A pleasant working environment is more than the obvious biotope in which office life takes place. It can help organisations engaged in the war for talent retain their employees. It makes those employees even more productive. Geert van de Laar, CEO of Facilicom Group, commissioned research on the subject by Wageningen University.
Your very first contact with an organisation is often the moment when you drive into the car park. Then you report to the receptionist. How do those contact moments go? Do you hear a smile in the voice and do you feel welcome? Or do you get the feeling that the people behind the desk have just received bad news? Even before you embark on your meeting, your initial impression of the organisation has already been formed. Did you walk through clean and nicely decorated corridors, or were they dirty? As an organisation, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.
The working environment does more for an organisation than we often realise. Geert van de Laar, CEO of facilities provider Facilicom Group, always felt that the environment was very influential. To find out the extent of that influence, he asked Wageningen University to conduct some research. Van de Laar: 'The influence proved to be even greater than we thought.' A survey among 7,000 employees in an office environment revealed that an excellently facilitated environment improves the wellbeing of the employees by a massive 55 percent. The environment even has a direct impact on the financial results, because it improves productivity by 4 percent.
Facilicom supports numerous organisations with famous brands like Gom (cleaning services), Albron (catering) and Trigion (security services). The Schiedam-based company also operates under the name Incluzio in care and welfare. Facilicom Group has 32,000 employees and is one of the biggest family businesses in the Netherlands. In the MT500, Facilicom ended this year at no. 1 in the category Catering, cleaning, security and various business services.
'Organisations undermine themselves if they mainly regard facilities services as a cost item,' says Van de Laar. Facilities provision is ‘people business’. Service providers like catering employees and security personnel are often a familiar presence in the organisation they work in. They thus contribute to the atmosphere and business culture. Facilicom trains its employees in hostmanship so that they can optimally fulfil this role. Van de Laar: 'We want our employees to radiate a certain job satisfaction. It may seem pretentious, but at Facilicom we say that "happy people make happy people". If our people do their work with positive energy, they convey that to the people in the organisation.
In the hostmanship training, Facilicom employees learn to understand how they contribute to the atmosphere at the client. 'You obviously have to have it in you,' says Van de Laar. 'In our recruitment process, we always look at the social skills of the candidates.' Facilicom's strength lies in the fact that, despite its many different activities, they are all very much service-oriented. It is therefore able to further develop service as a core business.
The fact that Facilicom is a Dutch family business also has a favourable impact, says Van de Laar. The company was founded by Johan Geurts in 1966. The family still owns the shares. Van de Laar: 'We have an open management style and there's a lot of contact between the board and the work floor. Obviously, we have to achieve good results. However, we are less influenced by the issues of the day, so we can steadily work on improving our strengths.' The company's Dutch roots mean that the employees understand the clients' organisational culture.
War on talent
In the future, the added value which Facilicom offers its clients is set to grow, according to Van de Laar. 'In many offices, technology is playing an increasingly important role. Take security, for example. Companies are reducing the size of their offices because they are introducing more flex work.'
But as technology becomes more influential, the human factor becomes more important. The remaining contact hours for the employees must be spent in well-designed workplaces, in areas which are comfortable, with great coffee and a decent lunch. Van de Laar: 'If you feel welcome in that environment, you'll perform better. And you're less likely to leave your employer.' In the increasingly fierce war on talent, that can be very valuable.
This article appeared previously in MT, 6 november 2018.