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How to Attract and Retain Talent Through a Workplace Design Strategy

A Workplace Design Strategy
Belynda Cianci
Published on

As a professional at a fast-growing company, you know first impressions are vital to attracting and retaining top-notch employees. So you’ve done the work: built a job offer with enticing growth opportunities, attractive benefits, and healthy compensation packages. You’ve carefully groomed your corporate policies and company culture, even upped your snack-room game in an effort to keep everyone happy and productive.

Now that you’ve covered those bases — have you looked around the office lately? What do candidates see when they walk in the door?

With candidates’ expectations of office life becoming more sophisticated, and recruitment increasingly more competitive with 67% of recruiters saying it’s harder than ever to find top talent, the space you show off becomes an important part of the whole workplace experience package. For every generous vision benefit, things should be equally eye-catching for candidates sizing up your space. 

Even more important? The elements you bring to the design should remain attractive long past the honeymoon period. In other words, skip the ping-pong tables; invest those dollars where they’ll continue making a positive impact over time. 

Here are the top workplace design elements that will get your ideal candidates in the door, and create lasting loyalty once they sign on. 

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Workplace branding

There’s nothing better for pride of place than clean, prominent branding in your office. A strong, consistent internal brand is great for attracting excellent employees and ensuring they stick around for the long haul. Poorly executed internal branding can even have the opposite effect, according to research from Randstad

Why does branding have this effect?

The same emotional connections that impact customers also come into play with employees. Solid branding can build trust in the company, create positive feelings toward the organization, and increase dedication and work satisfaction. It can turn your employees into brand evangelists.

Bumble’s signage is one of the pieces of their workplace design strategy that shows off their brand and greets everyone who walks by
Bumble’s “BUZZED ON BUMBLE” signage is just one of the pieces of their workplace design strategy that shows off their brand and greets everyone who walks by. Via Tech Crunch

Ways to incorporate branding into your workplace design strategy to increase employee retention:

Welcome and wayfinding signage: Nothing says “you’ve arrived” the same way bold branding in public areas does. Making a splash with creative brand-centric design has the power to set the tone for the workday, inspire pride of place, and visually reinforce intangibles like company culture. Branding in common areas and meeting spaces also sets the mood for visiting clients or remote employees, who may feel less connected to the brand than those who spend consistent time in the office.

You can also extend this pride of place to your wayfinding and informational signs. These subtle branding cues offer organic reminders of the company vibe for everyone navigating the space, like this example from Yaffa.

Communications: From the first offer letter that arrives in a candidate’s mailbox, to every business card floating around the office, consistent branding can offer one of the most visible and versatile ways to reinforce your internal brand. 

Interactive Design: When someone contributes to a space, it can create feelings of ownership and belonging — a great “glue” for keeping the team together. Consider adding subtle team branding elements by inviting each employee to be a contributor in the space, like Atlassian did with their message board that people see as soon as they enter the office. It can also offer a great talking point for sharing company culture with candidates and new employees. (Check out the “Look What I Just Found” shelf over at Atlassian.)

Incorporate customizable designs like Atlassian did in your workplace design strategy to give people a sense of ownership
Adding boards like Atlassian did in their Austin office allows people to customize spaces, adding a sense of ownership and belonging. Via Officelovin’

Embracing modern office design

Gone are the days of endless, featureless cubicle banks and drab break rooms. Improvements in technology and changing attitudes to working life have made open offices more attractive — and made quality office design a must for attracting and retaining the best talent. 

Creating great office design and providing a variety of workspaces doesn’t have to be difficult. Many resources are out there to help you understand your space needs and create fun, functional offices that more proactively meet employee needs. Activity-based work (ABW) spaces, for example, provide employees various work stations for all the types of work they complete during the day. Generally, moving away from traditional, static work design benefits employee productivity. 

Employee benefits of shifting towards modern office design:

Functional: Flexible working environments can support a more collaborative and team-oriented workplace experience. It can also increase productivity, growing peoples’ sense of worth and contribution. In fact, 78% of employees said flexible work arrangements made them more productive, according to a The State of Flexible Work Arrangements Zenefits report.

