Google’s new London offices are the envy of businesses nationwide. Its new King’s Cross hub is valued at £1 billion and, once completed, will accommodate 7,000 employees in facilities that have been compared to those of a luxury hotel. The tech giant hopes these new state-of-the-art offices will help to attract and retain the best talent in the digital industry.
Commenting on the project, Joe Borrett, head of Google real estate and construction, says, ‘our offices and facilities play a key part in shaping the Google culture, which is one of the reasons we are known for being among the best places to work in the industry.’
But what if an exercise studio or 25m indoor pool is, quite frankly, out of reach for a business? Will all the best talent go elsewhere? When it comes to benefits, salaries and office facilities, many small businesses feel they can’t compete with big businesses like Google. However, SMEs can still deliver an exciting and active culture without the kind of financial investment Google has demonstrated; SMEs must play to their strengths.
Small and supple
Large corporations are often hindered by rigorous legal and compliance teams that can stifle creativity in the workplace whereas smaller firms tend to be less bureaucratic and more flexible. As such, SMEs can more readily adapt their workplace culture to the requests of their staff.
By implementing an innovative package of flexible employee benefits and personalised incentives and rewards, employers can create a working environment that is inclusive to all but still recognises each employee individually.
To truly understand the needs of individual employees, employers should maintain an open line of communication with their staff, welcoming their input in to the company’s benefits and rewards package.
This healthy exchange of ideas will not only help to improve team bonding and therefore the workplace culture, but will also allow employers to establish which benefits and rewards their employees value most. This will also avoid a costly and time-consuming process of implementing benefits that may not be representative of, or desired by, the workforce.
There are so many benefits available which will ultimately offer employees the facilities that Google now boasts: enhanced cycle-to-work schemes, childcare vouchers, free or subsidised access to local gyms, flexible working and local ‘break out’ spaces in cafes, parks or clubs. Each brings different benefits to its employees and employers.
All of these are easily and affordably implemented, even for the smallest of businesses, and can have huge benefits on productivity and morale. Whilst employers may not feasibly be able to implement all of these, they can and should align the benefits on offer to employees’ most important values.
Creating a caring working environment that identifies the commitments of individual employees and treats them as family will help to retain staff regardless of whether its facilities compare to those of Google’s.
Don’t forget the fun
In any company, it is important to regularly remind staff of the business’ strong, positive culture and the ways a business enhances an employee’s life. It’s an opportunity to showcase the benefits of working for a smaller business and regain any loyalty amongst employees with itchy feet.
Designing a scheme that is both highly personalised and truly valued is an effective way to show how well the company knows its employees. In a smaller company, it is easier to identify good work and reward appropriately. Once again however, such an approach will require strategic thinking.
Employers must carefully audit the different demographics and needs of its employees. For example, nearly three-quarters (72 per cent) of millennials prefer experiences rather than material goods. Event or cinema tickets and company-wide social events are the types of rewards that millennial workers enjoy, with the added benefit of promoting a healthy team unity.
Meanwhile, other employees may prefer a financial reward such as high-street gift cards or multi-choice vouchers to support them through home ownership or family planning. It is these smaller gestures that help to remind staff of the company’s big working culture regardless of its size.
Ultimately, employers must create a company culture that their employees are proud to work for and that ticks the boxes which are often, mistakenly, only addressed by the Googles of this world. Flexible benefits, personalised incentives and open and inclusive company cultures can help create this kind of exciting and active workplace environment.
Nicola Britovsek is director of human resources, Sodexo Benefits and Rewards Services