Mix Inspired Seminar – Clerkenwell London

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We recently held our 7th MixInspired event – and the second in London – at Milliken’s fantastic Clerkenwell showspace. Once again, we invited a selection of the Capital’s leading specifiers to come along to be inspired, informed and entertained by a wonderful panel of end users (clients). The following is a summary of proceedings.

For this edition of MixInspired, we’d like to think we excelled ourselves by compiling a brilliant trio of leading (and diverse) end users – ranging from an exciting Unicorn business through to one of the UK’s most established major associations.

Our esteemed panel comprised: Dereck Dziva – Workplace Performance Manager at CIMA; Glenn Elliott – Founder & CEO, Reward Gateway; Mike Walley – Head of Workplace Experience EMEA, Criteo.

We asked the panel to consider the people and culture shaping tomorrow’s workplace, and to discuss the future of the workplace and who is going to deliver it. Just as we’d hoped, the three gents weren’t backwards in coming forwards, offering fascinating and sometimes provocative insights into how their businesses currently work and how they would like to see them evolve in the future.

Regular readers would have seen our focus on Reward Gateway’s new Tottenham Court Road home in last month’s Mix. CEO Glenn Elliott, we discovered, was very definite about how the space would look and, more importantly, work for the business – as he was happy to explain to our audience.

‘We’ve got about 95 people at Tottenham Court Road – and we’ve got about 40 desks and no pedestals. We also don’t have any printers. The thing about not having any printers is that you don’t have to buy any paper – and then you don’t have to buy any recycling bins and you don’t need to have a recycling contract…and strangely we’ve done all this and the company hasn’t collapsed!’

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Mike Walley feels that, although the workplace and technology continue to evolve, it is not always easy to get people to shift mindsets and adopt new cultures. ‘Where we’ve seen a real change is in the experience side of the workplace. The divisions between the office and the home are very much more blurred than they ever were. One of the things I’ve had to do is to create a culture – and that revolves around the social aspect of work and how we connect everyone together and how we play. In that respect, there is a great difference between the older generation of people who work for us and the younger generations. Where I find there is no difference is in what I call the situational aspiration. Even the younger ones in our R&D world would love to be in their own little bubbles.

‘So I think a lot of the things that we think might be over and done with, people are still kicking against. We are, for all sorts of reasons, generally committed to being in the open plan or mixed zone environments. We don’t do personal offices any more. But that doesn’t mean that people still don’t crave their own personal space.

‘I know a lot of people don’t like to admit this, but one of the glaringly obvious reasons for this is that we went from everyone having their own office at £250 per head to working in open plan at £100 per head. Open plan is also supposed to allow for interesting organic layouts and great communication and cross-flow and all those marvelous things – or at least that was the original concept. It doesn’t always work out that way.

‘In the world that we work in there is a really good reason for working this way. In our Paris headquarters we have 500 computer scientists over two floors who are constantly changing the groups in which they work – and they simply couldn’t do this if they weren’t working in an open plan environment.

‘We’ve been through a really interesting change in a very short time. As a start-up we could get our entire company in one room, we were one big family, really tight, working until 3am. Now we are 3,000 people with 33 offices across the globe! That means we’ve had to change the way we work. We’re finding that we’re desperately trying to hang on to that spirit at times – but that’s not easy.’

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In Dereck Dziva’s experience, a younger workforce has led to changes in the way that CIMA works. ‘Millennials and Gen X do things very differently. One of the major issues we found when we moved from Victoria to the City, was how would people accept new ways of working and the impact of new technology. The challenge we had was how we kept the ‘old school’ happy and engaged, whilst still be able to attract young, new talent. Our brand was changing – we wanted people to see us as forward thinking. We had to create a workspace that supported everyone and still encompassed the new technology and working practices that would move us forward. Even though it was a big challenge, I think we’ve been able to really achieve this.’

Naturally, different organisations operating in different sectors will face different challenges and issues. Glenn’s own take was slightly different – and, through his own experience with Reward Gateway, he felt that the divide between generations was not necessarily at the forefront of the debate.

‘I think the whole thing about generational divides is slightly ludicrous. It’s a fantasy that an entire group of people – from introverts through to extroverts – all born within 15 years of one another will all be the same. We should be looking way beyond this – we should be creating great working environments for everyone.

‘We have a really wide spectrum of people. I’m a Gen X – but I probably act more like a Millennial. Then we’ve got Millennials who are still petrified of change. The starting point has to be to aim to provide great work experiences for people, period. Then you can start thinking about issues such as introverts and extroverts or generation types.’

‘It was our former CEO who said ‘I don’t need an office’,’ Dereck reveals. ‘Before this he had that corner office – but he really set the one by saying that he no longer needed his own office. Everyone was sold on the idea – after all, if the CEO doesn’t have an office, why should anyone else. Even the people who had, up to this point, said that they needed an office because of confidentiality had to accept this. We were going to change the way that we work – and that had come right from the top.

‘People did adapt to this. They soon realised that there were places they could go, things they could do and ways they could work which would maintain confidentiality – they can take their laptop somewhere else, they can book a meeting room…’

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‘I think that’s a key point,’ Glenn agrees. ‘We had someone who was worried about
confidentiality – and we told her that, if she did have something that was confidential, then she should walk away from her desk and go and sit in a meeting room. People think this way of working is strange – but isn’t it stranger to say, whatever you’re doing, you should do it from the same desk, chair and workspace? To think that is appropriate is far stranger to me!

‘I think technology is the enabler for all of this. I think the catalyst, however, is that the world is getting increasingly competitive and we all need to be on our ‘A game’. I need people to really perform, to collaborate, to be engaged and to do amazing stuff. Technology enables them to do this.

‘I want our people to work really hard and I want them to focus on their products and their clients. I don’t care where they work or whether they’re in the office at 9am. We never, ever close – we’re open all the time because we are global. Technology has broken down the barriers between work and home – and our staff all have their phones and their laptops and I think it’s wrong for me to tell them when they should be working. If they can, I want them to pick up their phones on a Friday night if a client calls.’

We would, of course, like to say a huge thank you to our sponsors – Colebrook Bosson Saunders and Milliken. We are extremely grateful for their support and encouragement.  Also, we should give an extra thanks to the incredibly convivial Milliken for allowing us to host the event in their showroom and for looking after our guests so wonderfully.

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