The author is General Manager at Collision 8, a coworking space located in downtown Singapore that has the honor of hosting the Slush Singapore team and many other startups, small businesses, investors, corporates, and innovators from diverse industries and backgrounds.
Singapore has an employee engagement problem. According to The 2015 SHRM/ Globoforce Employee Recognition Report, the top organizational challenge cited by HR professionals in 2015 was employee turnover at 40% annually. A third of all CEOs surveyed by The Conference Board say the most pressing issue they have is attracting, developing and retaining the right talent, and 75% of employees in a recent Gallup Organization survey report that they are unengaged at work. With a market where unemployment is low (and, conversely, job mobility is high), retaining and keeping top talent for your business can be a challenge.
For those looking to recruit and retain your top talent, it’s important to think beyond just the usual factors of salary, benefits, and leadership retreat locations. Of all the levers that startup founders or HR managers can pull, one not often talked about is… your office.
Give your team access to a great office
Coworking has become increasingly popular in the last few years due, in part, to huge advances in technology enabling the workforce to be more mobile. Additionally, starting a new business or enterprise is now far easier and cheaper than ever before – and those burgeoning startups need a place to work that is affordable and flexible.
Bigger companies concerned about the economy are looking to place teams in cheaper office options in the short term. SMEs and startups need room to grow their teams rapidly, an option which is far more difficult in a private office or a long-term lease. Also, millennials are pushing for open, collaborative, and flexible working options. An expansion of programs and resources offered in and by coworking spaces has helped these spaces become lifestyle hubs, where people can buy lunch, go to the gym, pick up a coffee, and go back to the office, all in the same place. And finally, coworking spaces offer the perfect in-between of privacy when you need it, and collaboration when you want it.
With coworking spaces providing an inexpensive alternative to traditional office choices, it makes sense that we have seen a steep increase in coworking space options in Singapore over the last 5 years – there are now over 50 coworking spaces in Singapore with an estimated real estate footprint of about 250,000 square feet. Globally, coworking spaces are hosting bigger and more prestigious companies as well – for example, Microsoft moved almost 30% of its New York employees into a co-working space in 2016.
So why does this trend matter for people looking to build the right team? According to Forbes contributor Hester Lacey it is because employees are demanding access to workplaces and spaces that motivate them to come to work. “There’s no question that a well-thought-out office offers clear returns. Some people look at staff as a cost, some look at staff as an investment, but either way, at some point you’re going to have to spend something… It’s an investment in higher performance, in engagement, in recruiting and in training top staff.”
Give your team access to a great community
For any business – freelancing, bootstrapping, or 50 years in – coworking leads to collisions of people and ideas. There’s an African Proverb that says “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” And that proverbial wisdom is actually backed by data – a study at MIT found that the quantity and quality of face-to-face interactions a team has can determine 35% of that team’s performance. Steve Jobs may have said it best when he said “There’s a temptation in our networked age to think that ideas can be developed by email and iChat. That’s crazy. Creativity comes from spontaneous meetings, from random discussions.”
It’s obvious that daily interactions with people outside your company lead to expanding business and social networks, business development opportunities, an increase in referrals, and a strengthening of team identity.
Additionally, companies that can give potential hires bragging rights for working in a place or for a brand that everyone wants to work don’t push to get talent, the talent comes to them. There is a reason that places like Google have offices worth talking about; the office represents more than a physical space, it represents an ethos.
Create a workplace of purpose and be deliberate about your company culture
The vision behind coworking is for people to learn from each other and scale together – there is an inherent culture of generosity and a certain momentum in giving back. In an age of attracting and retaining millennials, who are often looking for value beyond just the financials, it’s really important to invite people to work in a place where they feel they are a part of something meaningful. In fact, an Intelligence Group study of millennials found that 64% of them say it’s a priority to make the world a better place.
Beyond the philanthropic aspect, employees like having access to learning and mentorship opportunities, and feeling that they are growing in their roles. Coworking spaces often provide workshops, open office hours, free consultation clinics or access to a mentorship program, and can connect you to the right people to fill that gap in your business.
Why these numbers matter