan offices are sometimes blamed for our nation’s ‘productivity problem’. It seems we can now put that misconception to bed.

But what other clues does the data point to when it comes to creating high-performance work environments?

Understand the activity-portfolio

Building employee-centric environments is very much about investing commensurate time and energy in understanding what employees actually do in their roles and which physical and virtual infrastructures matter most to them as a result. To this end, offering a variety of work settings seems to play a part. The provision of different spaces or zones enables and empowers people to choose an environment that works for them based on whatever task it is that they are about to undertake.

Support a balance of concentration and collaboration

Despite the indisputable social and creative contribution of collaboration, Leesman’s data shows that the vast majority of employees also need to work individually, needing time to internalise and put to ‘paper’ their post-collaborative ideas and concepts. The Leesman+ workplaces successfully support collaboration and interactions, but not at the expense of individual focused work.

Don’t forget about private conversations

Based on our Leesman global averages, ‘private conversations’ are consistently among the most difficult work activities to support. In the Leesman global database, only 48 per cent of employees say they are supported in their workplace, ranking these activities in the bottom three of 21 activities. In one of the Leesman+ workplaces, this figure jumps to 90 per cent – and the workplace in question is an open-plan environment. Of nearly 500 employees in this space, only a handful struggle to find a place for a quiet conversation.

Encourage a sense of community

Psychologically we have an instinctive need to belong to a group and feel included, accepted and respected. In the workplace, we are also likely to perform better when we feel a sense of belonging, and when we work together towards shared goals. But a community doesn’t appear automatically, it needs places to happen. So, while the workplace is not the sole contributing factor in creating a sense of community at work, Leesman data increasingly points to it being a strong influencer and enabler. Creating a workplace that contributes to a sense of community can be challenging, but this is something the Leesman+ buildings excel at.

Instil pride

Across the Leesman database, only 52 per cent of employees agree that they’re proud of the place they work – this can negatively impact both talent retention and absenteeism, both of which cost businesses dear. In the Leesman+ spaces, this jumps to 81 per cent. What’s more, these high-performing workplaces superbly support the hospitality experience for visitors, clients and customers, with reception services always scoring highly.

Data driven decisions

The Leesman+ workplaces are using data to find out what it is that their employees need from their workplace; and what it is that will keep them engaged and help them unleash their potential. This elite group see their workplaces as opportunities to make the most of an employees’ daily activities and interactions, giving positive experiences across multiple touchpoints. Most importantly perhaps, these employers recognise that higher employee engagement is achieved through delivering an outstanding employee experience, and the physical workplace plays a big part in that.

Further insight on how the best are beating the rest is available at

Jo Sutherland is account director of Magenta Associates, the communications specialists for the built environment.