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How to leverage workplaces to attract and retain top talent

Sony Ericsson Office in Atlanta (Design by HOK)
Sony Ericsson Office in Atlanta (Design by HOK)
October 14, 2013

Just about every conversation I have related to employee attraction and retention tends to turn into an HR sounding discussion about office protocols, incentives, and perks. And there are many great articles on this topic. This recent article by Josh Bersin is a great example of some economic factors and organizational approaches to retaining the best people. But as a workplace strategist, I need to help my clients make more tangible links between their physical workplace and how it can be leveraged to attract and retain top talent. Below I offer up a few thoughts.

First Impressions

Most people would guess that the first impression of your workplace begins in the reception/lobby area. In reality, the first physical impression someone has of your workplace starts out on the curb. To the extent that you have control over the situation, be sure to consider the visitor experience starting with the outside of the building.

If you own the building, you obviously have leverage to fine tune this experience through signage, landscaping, a clean, modern building lobby, etc. But if you are like the majority of companies, you are leasing your space and will have less control over the exterior experience. In those cases, it is important to at least consider the following physical elements (and in some cases look for potential negotiating power with your landlord):


  • Is there enough?
  • Is it easy to navigate (good signage, way finding)?
  • Is parking validated for visitors?
  • Can parking spaces be reserved for visitors and current employees?
  • Is it safe and well-maintained?

Building Lobby

  • Does the building lobby have adequate seating?
  • Is there somewhere visitors need to check in, get a visitor badge, etc.? Is this space obvious to visitors?
  • Is there any other special security clearance a visitor or employee needs to go through (turnstiles, badge elevator access, etc.)?
  • Are the interior finishes (materials, lighting, furniture) clean, modern, well maintained?

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About the Author: Mike McKeown is a senior workplace strategist with HOK Strategic Accounts + Consulting group. Based in Dallas, Mike specializes in workplace strategy including: facility programming, trends and benchmarking, space utilization, workplace anthropology and change management. Mike regularly consults with client's facilities and corporate real estate teams to provide solutions that align business goals and workplace strategy. Originally from Philadelphia, Mike attended Carnegie Mellon University where he studied Industrial Design. He is currently earning his MBA at Southern Methodist University's Cox School of Business. Prior to Dallas, Mike lived in Chicago for a number of years, working as an Interior Designer and Workplace Consultant. Read more posts by Mike McKeown.


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