Perspective with Mike Walley

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Founded by a small group of great minds at a Paris start-up incubator, Criteo has rapidly become a global leader in commerce marketing. Having met back at Orgatec, it was about time we reconnected with Head of Workplace Experience, Mike Walley.

How many are currently in the Criteo workforce? 3,000.

How many offices are under your watchful eye? 13.

And where are you at with those facilities right now?

The offices are in a constant state of evolution. In the last year we have touched 30% of the current portfolio with either an expansion, relocation, or renovation.

How long have you been in the role? Two years.

What skills and attributes from any of your previous roles do you use to great effect in your current role? Hospitality industry level customer service. ‘Client First, Colleague Second’, is the mantra I use with my team.

Can you share with us a lesson learned and never repeated? Never give a stakeholder a blank sheet in a design meeting. Always go in with a preliminary plan to work from – or the ‘flights of fancy’ mean you spend the entire meeting saying ‘No’. Not a good message.

What are you doing now regularly in your day-to-day role, which five years ago you weren’t? Organising social events for the workforce. Part of our role is to drive and support social interaction across the company. The millennial worker does not separate work life and social life to the same degree that older generations did; the circles on the Venn diagram definitely overlap. So, we play our part and create opportunities for coming together. Monthly social events, lunches, breakfast events, summer outings etc.

What was your most challenging or favourite project to date (and why)? The recent renovation of the 3rd floor in our Paris HQ. It was challenging as we had to do it around a busy finance team at close quarter and year end, so it took some very smart programming – but, also, it was the first time we had been able to bring our latest thinking on design to the largest office in the company.

Is there a new fad, buzzword or trend starting to surface in your world? Gameification. Example… if you book a hotel for less than the company average price, you get points and they will add up to a free stay for you and your family. Reinforce correct behaviour by making a game of it.

What is the best thing about working for Criteo? There is a real drive to be the benchmark company for the Tech industry. When people talk about great places to work, we want our name to be on their lips. This gives great opportunities to be creative and push the envelope a little. We recently were No.1 in France on the Glassdoor survey. Id like to see that result globally!

What are the biggest challenges you and your team face? To constantly bring excitement and surprise to the workplace.

Tell us one thing that gets on your nerves? The word…collaboration! It is applied to absolutely everything as though it bestows some kind of magic. I was told recently that when you raise an adjustable height meeting table, it ‘improves collaboration’! Really? Open plan space either enhances or destroys collaboration, depending on your point of view. Collaboration is the only life goal of the millennial. We must work collaboratively or we will be doomed to a lonely, unproductive existence. Unless, of course, we are talking about ‘Focused Working’ – then we must be alone and quiet…

Name one thing that will have disappeared from the workplace in the next decade? Desk phones. They are already on their way out. This is major infrastructure investment that is outperformed by the smartphone in your pocket.

What is the one thing that you would change when working with architects and designers? Oh Boy! I think it is the ‘form over function’ argument. Too many designs I get offered post-brief are built around the look, with little thought to actual usage or are based upon a stylised view of usage. (Images of happy people with fully charged laptops and no cups of coffee, whereas the reality is stressed people running to a meeting with a dead laptop and slopping a cup of coffee on the floor). There is not enough thought about the impact a design can have on my OpEx budgets in terms of day two maintenance and cleaning. There is also a ‘Cult of the Classic’ in certain furniture elements.

Do you think the subject of productivity in the knowledge-based workplace is relevant? Simply put, no. I don’t think it is possible to measure good ideas as if they were widgets off an assembly line. The man who has a game changing idea that sets fire to the industry…is he productive? He only had the one idea!

How many people are involved in the initial brief for an office transformation? Harking back to an earlier question, often the initial brief is done by me and we take the resulting ideas to the stakeholders for refinement. This helps keep the grammar of the design within the overarching principles we have and provides a springboard for discussion.

What tech is occupying your thinking at the moment? Monitoring sensors and beacons. They will help me manage everything, from meeting room availability to washroom cleaning frequency. They can let me build apps to direct you to locations within the building and tell you which hot desks are free for use. The potential is huge!

If you had to choose one, which is more important in a workplace setting – the chair or the monitor arm? Or other? I really wish I didn’t have to choose! I see them as being part of an integrated whole, but it all starts with the chair, I guess. We have recently replaced nearly 2,000 chairs in the company to ensure we meet the highest standards possible.