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If no individual employee works the same, then not every company culture is the same either. So, what happens when different office cultures collide?

When cultures collide

A couple months ago when I was at WeWork’s comfortable and chic One Seaport location in Boston, MA, I hunkered down for the day at a communal work table.

During a lull, I struck up a conversation with my co-worker, Adam Tewodrose, who works as a Business Development Representative here at Saltmine. As I’m always looking for topics for the blog, I ask him out of curiosity, “What’s a recent and nuanced pain point or challenge a prospect has mentioned lately?”

“Navigating different workplace cultures and practices,” Adam replied. “The other day I was talking to a company who is currently being acquired–they’re a younger, more progressive company–and their new enterprise, parent company, is more traditional.”

While we cannot say the name of either company, both are well-known in the entertainment industry. 

In short, young and energetic Entertainment Platform X, is actively integrating–both culturally and with their tech stacks–with seasoned Entertainment Conglomerate Z. It’s the “feeling each other out” phase and already off the bat, X is realizing how different their culture and practices are from Z’s.

  • X’s workforce is mostly millennials but leadership is an equally-represented mix of younger and older generations. They still maintain a “tech start-up” mindset which progressed them through their Series A, B, and C funding–and ultimate acquisition.
  • Z on the other hand, is an established, Fortune 500 company that has been successful for decades. They’re a trusted brand in the entertainment space and are a top leader in their respective industry.

differing cultures header-1

Different strokes (or spaces) for different folks

“X highly values collaboration and their employees want to be in the office to do that, some of the time,” Adam continued. “They want to design a social-forward space that’s nimble and progressive–they want a dynamic office that focuses on celebrating their employee culture. X believes heads down work is meant to be done remotely and everything else from collaboration to team building is best done in a physical space. Compare that with Z who has:

  • More conventional and traditional office spaces,
  • Stricter at-work policies–that they’re rekindling as places reopen,
  • And hold onto ‘tried and true’ methodologies–change initiatives have a gauntlet of decision-makers to go through.

You can only imagine how this new X and Z relationship is developing.”

Size doesn’t matter, technology does

“What about the intersection of space optimization, occupancy data, and technology–where do they differ?” I asked.

Adam replied, “Since X has their roots in being a tech start-up, they embrace new technology for wayfinding and look for solutions that help make data-driven decisions. They have a well-integrated tech stack, are process driven, and experiment frequently. Hence why they’re interested in us–we can help them quickly iterate and test their workplace scenarios just like anything else they do.”

To feed their desire to continually improve space, X developed a workplace feedback ticketing system called, “WorkplaceNow.” This means of collecting data–i.e., employee feedback–is how they not only report workplace maintenance issues internally but more importantly, how they reveal exactly how people are using space. X is really into looking at post-occupancy analysis to inform their future office design decisions.

feedback loop image“I assume Z has something like that in place?” I asked while sipping on a coffee. “Certainly a Fortune 500 company would be at least reevaluating their real estate portfolio.”

“Ry, I’m not even kidding you when I say this–Z has nothing like it in place. Their only concern when it comes to their offices is ongoing maintenance. The only ‘data’ they collect is when an employee goes to maintenance and tells them something needs repair. It’s a completely manual process. Sure, they send out employee satisfaction surveys a couple times a year, but nothing specifically for enhancing their offices.”

A champagne taste on a beer budget

Adam continued, “Z doesn’t want to shell out the budget to redesign their space to X’s liking–they also want X’s employees to be at the office more. So, X sent out an anonymous internal survey to their employees and the vast majority of their employees said they would leave the company if they didn’t have the same workplace flexibility. X showed Z this feedback but Z is of the mindset that their traditional spaces have ‘worked’ fine for years.”

In a recent HBR study, nearly 60% of employees said flexibility is a higher priority to them than salary and benefits.

Showing the benefits of data-driven, office design decisions

How can a company like X influence their new parent company Z to rethink how they approach office design and workplace strategy? The office is more than a space to X–it’s a reflection of their culture and main catalyst to their employees’ sense of pride with their company.

With that being said, there’s a lot of data that must be captured in order to make a case for such a workspace–and even then, unless that data is captured in a way that makes it actionable, data is just that, data.

While the solution to X and Y’s kerfuffle is a nuanced and challenging journey, there are many ways to navigate such a situation via the right workplace technology. However, like all new technology, it will be scrutinized by decision-makers and has to show tangible evidence that it brings value and is truly innovative.

To properly vet a solution to successfully strategize, design, and execute a modern office, consider these points:

  1. The right workplace technology should be able to digitally run different scenarios to fully understand what floorplan designs will work–this should be rooted in utilization and occupancy data in order to make informed design decisions.
  2. Collaboration and visualization–both the immediate project team and their key stakeholders and decision makers should have an equal view to all project details. That includes everything from the bill of materials to 3D walkthroughs–everyone should be able to experience the company’s future-of-work, as it is being designed.
  3. Workplace strategists should be able to get granular as it pertains to “site-specific” integration plans–the right technology should allow for quick scenario planning.
  4. Data-savvy folks should be able to access multiple data sources so they’re able to more easily communicate a concise “whole picture” to more traditional folks.
  5. The right workplace technology should also be accessible from anywhere around the world and truly bridge the communication gap between project team members and stakeholders.
  6. And lastly–and maybe most importantly–a holistic workplace design platform should not only reduce the overall time it takes to take an RE project from start to finish, but furthermore reduce the cost of a project by automating manual processes–e.g., a task like polylining.

Leaders: Don’t add to employee “angst”

As mentioned by workplace strategy innovator and thought leader, Kate Lister (President of Global Workplace Analytics), a lot of the “angst” people are experiencing during our more “post”-Covid times, is due to leaders not realizing their old practices and procedures are no longer conducive to evolving workplace trends and demands.

Technology continues to provide companies with the tools, insights, and employee feedback loops necessary to evolve space to modern office standards and changing workplace trends.

We’d love to show you how Saltmine can help you with that endeavor. To schedule a time for us to show you just how we can help you and your workplace team plan, design, and execute your evolving future-of-work, click the link below (or connect with Adam on LinkedIn):



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Ryan Tidwell

Content Marketing Manager, Saltmine

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