Four Ways to Create and Maintain a Productive Workforce


Money is great. Benefits are nice. Perks like free snacks and game tables may sweeten the deal. But what ensures that workers remain productive and content in their jobs to stay for the long haul? 

These days the typical worker stays at a company for an average of just 3.68 years, and the cost to replace these employees can add up. It costs 20 percent of an annual salary to replace a mid-level employee and more than twice a year’s pay to replace a C-suite executive, according to a 2013 study by the Center for American Progress. So the ability to recruit and retain top talent is more important than ever, and the way a workplace is set up may play a key role in employee productivity and overall satisfaction.

One office building is using hospitality incentives to help improve employee focus and boost productivity. In partnership with CBRE, Caruso Affiliated is restoring a nine-story, Masonic Temple to create a mixed-use complex that will incorporate creative office space with room for ground-floor retail and restaurants. The building, which will house about 140 employees, will have a hospitality team available for workers’ needs—from dry cleaning to grocery shopping—helping to cut down on the time employees have to spend on personal tasks.

Offering freedom from time-consuming chores allows employees more quality time at home and enables them to focus more at work.

Of course, providing hospitality services is just one way to improve employee satisfaction. Here are four more ways to create and maintain a happy and productive workforce that can help keep employee turnover low.

1. Be flexible

An important workplace quality that can make for happier employees is flexibility, says Greg Rokos, president and co-founder of the video interviewing firm GreenJobInterview. Workers value “the freedom to work at their own schedule, their own pace, and even at their own locations,” he says.

“We have the tools and technology to allow that now,” he says, calling workplace flexibility perhaps the biggest employee incentive after basic compensation, such as salary and benefits.

A CBRE Research report released last year determined that the office of the future should include a mix of private, collaborative and social spaces that accommodate the varied needs of different job functions and employee preferences. Implementing a policy of “dynamic density” gives employees the flexibility to work in various parts of the office as opposed to being assigned a fixed desk. Desk-sharing can also help drive down the cost per employee and promote productivity, says CBRE Research in its report, “Space Utilisation: The Next Frontier.”

Modern offices, such as the workspace at the Masonic Temple and CBRE’s headquarters in downtown Los Angeles, already fit that description. These contemporary workplaces are designed to be paperless and address-free, allowing employees the flexibility to work from anywhere. 

Following a workplace redesign that included more collaborative areas, better technology and health-focused features, a CBRE employee survey found that 93 percent of workers would not go back to the old way of working, 86 percent believed there was a strong improvement in employee health and wellness, and 79 percent of the workforce felt more productive compared to the previous office space.

2. Give employees the right tools

Having the right technology is also key to employee satisfaction and retention in that it gives workers the tools to do their best work, says Richard West, senior managing director of the valuation and advisory group at CBRE.

“We [at CBRE] have spent a lot of time designing workspaces with cutting-edge technology so people can get things done as efficiently as possible,” he says.

While flexibility comes with investing in design and creating office environments with a greater diversity of spaces, modern offices also need to provide the right technology that enables employees to work seamlessly from anywhere.  

Ensuring employees can access important files remotely is key to a productive workforce, according to Lewis C. Horne, president of the Greater Los Angeles and Orange County region at CBRE. 

“We’re helping our employees learn to access information through our cloud sharing and storage system, ensuring they are completely mobile and can access their documents from anywhere, at any time,” Horne says. “We take pride in knowing that while we’re the largest real estate services company in the world, we’re also nimble enough to be able to change our culture and the spaces we work in. Making these changes is about recruiting and retaining top talent.”

3. Know what to expect

Having accurate expectations is perhaps the most crucial key to maintaining a happy and stable workplace, says Rokos.

Just as it’s essential to make sure the position is the right fit, it is imperative that employers and prospective employees are on the same page regarding the nature of the job.

“If expectations of what the work will be like are not accurate, it usually leads to unhappiness,” notes Rokos, who worked in the executive search business for two decades before launching GreenJobInterview.

“I think that it is critical in recruitment and retention to accurately convey what the job is, what [skills] they are looking for, and what the career path is,” he says.

It’s also important that employers be upfront about the pros and cons of a position, Rokos says. After all, every job has its less-than-desirable aspects.

“For a professional athlete, it’s not all about hitting a home run and doing the trot around the bases,” he says. “There are a lot of pushups and situps and sprints that go into that.”

4Make sure employees are in the right positions

Matching people to the right roles is critical to maintaining a happy workforce, according to West. Happy employees, he notes, stay at companies longer. 

“What you typically find is that if you have someone who is naturally good at doing something and that is what they do every day, you tend to have [an employee] who not only is more productive and happier, but they also tend to stay longer and they tend to excel,” West says.

In that sense, successful employee retention begins with thoughtful employee recruitment, Rokos notes. This means that companies need to come to the process with a clear vision of their hiring needs, which is not always so easily done, particularly under the time pressures common to the hiring process, he says.

“You are trying to do this dance in a time frame that is short enough that you get the job filled but long enough that you get a sense of the candidate pool and ensure you are spending enough time with the right candidates to get a good hire,” he says.



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