As an organisation we currently have three large interlinking pieces of work – Customer Journey Mapping, Digital Transformation and Future Workplace.
Like many in the sector we are trying to make sure our businesses are not only up to date but looking at and preparing for what is coming next. We need a user-friendly service in whatever method is preferred; not only for tenants but for staff, stakeholders and the wider community too.
For the Future Workplace project we wanted volunteers who really wanted to find new ideas or innovations we could use to shape the United Welsh of the future.
Rather than having a project group who were nominated by force, we were lucky to have 25 volunteers that covered every department and gave a broad spectrum of roles, experience and opinions.
The first meeting started with tea, coffee, biscuits and sitting around in a circle in a very un-futuristic village hall on the outskirts of Caerphilly. Our Director of Corporate Services Gareth, who is leading the work, split us into groups consisting of four – five people.
The groups were each given a different list of 10 companies to research and the choice to pick one to visit, with each list based on the Great Place to Work survey ‘Top Tens’ for different categories. We didn’t want to only look at housing and we didn’t want to just look at companies in Wales…. Luckily the group I was in had the top ten companies worldwide –with the remit to visit anywhere in Europe!
Culture, Environment and Technology
We wanted to dig deeper than putting a slide in the office and having a beer fridge in the kitchen. The focus was not only on the environment but also the technology to support it and (most importantly) the culture. I must admit that as soon as I saw the list, Google was top of the places to visit. As we researched the other companies on the list, Google still stood out as the ‘must see’ and we looked at potentially visiting the office in Dublin. Unfortunately, arranging a visit to Google isn’t as easy as googling something so we decided to go back to the drawing board. After a bit of research we came across a Finnish company called Futurice, who previously won the Great Place to Work in the Best Workplace in Europe category.
Futurice are a digital software company founded in 2000. Their head office is in Helsinki and they have 400 staff across eight main offices throughout Europe. There were several things that immediately drew us to visiting Futurice:
- Transparency and Trust: They have contact details for every member of their staff openly available on their website
- Culture: They have a section purely on culture on their website
- Blogs: We got lost for hours reading through all the blogs and getting inspired
We visited the Futurice office in Helsinki on Tuesday 14th March and met with Hanno, their Director of Culture (what a great job title!)
Our three hours there included learning some background on the company; a chance to ask our massive list of questions and a tour of the offices. Even though there is a lot of information on the website, we learnt so much more from visiting and chatting to Hanno. As part of the visit we had to feedback our top two ideas for each of the categories – Culture, Environment and Technology. As hard as it was to narrow this down, here are our favourite ideas that we thought could be implemented at United Welsh.
Transparency and trust
Every employee is given a credit card when they start working for Futurice. There have occasionally been bad decisions but never a breach of trust. Trust is given, not earned. Everyone has the trust to make decisions. The above picture illustrates the 3 x 2 decision making process.
“When moving towards a decision, a new project or an outsourcing task, there are three (3) times two (2) aspects to consider about its immediate and future impact: how does the decision affect your colleagues, the customer and the numbers, now and in the future.”
We really liked this way of thinking and it really allows anyone across the organisation to make decisions, not just the top. In fact, they have an upside down leadership model. People out in the field really help shape the business.
They focus on the right people for the organisation, not just technical skills, and their first interview is purely culture-based.
A variety of spaces
Quiet, loud, creative and functional as well as funky. (yes, they do really have a sauna!)
For us, this really felt like the heart of the office. Staff can send a message round on an internal app to let people know they have cooked something and want to share it. I don’t think we will be implementing a beer fridge but for a city centre design company that hosts events, it made sense for them.
Provide people with the technology they need
There’s no one solution for this – Futurice simply give people the tools they need to do their job. Visibility and accessibility are the over-riding factors and complement, rather than drive, cultural needs. This includes:
o easy reference meeting room diaries using android tablets outside the rooms
o a phone booth for quiet or private telephone conversations
o a travel point with easy access to taxis and travel information
o the concept that low-tech is as important as high – good old paper and pens all around
The tables had all the cables you could possibly need in the middle. Simple, yet how many times have we run around the office trying to find the right charger this month?
From visiting Futurice and hearing the feedback from visits to other organisations it is clear that the future workplace isn’t in the future and changes need to be made now. Technology and Environment are a small part of the bigger picture and culture change is vital to grow and build a sustainable business. One of the best learnings from the trip is that new experiences bring people together.
If you are interested in finding out more and having a chat about our visit and the Future Workplace project then please contact me on 02920 855675 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To read more about Futurice go to http://www.futurice.com
Some more pics of our visit below: