Self-Configurable Organizations That Can Be Altered Better Prepared For Future: Steelcase MD

"It's no secret that technology is changing the way we work, but it's also changing the furniture we sit in every day": Praveen Rawal, Steelcase MD


In an interaction with BW people, Praveen Rawal, MD, Steelcase Asia Pacific talks about preparing organizations for the future, the role of human resources and engagement.

How must the organizations innovate in different ways to prepare for the future? 

Creativity will play a catalyst in shaping the future that will be driven by agility and innovation across the board. One way in which organisations can best prepare for the future is through a thoughtful workplace design focused on making a self-configurable office that can be altered, with the need of the hour. In the Indian context, workplaces ecosystem is going to see a lot of exciting changes and some ways in which organisations can innovate to prepare for the future are:  

  1. Agile designs and celebrating communities: While for some agile means giving individuals control over where and how they work, for others it may simply mean, wanting the teams to be more responsive to change, be more nimble and go faster. 
  2. The Digital Effect: Combining aesthetics with algorithms, multiple traditional offices & co-working spaces are infusing technology and digital tools to facilitate a conducive environment, ease in day-to-day functioning for businesses and employees as well. 
  3. Biophilia: Synergizing elements like embedded greens, infusing revitalizing exterior elements, complying with sustainable standards and ensuring the use of material and colors that offer the calm and comfort, are majorly attracting the millennial workforce. 

How do digital workplace technologies change employee engagement?

It's no secret that technology is changing the way we work, but it's also changing the furniture we sit in every day. One of the biggest ways that modern technology influences us every day is in our sitting posture and seating arrangements. You probably sit differently when you're typing on your computer than when you're reading text messages. Steelcase understands this phenomenon, which is why they embarked on designing effective seating solutions such as the Gesture chair. Its unique armrests and reclining function accommodates 14 unique sitting positions so that you're always supported where you need it. This is a result of an era where we have reached peak screen time that is limiting our impact with the physical environment, however, that’s changing now.

How does agility in human resources take the organization forward?

In today’s era of the dynamic business environment and digital-first approach, agility is playing a catalyst in aiding an organisation to empower its people to work where, when and how they choose to, bringing out the best of their workforce. Building an agile ecosystem with the help of agile teams/coaches can help advance the creation of a more intuitive ecosystem and enable the following learnings:

  • Make the Implicit, Explicit – Team members add value by making their work content visible and accessible to the rest of the team. Sharing verbally and visually helps build knowledge.
  • Tinker, Test, and Trust – Tinkering, testing and hacking in the presence of others builds trust, accelerating learning and performance. An Agile team redefines failure as a success because of the learnings that occur.
  • Learn Together – Mutual learning extends over time based on being present together and iterating on customer feedback. By learning together, they develop a sense of belonging and commitment.
  • Measure, Improve, Focus – Agile teams sit side-by-side with customers to get feedback that drives performance. They embrace measurements at the team and individual level allowing for growth and future improvements.
  • Embrace Ambient Awareness – In an ambient environment, Agile teams are free to let go of certain mental tasks until the time is right to come back to them. 

Therefore, infusing a better framework for the workforce, agile workspaces ultimately combat the day-to-day challenges of employees by improving the quality of solutions and speed of delivery.

What can help bridge the gap between the company and the employees? What are the engagement solutions? 

Successful talent strategies depend on an organization’s ability to engage, inspire, and retain employees of different genders, ages, races, and backgrounds. According to a study, leveraging an increasingly diverse labour pool is the third most important workforce trend impacting business, following the rising competition for talent from emerging economies and talent scarcity.

  • Cultivating optimism in the workplace

Optimistic employees influence a wide range of behaviours such as seeing the big picture, exploring ideas, being open to others, taking more risks, facing difficult tasks and being open to change.

  • Cultivating mindfulness in the workplace

Mindfulness means balancing the intense pace of life with being fully present in the moment. Workers need physical spaces that help them manage the cognitive overload of their daily lives and be fully present in the moment.

  • Cultivating authenticity in the workplace 

Workers need spaces where they can feel a part of the organization’s culture while feeling encouraged to express their own ideas and values. Leaders set standards and a tone of authenticity, while customizable work environments and social settings can reinforce the message.

  • Cultivating belonging in the workplace

Numerous studies and experiments have led to the belief that humans are genetically wired to need one another, having close friends and positive interactions at work significantly increase engagement with the organization. Hence, mobility, alternative work strategies and telepresence across geographies must be intentionally crafted.

How important is feedback and transparency in terms of engagement?

Constructive feedback is vital to employees’ ongoing development.  Feedback clarifies expectations, helps people learn from their mistakes and builds confidence. By sharing and asking for feedback, it can motivate employees to feel valued and perform better. This exercise helps in building a more trustworthy and motivational working relationship across stakeholders. Continuation of this exercise is important across the entire organization in order to remain aligned to goals, create strategies, develop products and services improvements, improve relationships, and much more.

How do organizations start using workforce data to create a culture of engagement?

Data and workplace insights help companies create human-centered workplaces that are not only responsive to today’s work processes but informed by the needs and experience of people at work today. Workplace advisor provides the company with data and insights on how to think about space holistically and helps create smart, connected workplaces. At Steelcase, proprietary algorithms apply our deep knowledge of work, workers and the workplace to extract meaning from the data and display it in a real-time, intuitive user interface. The right workplace with the right practices suitable to the workforce’s workstyle can shift mindsets, fuel employee engagement and foster creativity. 

Big data, new technology and insights gained over time about work and the workplace can make a huge difference. It is already adding significant value to the conversation between designers and customers. Does everyone need their own workstation or private office? Or would more private enclaves and collaboration spaces better serve the team? Sensors in the workplace can help organizations learn how often people are at their desks and what kinds of spaces will best support their people. These are just a few that are aiding in building workplaces of the future.

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