How to Retain Talent and Attract those with Potential

DRAFT Inc.’s Taiju Yamashita tells us why great workspace design is vital to keeping and attracting the right talent

Taiju Yamashita, Interior Designer at DRAFT, holding the studio’s award received at this year’s Liveable Office Award

It’s a jobseeker’s market, and what people are looking for is a job that’s meaningful and that makes them happy. So say leading global engagement solutions company Bi Worldwide in their research whitepaper on 2016 trends in employee engagement. These are facts that DRAFT Inc., a Tokyo-based interior design firm specialising in office and retail spaces, understands intrinsically: they know that businesses will not grow dynamically without employees who are happy and motivated, and therefore productive.

It is this outlook that saw DRAFT win the Small Medium Business Award at this year’s Liveable Office Award, for the studio’s design for the Tokyo offices of social recruiting platform Wantedly, Inc. Here, spaces were designed to enhance communication and to promote collaboration – factors that Taiju Yamashita, interior designer at DRAFT Inc., considers vital in driving employee motivation and productivity.

The DRAFT team with judges from the 2016 Liveable Office Award

Yamashita explained why communication and collaboration are so important, and how design can cater to this, at REACH Tokyo on 4 August 2016. REACH is a Herman Miller design festival that connects the design industry in each of the cities it visits through open discussion, knowledge sharing, speaker events and playful interaction between people and products. REACH wrapped up last week with a final stop in Melbourne on 15 September 2016, after visiting Bangalore, Beijing and Manila, along with Tokyo.

Here, Yamashita gives us an insight into what it takes to create workspaces that make people happy.

How can good design help employees and potential talent be more engaged and productive at work?

I think the biggest advantage of creating an office with high design is that it increases the sense of belonging. It's a simple concept, but if the environment an employee works in is a place they can boast about to their friends or family, it acts as a highly effective method of increasing employee engagement in a company. A high sense of belonging at a company makes it possible to maintain a high level of motivation towards work, and in effect, it inevitably increases employee productivity.

Yamashita emphasises the importance of zoning according to the content and purpose of your activity

What are some of the key elements you bring into your projects in order to promote engagement?

Looking at Wantedly Inc., which received the Small Medium Business award at the Livable Office Award 2016, creating a unique design was an important element. These days, the requirement for a good design is something that goes without saying, so it's important to add originality and in this way, appeal to an employee’s sense of belonging.

You can use design to reinforce the idea amongst employees that ‘This is our office’, by using a distinctive logo or a high impact staircase-type presentation space.

High impact staircase-type presentation space

Additionally, a layout that allows various types of communication is important. Until recent times, zoning, with separate office areas, conference rooms and communication areas, was a common practice. Now, however, communication areas are being finely dispersed, and it’s becoming mainstream to divide spaces according to the content and purpose of the meeting. More specifically, various ways of promoting communication are being proposed that cannot be found in conventional conference rooms, such as box seats used in diners or round tables, which allow more than 10 participants to exchange ideas without worrying about seating arrangements.

Are there some elements that work across the board, no matter what kind of company you’re dealing with or what their needs are? Or does it really depend on the company?

Most companies are focusing on diversifying work methods. Working methods or meeting styles tend to greatly differ across departments and job contents even within one company. Accordingly, instead of being uniform, office designs should be constructed in a way that deals with diverse work styles in a flexible way.

Actually, the new forms communication methods are taking is an easy-to-understand case study. Because every company requires some form of communication; it’s not something that any company can afford to overlook. It is, however, something that is greatly affected by the era you’re living and working in. The advent of the smart phone has largely transformed the way we communicate, and, similarly, it’s important to respond in a flexible way to changes in work methods brought about by time and technological progress.

Which features are you finding to be most effective for your clients? Are there certain features that you think are more effective in attracting potential talent than others?

When it comes to talent, they are not only looking for computers that are the latest, high-spec models, but they are also hoping to work in environments that allow them to apply their abilities to the fullest. It’s quite evident in industries that require highly skilled employees – like the gaming industry, where the competition for human resources is fierce.

Every company is trying to pack every kind of gimmick and prototype into the box we call 'the office', in order to enhance recruiting. I think cafes or kitchen spaces are very effective in this respect. Actually, there are an increasing number of companies providing full kitchen spaces, in order to focus on the health and wellness of employees. It’s important for companies to be conscious of the health of their employees, and to positively embody this as a company, because it gives staff a sense of encouragement. The invisible merit that comes from this is quite significant.

At Wantedly, the staircase, open area and lounge space are designed to promote communication and collaboration

What are your predictions for the future of workspace design – and for the future of work as a whole?

No matter how much technology progresses, the energy created when people gather together is immeasurable, so this space we call 'the office' will surely continue to exist. With simple labour being taken over by machines, however, and with automation spreading, I think humans will be working to create something out of nothing in the future.

In that sense, the future of the office is a place where even more creativity can come to life. There, facilities that let people use the latest technologies, or functions that enable research and development that cannot be done at home, will probably become necessary.

For Yamashita, great workspaces are those that inspire creativity and that allow employees to “apply their abilities to their fullest”, and this is what Herman Miller’s Living Office is all about. Living Office brings surroundings, tools and furnishings together in different ways depending on the task, the brand and the people. It starts with a look at how each company works and how its people work within it, viewed within the framework of human motivation to fulfill six basic needs – security, autonomy, belonging, achievement, status and purpose – and it ends with a place that inspires people to want to come to work.