Physical: If "sitting is the new smoking," then flexible work could be part of the solution. Activity-based work promotes physical health in a number of ways. For instance, moving between task areas and taking advantage of the resources within them can increase circulation and concentration.

Emotional: Space options, such as gathering spaces and focus areas, can help employees enjoy community, as well as recharge away from the crowd when needed. Being able to enjoy both can help employees manage stress and enjoy quality social time with their colleagues.

Environmental: Open offices with excellent environmental design offer a range of benefits. Design in these spaces can take full advantage of natural light, open space, and pleasing interior design. These beneficial elements have been recognized formally in the WELL building standard, used to certify building environments that offer the best improvement to human health in office environments.

Incorporate environmental elements into workplace design strategy to improve health and attract and retain top talent
Adding environmental elements like greenery to open spaces like AmorePacific did are proven to improve human health. Via Office Snapshots

Can acknowledging and meeting these needs in your workplace design strategy improve retention outcomes? According to Gensler’s recent U.S. Office Workplace survey, the answer is yes. 

“The amenities that deliver the greatest impact connect directly to people’s most salient needs and preferences: spaces directly connected to innovation, making, and collaboration; and quiet places to perform focused or individual work.”

Flexibility inside and out of the workplace

If flexibility in the office is a home run, flexibility both in and out of the office walls is a grand slam. Benefits like a variety of workspaces, better work-life balance options, and flex-time create healthier mindsets and healthier spaces. 

Workplace design can bridge the gap between physical office presence and remote work. Design tactics to help connect the two experiences include:

Thirdspaces: Thirdspaces or areas designed to feel like a crossroads between home and work, can help alleviate the social pressure around office interactions. Thirdspaces, like cafes, lounges, outdoor seating areas, or cozy lobbies, can help create a workplace experience where employees feel comfortable working in non-traditional spaces. While these types of spaces most directly affect in-office employees, they make a workplace feel more approachable and comfortable for remote folks and visitors.

Video conferencing software: In a working world where office design relies heavily on the tech within it, empowering employees to collaborate with ease, regardless of physical location, makes all the difference. Video conferencing software in traditional meeting rooms, huddle spaces, social areas, and more that supports real human connection makes everyone feel included. Not only does it look good at first glance, but employees who can rely on their video equipment to connect with their remote teammates are bound to stick around longer than those who can’t.

Giving employees the freedom and the tools to work when and how they like can do even more: create autonomy, empowerment, and an impression of trust. And the data says that employers reap the benefits of this more open corporate mindset. As highlighted in the Gensler survey, “For high performers, everywhere is a work setting — both in and out of the office.” 

This is especially true for younger generations entering the workforce, who value the freedom technology offers.

Thirdspaces like cafes and lounges workplace design strategies add employee flexibility and autonomy, a highly desired benefit for top talent
Thirdspaces, the areas that rest between "home" and "workplace", allow employees to switch between types of spaces, adding flexibility and autonomy to their workday. Via Office Snapshots


Positive wayfinding experiences let your new employees feel like a regular on their first day and throughout their entire stay. That kind of empowerment can last long after they’re no longer a stranger around the coffee station. For everyday life in the open office, interactive wayfinding can also help everyone feel connected and accessible, even when they’re spread out.

Besides making a good first impression, a great wayfinding design strategy can bring a sense of inclusivity to every member of your team, allowing everyone to feel comfortable in the space and creating a lasting impression that every employee is valuable, improving workplace experience overall. 

When considering places to invest in retention, office design might not be the first thing that comes to mind. But the value of that workplace investment can pay off many times over. It can be calculated in reduced churn, better brand ambassadorship, and positive employee perception. The right mix of space, branding, and tech can create a work home everyone will be thrilled to enjoy and excited to show off. 

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Return to Office Report 2024

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Does your office collaboration need a reboot?

Find out if your workplace strategy is a hit or a miss.

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