Ryan Walterscheid is a partner at Forum Phi, an Architecture, Interiors, and Planning firm in Aspen, Colorado.
The design world has long been sounding the alarm for more inclusive workplaces. Just consider that when looking at the architecture profession, women are significantly underrepresented in roles compared to men. Currently, only about 20% of licensed architects are women, according to the New York Times.
This is why I believe there’s an opportunity for leaders to ensure they’re creating more inclusive and diverse work environments. Our firm learned more about this opportunity when two of our architects attended a Women’s Leadership Summit in 2017. The leadership summit educated our team on the importance of creating a strategy that aligns with our firm’s values and actions.
As a result, after attending the summit, we set the goal of creating and retaining a more inclusive environment. To help reach that goal, we set a strategy that focused on benefits: We wanted to offer a more extensive benefits package that placed employees at the forefront of our company. We have since been able to revisit that strategy by asking a lot of questions and running a lot of numbers on different benefits packages.
Below is what I learned:
Benefits Are Worth The Upfront Investment
MORE FOR YOU
What is the cost of an unproductive employee who has to take extensive time off because they cannot afford the medical care they need and deserve? What is the cost of replacing a fantastic employee who chooses a firm that supports the medical needs of a family over one that does not?
We found that it costs six months of salary to replace an employee due to hiring and training expenses. An additional six months of salary is needed to bring that new employee up to speed with our firm’s culture and values.
While it costs a lot to offer family medical support and other benefits to each employee, spending that money upfront can lead to a higher quality workplace. When a company takes care of its employees, that level of care will propagate to the company’s services, community and client experience. Additionally, clients have apprised our team that they were more inclined to hire us after hearing that we support our employees, their livelihoods and their families.
Your Benefits Should Serve Everyone In Your Office
The best way to identify which benefit will best support your employees is to define performance values you want your employees to uphold. Two values we hoped for were emotional resilience and productivity. From this, we created a wellness benefit. This was a benefit we felt would encourage our employees to clear their minds and become more sensitive to their time so they get that release.
The ability to promote a more diverse population is also dependent on investing personal attention to each employee. Our team sent out a survey a few years ago to ask what was important to each individual. The responses, to our surprise, were all different and, therefore, suggested that we needed to broaden our benefits to better serve the entire population of our office. In regards to the wellness benefit, this meant offering a package equivalent to a ski pass that could be used for any activity. We realized that though we live in a mountain town, we cannot assume that everyone on our team wants to ski.
While the strategies and steps companies take will differ, adjusting to a greater population is a great starting place. Listening to your employees is an important step in ensuring that your strategy aligns with your firm’s values and actions. For example, one of our firm’s goals is to tailor each project to the individual client’s unique lifestyle and their needs. By learning to listen to our employees, we were better prepared to listen and understand our clients. We learned to connect engagement and experience.
Putting It All Together
In addition to increasing productivity, our offerings have also led to retaining more women. Ten years ago, one-fifth of our employees were women. Today, more than 50% of our employees are women.
Maintaining an employee-centered ethic that values quality of life and quality of experience comes from providing benefits. Although workplace dynamics continue to change, it is easier than ever to discern cultural patterns and promote a more diverse work environment, and benefits can be a good starting point.