In Boston’s tight labor market, successfully recruiting and retaining talent can come down to any number of factors.
One of those factors is the actual space in which people work. So, when Siemens Smart Infrastructure moved to our new office in the Boston market late last year, we turned to our own technology to create a smart workplace for employees to own their workday.
In our new space, we implemented the Comfy workplace app, an application to connect people to buildings. It brings a consumer-like experience with features to customize an office environment, such as lighting and temperature. One feature in particular enables employees to choose their desk or reserve office space – with simply a click of a button on their phone.
What this means is that each day our employees can decide which working space is best for the projects that they’re doing, whether that’s a quiet desk at the window for individual work or a think tank meeting space for group collaboration. The app can even show where your coworkers have reserved desk space.
In creating an interactive office, these technologies are not only aimed at fostering greater productivity but also greater engagement. Managers reserve spaces just as their teams do, removing barriers based on organizational hierarchy. And app users have a convenient way to submit feedback based on their experiences so that the whole space can be constantly improving. It’s estimated that about a third of commercial office space is either not used or underutilized.
When I was invited to participate in the Massachusetts Jobs and Workforce Summit in Boston, I shared Comfy as one example of how workplace technology can impact workforce development. What my panel discussion was specifically focused on was effective business strategies for talent recruitment and retention. The feedback on smart buildings is encouraging in this regard, with 81 percent of occupants reporting a positive impact on employee retention.
We also discussed some of what we’re seeing in the greater Boston area when it comes to job competition. Those trends include a growing interest from tech companies to locate in the city and the fact that many young people may come to the area for college but only stay for a few years and then leave.
Although I represented our Smart Infrastructure business, Siemens has a significant presence in the Boston region, which includes more than 2,000 employees and 12 facilities across infrastructure, healthcare and software.
For building technologies, the search for talent is dynamic, crossing both the trade and information technology fields. So, in addition to competing for computer science and IT skills, there’s also a need for trade expertise and a shortage of it. As just one example, a quick search of job boards uncovers nearly 1,000 open positions in the greater Boston area related to heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) alone.
So here’s where technology like Comfy can be both a perk and a reflection of what we believe in as a company: It’s a technology that empowers people to own and control their work experience every day.
And, at Siemens, it’s part of a larger ownership culture that supports continuing development and career growth once an employee becomes a member of the team. Unlike in the past, where employees might have to wait to be identified for an executive training path, in my group we’re encouraging employees to drive their own development, no matter what stage they may be in their careers.
Technology offers us so many opportunities to tailor experiences in our building spaces – to create the perfect place. But when seen as a bridge to workforce development, it becomes clear that its impact may be larger than temperature control, lighting or managing equipment and reserving rooms. Apps like Comfy are changing how we work and how we can work, by equipping employees with the technology to create the perfect workspace for their personal success.