The Destination Workplace

Workplace innovation leaders and branding strategists at NELSON and RipBang Studios tell us how employers would benefit by taking cues from sports and entertainment venues. Key takeaways:

  • Treat your employees like fans: give them plenty of access to the memorable moments and great achievements that define “what you stand for”.

  • Take pains to express “why” someone would want to work for your organization. Help employees see the big picture and how they fit into that picture.

  • Understand that while a brilliant business idea may be spawned at the coffee shop or in our home office, it is the workplace where we share this idea with others, build consensus, make decisions, and work together to turn it into reality.

At Formula One events, devoted crowds of “Tifosi” are inspired by the Ferrari brand of innovation and excitement. Photo via Sutton Images.
At Formula One events, devoted crowds of “Tifosi” are inspired by the Ferrari brand of innovation and excitement. Photo via Sutton Images.

Once upon a time, work began at 8 and ended at 5. Our workplaces, factories, offices, and stores were a product of the industrial revolution. They provided the specialized tools, and the physical space necessary to produce a desired product. These were places we needed to be.

After work, we sought out entertainment destinations that offered a distinctive experience. Restaurants, resorts, theaters, and stadiums are places where people simply wanted to be.

However, this paradigm has quickly been made obsolete by dramatic advances in personal technology and mobility. The fundamental nature of how and where we work is changing radically and once clear divisions between home, entertainment, and work have been blurred. If we can now choose to work wherever or whenever we like, what compelling reason exists for employees to want to be in workplace?

An answer to this question might be gleaned from the world of sports and entertainment. In an era of declining game attendance, sports teams and venues have had to take a more proactive approach to engaging fans. Employers should consider treating employees as fans, staging work as an event, and establishing the workplace as a destination.

Treat employees as fans

While a team’s brand is established by its achievements and great moments, they harness the power of impactful branding to foster relationships with their fans. Beyond the event itself, a team must communicate aspirational values that a wide variety of people can strongly identify with. “What the team stands for” must be communicated beyond the stadium through branded merchandising, broadcasting, websites, social media, and community involvement.

A lesson from Ferrari about devotion to its brand is relevant for employers. In 2013, Ferrari took the top spot as the world’s most powerful brand. Huge crowds come to Formula One events not only for the love of F1, but the love of Ferrari, a brand that through its achievements has established itself as an innovator, a risk taker, and a champion. Ferrari’s brand might even be more powerful than patriotism: at a recent Italian Grand Prix, the crowd, dressed in red, cheered for a non-Italian driver in a Ferrari versus an Italian driver in another make of the car.

Employees will travel more frequently to a workplace that builds brand loyalty through immersive experiences with a passionate community in a setting that offers a variety of conveniences and amenities.

So how do you harness the same brand loyalty and passion for your organization? Treat your employees like fans: give them plenty of access to the memorable moments and great achievements that define “what you stand for”. Recent studies show that about 75 percent of job seekers will accept a lower salary in favor of a brand whose values resonate with their own. Similarly, it can costs companies 10 percent more to lure candidates from competitors with more attractive brands. [i]

Chances are, you already have employees who love your brand. So like Ferrari, seek to nurture these passionate and influential fans and with consistent brand messaging that inspires action. Take pains to express “why” someone would want to work for your organization. Help employees see the big picture and how they fit into that picture. [ii]

Stage work as an event

Thousands of Seattle Sounders fans join in the “March to the Match” ninety minutes before kickoff. Photo by Travis Lawton, via The Phoblographer.
Thousands of Seattle Sounders fans join in the “March to the Match” ninety minutes before kickoff. Photo by Travis Lawton, via The Phoblographer.

Fans can now enjoy amazing game experiences from their smart phones, 60” HD home theaters, and stylish high-tech sports bars, making the need to attend the event unnecessary. So, why do sporting events still draw a crowd? The simple answer is that an event allows fans to participate in their team’s successes and to “be there” when legendary moments happen. It is this emotional power that fuses the brand with the fan. The result is a true believer who defines himself by his association with the team.

The Seattle Sounders FC, one of the newest teams in Major League Soccer, has posted the highest average game attendances in the league (even rivaling the numbers posted by the Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks). They’ve done so, in part, by creating a unique game day experience that cannot be replicated in the living room. At every home game, the “March to the Match” has become the most talked about traditions in the MLS. Ninety minutes prior to kickoff, thousands of Sounders fans gather in Pioneer Square to participate in raucous half-mile parade that ends at CenturyLink Field.

Sports and entertainment venues understand that fans are no longer required to come to the game; they choose to attend the games.

Similarly, in a world where “work” can happen anywhere—at home, in the car, or at a “third place”—we should celebrate work as a collaborative event. While a brilliant business idea may be spawned at the coffee shop or in our home office, it is the workplace where we share this idea with others, build consensus, make decisions, and work together to turn it into reality. By understanding the job factors that are most important to your talent pool, the workplace can make employees to feel like participants in their company’s success and become true believers.

“The destination workplace”

A rendering of Chef Michael Mina’s Bourbon Steak "tailgate" at Levi’s Stadium, which offers many entertainment destinations that enhance and extend the event experience. Image via ediblesiliconvalley.com.
A rendering of Chef Michael Mina’s Bourbon Steak “tailgate” at Levi’s Stadium, which offers many entertainment destinations that enhance and extend the event experience. Image via Edible Silicon Valley.

Ultimately the stadium or arena is still the place where observers are turned into participants and true believers are made. And to compete with the demands of our mobile lifestyle, sports venues are changing rapidly.

The recently opened Levi’s Stadium—home of the San Francisco 49ers—was conceived as an entertainment destination that boasts the type of amenities and conveniences the public has come to expect in the most sophisticated settings. The stadium offers ultra-fast Wi-Fi and cell phone service via 4G networks, allowing fans access to stats, replays, and other media when live play isn’t taking place.[iii] In-stadium apps guide patrons from the parking lot to a dizzying variety of seating options, and offer easy access to restaurants, stores, and in-seat deliveries. And the fan experience doesn’t stop with technology: creative food offerings are handled in house, made fresh daily and include much more than just your standard burgers, hot dogs, and popcorn.

Sports and entertainment venues understand that fans are no longer required to come to the game; they choose to attend the games. The same point of view can also be applied to businesses if we keep in mind that employees will travel more frequently to a workplace that builds brand loyalty through immersive experiences with a passionate community in a setting that offers a variety of conveniences and amenities.

In a competitive marketplace, businesses must adapt quickly to new ways of working and embrace those changes made possible by personal technology. Companies who want to attract and retain top talent must give them compelling reasons to choose to come to the office. Think of your workplace as a destination where work is an event that turns employees into fans.

[i] Workplace Trends in 2014 l Work in Texas.com Blog, November 14, 2013

[ii] Ted.com l Simon Sinek: How great leaders inspire action, September 2009, Interactive Transcript

[iii] Time.com, Meet Levi Stadium, The Most High Tech Sports Venue Yet., August 18, 2014

 

Gary Miciunas and Gina Payne lead workplace innovation and change management at global design firm NELSON. Bob Bangham and Ro Macaraeg lead branding strategies and experience design at RipBang Studios, a division of NELSON.
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