An interview with Kimberley Bates, MetaPeople Pty Ltd
All businesses talk about culture but few effectively weave their culture into the fabric of the company. Namely, the actual physical aspects of their workplace. For example, it’s so easy to mention ‘flexible work options’ in a position description – but is your workplace truly flexible? Do you offer the technology and facilities to support such flexibility? Is your company culture hindering employee engagement and wellbeing at work?
In discussing the subject of workplace design supporting company culture, we highlighted the competitiveness of today’s workforce, and how attracting, retaining, and developing talent requires a clear focus on your company values and the reinforcement of those values in your office design.
Kimberley Bates, a senior HR consultant for MetaPeople Pty Ltd, experiences the impact of design on company culture every day. She partners with businesses to manage their people agendas in the areas of strategic and operational HR, designing and developing HR best practices, and creating a common culture that optimises human capital and business objectives.
Given her expertise, we asked Kimberley why every business should be designing their workplace to reflect culture, and where trends for company culture in design are heading in the immediate future.
Why is it so important to have workplace design reflect company culture? Would you say this is growing in importance?
Kimberley Bates: One of the main questions I get asked by a candidate in an interview is: what is the company culture like? Imagine being able to give a candidate their first ‘feeling’ of what to expect from a company, in terms of its culture, by just turning up for the interview and seeing the workspace. It’s a very powerful impression, and one that can make a workplace more desirable over others.
Additionally, by designing a workspace that reflects a company’s values, mission and desired culture, you are helping to reinforce the company culture in a non-obtrusive way.
These are all compelling reasons why it is becoming more and more important for workspaces to be designed with company culture in mind, and this will only grow in importance.
What trends are you seeing in workspace layout?
Kimberley Bates: Although I feel there will always be a place for the private office, workspaces that have a combination of different spaces – private offices, open-plan, breakout areas, quiet areas, phone booths, wellness and tech hubs, etc. – will become more of the norm than having a workspace that is either mainly private offices or mainly open-plan.
The reason for this is every company is made of different personalities, and having a combination of different spaces allows a company to cater for all. It can also depend on the function of the company as well. For example, a company might be offering a service that requires more concentration from employees and, therefore, a greater spread of quiet and private areas is necessary. That’s all just further reflection of the culture of that company, and the way it works.
How can the actual sourcing of products communicate company values?
Kimberley Bates: For a company culture to be felt and maintained, it needs to be championed. Companies need to live, breathe and continually reinforce their values, and this includes taking into consideration supply chain, as well as what things – and how things – are sourced.
If your company is in the information technology industry, then having the latest technology trends makes sense and, as such, whether goods are sourced locally or imported may not be of great significance. However, if your company believes in supporting the local community – local businesses and home-grown elements – then it is important to source products and materials locally as much as possible.
When it comes to the actual materials within an office design, if a company considers being environmentally sustainable close to their heart, then looking at things like waste, energy and recycled goods will be of importance.
How does colour function in the workspace design?
Kimberley Bates: Although it is important to showcase brand colours to reinforce the identity of a company, it is possible to go overboard. Colours are a fantastic way to catch someone’s eye, just as long as you don’t make them too obtrusive or uncomfortable. Utilising brand colours that are appealing to the eye and memorable is the key.
Other ways companies may visually display their brand is through technology – such as computer monitors and displays – which also doubles as a functional business tool. A company could also be creative with internal lighting and how it can be reflected on a visual brand or colours.
Are there any tips you would give a business about reflecting their company value in their workplace design?
Kimberley Bates: Ensure your design actually captures what your culture is or, if you’re going through a change process, what you want your company to be.
Don’t get caught up with something that, although visually appealing, does not reflect your culture.
In some instances, it may also be worthwhile to engage employees in the design phase and get their perspective of how the business could reflect its culture in a design.