My co-author Christian made a great point to me in a recent email. We were having some great back and forth conversation about how various companies work from the inside out.
In our lines of business (both of us traveling consultants), we have the neat opportunity to be a fly on the wall in quite a few corporate offices. You quickly realize that organizational culture really does tend to correlate with how successful a company is as a whole, leading both of us to believe that solid organizational culture does have a meaningful impact on the overall bottom line.
Christian points out:
“One of the coolest parts of my job over the last couple of years has probably been the opportunity to see dozens of office settings.
I’ve seen offices where the walls were all white, the coffee was tasteless, the employees worked until 4:59pm then rushed home, and no one was terribly enthusiastic about their job.
Then there were other companies who had immaculate office space. They served premium beverages (For Free!), the employees socialized, creativity was encouraged, their work spaces were bright, and people didn’t mind spending an extra hour at work to finish a project.
It’s more expensive to take care of your employees and to go beyond just providing them a paycheck, but in the end all that extra cost actually grows the company’s bottom line, reputation, and overall longevity. “
The Worst Office:
I think back over my years in the professional world and what the offices were like at some of the less than ideal gigs I’ve held. The primary negative example that comes to mind is from my time spent as a lowly consultant for an environmental engineering firm a few years back.
The office at that organization wasn’t much more than a giant cubicle farm. The break room consisted of basically an emptied broom closet with a few tables cramped in alongside a lonely soft drink vending machine. There was really nowhere to congregate or socialize and next to no amenities outside the most hated and disgusting coffee on the face of the earth. In fact, the coffee was so bad that chat around its supreme shittiness was the only thing we employees tended to bond over.
The only place you could go take a quick break was on a few benches outside, next to the stinky cigarette butt thingy. And this little outdoor area only existed so the company could meet a LEED building certification standard.
The Best Offices:
In contract, I also think of two of the nicest offices I ever visited. The offices of Google in Atlanta and Avanade in Seattle both totally blew my mind! Both featured tons of room to relax, great coffee, free drinks and snacks, bright colorful décor, and awesome gadgets like Microsoft Surface computers and Chrome netbooks laying around to showcase some of the recent projects and products developed by the organization.
You would think with all the freebies, gadgets and lounging areas littering their offices, these organizations would have a hard time keeping people focused on work. But ironically just the opposite is true.
If I were to tell you the name of the super serious, penny pinching environmental engineering company, you’d probably admit you’d never heard of it. In fact, that company doesn’t even exist anymore (go figure). On the other hand, both Avanade and Google are multi-billion dollar a year enterprises.
So, next time you go looking for a job, take a hard look around at the office and what people are doing. If they’re all huddled down in their cubes, working in the confines of drab, pictureless walls, cringing as they take another sip of their disgusting coffee in-between constant glimpses at the time, maybe you pass on that gig given you have the luxury and look for a career somewhere a little more forward thinking.
*We also wrote about organization culture once before. Check it out!