Building Relationships and Sharing Wisdom with Fellow Great Workplaces
As an eleven-time Best Small Workplace, we have been deeply engrained in the Best Companies world since the 50 Best Small and Medium Workplaces list began in 2004. We have attended every Great Place to Work® Annual Conference as well as every Small & Medium Workplace Conference for the past eleven years, plus a handful of Executive Strategy Network meetings
One might ask, do the conferences still add value after so many years? Can you continue to learn anything new when you already have a strong culture? Our response to that question can perhaps be best answered by telling a story of the impact they have made on Kahler Slater.
Developing a Network of Best Companies
Let’s go back to 2008. Architecture and design firms across the country just like us were hit hard by the recession. As clients put projects on hold and others completely vanished, change was inevitable. Some of the most difficult decisions needed to be made in order to reduce costs and prepare for the uncertain future. How could we maintain our culture throughout the turmoil?
As one of the only architecture firms on the Best Company lists, we looked to the network we had developed over the years at Great Place to Work conferences. These best-in-class companies from outside our industry provided us the inspiration to weather the storm. Despite the size or type of company on these lists, we had learned that the one thing we all have in common is placing the value of TRUST at the core of our business. We had heard countless stories at past conferences of other Best Companies facing challenges and change in their companies and had learned from their communication and change strategies. We got through that difficult time by being transparent about the changes that we needed to make that would impact our staff.
Learning and Sharing Practices for Creating a Strong Culture
It is now 2015 and we all have new challenges ahead of us. How do we compete in today’s knowledge economy where the pressure to innovate and stay ahead of the competition is so critical to success?
We know that Best Companies are preparing for the future by leveraging their biggest asset – their people. Best Companies believe that one of the keys to employee engagement, which leads to innovation and business success, is a great culture. At Kahler Slater, we believe that you can’t have a great culture and engaged employees without well-designed workspaces that support the organization’s unique culture and diverse employee needs.
Through networking at past conferences, we have developed great relationships with Best Companies across the country. These like-minded companies are represented by some of the smartest and most generous and kind people that attend the conference each year. Of course it’s a given that they care about their people – they are Best Companies after all. But they also care about sharing their wisdom and best practices with others at the conference. They want to see other companies succeed and grow great cultures.
We have been fortunate to hear their stories, learn from their best practices and visit their offices, as we have benchmarked more than 30 companies over the years. Many of the companies we have visited are great examples of how workspace can be leveraged to unlock the capabilities of their people. These insights have not only proven invaluable to bring back to our own company, but also have provided us with the research to develop smart design strategies for our visionary clients.
So after eleven years of conferences, what keeps us coming back and makes us most excited about the Great Place to Work Conference in Dallas this year? We’re thrilled that this year, we have the opportunity to share these stories, as well as our own, at our breakout session presentation, Design Matters -- The Role of the Physical Workplace in Being a Best Company.
We believe that the physical workspace is a unique catalyst that can lead culture change, transform the way we work and help us compete in the knowledge economy. We look forward to leading this important dialogue and hope that it will become a source of inspiration for others to leverage their workplaces to unlock the hidden value lying dormant between the office walls.
Whether you are a conference newbie or a veteran like us, we are confident you will find value in the 2015 Great Place to Work Conference and we look forward to learning how your workplace supports your company’s unique culture.
Barbara Jahncke is a co-team leader for Kahler Slater's Business Environments Team with a focus on workplace environment strategies, research and marketing. Barbara facilitates Experience Design visioning workshops with corporate clients to build consensus, create a project vision for the future, and develop design direction. As a key member of the Kahler Slater workplace environments research team, she has visited and benchmarked many Best Companies across the country. She is also involved in leading firm business strategy and is a member of the firm’s Leadership Group, Community Committee and Culture Council. You can connect with her on Twitter and LinkedIn.