Becoming Simply Irresistible: Positive work environment

Part 3 of 5

Posted by Josh Bersin and Burt Rea on April 23, 2018.

Crafting the employee experience: An ongoing series
As our Simply Irresistible Organization™ model shows (see below), there are five essential elements of employee engagement success: meaningful work, supportive management, positive work environment, growth opportunity, and trust in leadership. In this article (the third of five, you can read the first two here), we’ll discuss the issue of a positive work environment.

Let’s start by stating the obvious: your work environment can make or break your experience at work. And by “environment” we don’t just mean the physical space, we mean the space, the culture, and the way you are appreciated.
In our research we’ve developed a simple model that identifies four key elements of a positive work environment. Let’s walk you through them.

Flexible work environment

The first element of a positive work environment is flexibility. A workplace can’t aspire to be “irresistible” if it isn’t flexible. Studies show that 68 percent of women say they’d prefer more free time to more money, and 80 percent of men would like to work fewer hours.1

Flexibility can mean many things. At one of the largest telecommunications providers in Asia, the company’s “All Roles Flex” policy is an example of flexibility. At this telecommunications and media company, any role is eligible for some virtual or remote work by default.2 This is not insignificant for a company with so many sales and service locations throughout the region.

Flexibility also means offering a workspace that accommodates different modes of work, including a focus on productivity, innovative space (often called creative space), exercise, outdoors, and passion activities.3 For those of you interested in viewing the art of the possible, here is a video of how Deloitte leveraged workplace design trends in our Amsterdam office, The Edge, one of the greenest office buildings in the world. This building lets people work wherever they want; they can use their mobile phones to order coffee and food; and the lighting is automatically designed to keep people energized while conserving power throughout the day – employees can even adjust the lighting in their area via a smartphone app.

In terms of actual office or workspace design, you can consider a model like the following to decide who needs an office, a desk, or other workspaces, like a team room.

Not everyone needs a full-time office—but some people do.

While there’s been a lot of effort to reshape environments to make them more enjoyable and flexible to accommodate changing worker preferences and needs, massive societal and economic disruptions are making the transition to the future of work an issue that is top of mind for many of our clients. Click here4 for more on this subject.

A humanistic workplace

A workplace should also be humanistic. Some anecdotes are well-known. For example, a global technology leader, consistently rated in the top ten of Best Places to Work,5 has a pet-friendly workplace where its employees are extremely well fed—for free; and employees can give each other “massage credits” for a job well done on projects, redeemed for a free one-hour massage on campus.6

At Deloitte we have an empowered well-being subsidy covering 50 percent of wellness/fitness activities up to $500 each fiscal year, a “Corporate Athlete” Program taught at Deloitte University, meditation/yoga classes to keep us centered, and an extended Family Leave program that offers US employees, both women and men, 16 weeks of paid family leave.7 We don’t all work for these companies, but food, celebrations, internet-enabled commuting shuttles, and even laundry services are all becoming more common across a wide range of industries. These are no longer just “perks;” they are essential elements of helping us make work fit into our lives.

Culture of recognition

This gets us to our third area of a positive work environment: a culture of recognition. Continuous recognition, both monetary and non-monetary, is a powerful engagement tool, even if it’s as soft as a “thank-you.”

The Harvard Business Review has cited “recognition given for high performance” as the most impactful driver of employee engagement and The Aberdeen Group has found the No. 1 way leading organizations improve employee engagement is through employee-recognition programs.8

We also studied this topic and found that “high-recognition companies” have 31 percent lower voluntary turnover than companies with poor recognition cultures.9 These companies tend to build a culture of recognition through social reward systems (tools that give people points or kudos to reward others), weekly or monthly thank-you activities, and a general culture of appreciating everyone from top to bottom.

Key to enabling success here is to create a social environment where recognition can flow from peer to peer, freeing managers from being the “gatekeepers” of praise.

Companies that build this culture can see tremendous impact. For example, when JetBlue implemented a peer-to-peer recognition system focused on company values, employee satisfaction surged by 88 percent.10 And there are physiological effects as well: Researchers have proven that when you thank someone, it releases oxytocin, a hormone that makes people more relaxed, collaborative and happy.11

Fair, inclusive, diverse work environment

Of course, a workplace should also be fair, inclusive, and diverse. This isn’t an HR strategy, it’s a business strategy—teams within inclusive cultures outperform others by a staggering 80 percent.12 People perform better when they’re comfortable being themselves.

In a study we did a few years back, we found that while 71 percent of organizations try to foster diversity and inclusion, only 11 percent had such an environment.13 Even worse, only 23 percent held their CEOs accountable for building a diverse and inclusive environment; instead leadership often delegated this work to a director within HR.14

While most business leaders now believe having a diverse and inclusive culture is critical to performance, they don’t always know how to achieve that goal. We urge you to read more on this topic; here are eight powerful truths that can help turn aspirations into reality.

Stay tuned for part 4, where we will discuss the attributes of an environment rich in “growth opportunity.”

Josh Bersin is the principal and founder of Bersin™, Deloitte Consulting LLP, a leading research and advisory organization focused on corporate leadership, talent, learning, and the intersection between work and life.

Josh is a published author on Forbes, a LinkedIn Influencer, and has appeared on Bloomberg, NPR, and the Wall Street Journal, and speaks at industry conferences and to corporate HR departments around the world.

You can contact Josh on twitter at @josh_bersin and follow him at

Josh’s personal blog is at

Burt Rea is a Managing Director in Deloitte Consulting LLP’s Human Capital practice and leads the issue-based offering for “Creating the Simply Irresistible Organization™ Experience” for Deloitte US. With over 26 years of consulting experience at Deloitte, Burt has advised numerous global clients on their talent and employee strategies—from retention and recruiting innovation, to workplace redesign for new and flexible ways of working, to digital learning experiences to captivate employees.

You can contact Burt at Deloitte at and via LinkedIn at

1 Juliet Schor, The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline Of Leisure (New York: BasicBooks, 1992), pages 20-25.


3 Work environment redesign – accelerating talent development and performance, June 03, 2013,

4 Navigating the future of work: Can we point business, workers, and social institutions in the same direction? July 31, 2017,




8 Human Resource Executive, March 2018,

9 Bersin by Deloitte, Deloitte Consulting LLP, November 7, 2012,–associates-research-shows-organizations-that-excel-at-employee-recognition-are-12-times-more-likely-to-generate-strong-business-results-177627921.html

10 Joanna Geraghty, “An 88 percent increase in recognition satisfaction,” Globoforce,

11 Josh Bersin, Forbes, April 30, 2012,

12 Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, Waiter, is that inclusion in my soup? A new recipe to improve business performance, November 2012, our-resources-and-publications/reports/item/529-waiter-is-that-inclusion-in-my-soup-a- new-recipe-to-improve-business-performance-nov-2012>.

13 Bersin by Deloitte, Deloitte Consulting LLP, April 2, 2014,

14 Bersin by Deloitte, Deloitte Consulting LLP, April 1, 2014,–inclusion-as-a-business-imperative-but-few-have-an-inclusive-culture-today-253349981.html

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