Case studies: Putting employees first

Customers first, that’s the mantra of good and successful businesses. But progressive companies are also moving the well-being and happiness of their employees right to the top of the agenda.


Case study 1: joint staff and customer journey

OPI spoke to two companies that have embraced this ethos – one the customer of an independent dealer in the US, the other a well-known manufacturer from our industry. The first is Adapt Community Network, an organisation based in New York City (NYC). Jacqueline Conley, its SVP for Program Development and Community Partnerships, explains Adapt’s aims, philosophy and the programmes it has initiated.

OPI: Tell me about Adapt, its mission and aims?

Jacqueline Conley: We are a large organisation that’s now 72 years old and we provide support to children, adults and families with all types of disabilities. We have over 3,500 employees and our services are offered to people of all ages across the whole of the NYC area.

OPI: How do you run the company from an HR and staff wellness point of view?

JC: Essentially, our philosophy is that we don’t make a distinction between our employees and the people we are trying to help – we are all in this journey together. As such, all the facilities that are available to our clients are also available to staff. For example, two of our locations have therapeutic swimming pools and exercise equipment that everyone can use free of charge.

Our staff develop strong bonds with the people we’re trying to support. This can turn into lifetime relationships that make what we do much more than just a regular job. As such, we like to reward employees in every way we possibly can. We have lots of social events and staff recognition ceremonies throughout the year, so we can show just how much we value their contribution.

OPI: Can you elaborate on specific activities?

JC: We offer our customers lots of trips outside of the NYC area, visiting different cities and engaging them in new activities. Our staff accompany them and as such, they get a lot out of these excursions too. When we take people adaptive skiing, for example, our helpers are right there on the slopes beside them. The same goes for waterskiing, surfing or dog-sledding – there’s plenty to try.

We also have a softball team that’s a mix of both staff and the people we support. Plus we run a basketball team which competes in a league for people with disabilities. Our employees act as coaches and cheerleaders, so they’re fully involved. Additionally, we have two exercise physiologists on site who offer their services to both staff and clients, and we run a meditation programme in-house that’s available to all.

OPI: How do your staff respond to your rather unique approach?

JC: Informal feedback is extremely positive, but we also conduct regular staff satisfaction surveys to ensure that we’re getting it right and see whether there’s anything else we can offer.

It’s important to realise that everyone is an individual and we really tailor the activities we offer to the interests and wishes of our clients coupled with the skill set of the people we employ. For instance, one man recently joined us who used to row for his college team. With our support, he has now set up an adaptive rowing club for the people we help.

This ethos of recognising a person’s particular passion and, ideally, incorporating it into their job really enhances staff satisfaction – the working day is always much nicer when you’re doing the things you really love.

Case study 2: New HQ, better ways of interacting

For an example of an operator within the OP industry that has invested considerable resources in staff well-being, look no further than German adhesives manufacturer tesa. OPI spoke to Falk Butterwegge, Head of Office Supply, Food & Digital Sales, International Sales Consumer & Craftsmen, about the initiatives the company has introduced at its new corporate headquarters.

OPI: How long have you been in your new HQ?

Falk Butterwegge: It’s been three years since tesa moved to its new location in Norderstedt, a city that forms part of the Hamburg metropolitan region in northern Germany.

It was a big move that took place in three phases. The technology centre – with around 50 people – first began the transition in July 2015, followed by the main body of 750 staff members in September. The remaining 300 employees who work in the research centre completed the move in December of that year.

OPI: What are the core highlights of the new building?

FB: The main advantage is that the HQ houses all company operations under one roof which facilitates quick, direct communication. The marketing department can now easily liaise with colleagues in product development, for instance. Each floor offers a balance of closed office space mixed with open plan areas for collaborative work, and the layout can be adjusted as project needs vary.

As you may expect, we have furnished the new HQ with the latest equipment – all desks are height-adjustable and chairs are individually adjusted by our ergonomic advisor to suit individual needs. The climate control system is also state-of-the-art and maintains temperature and humidity at ideal levels.

OPI: What other aspects of the building’s design and its associated programmes have been included to keep staff happy and healthy?

FB: Right from the design stage, tesa was keen to integrate sports and leisure facilities into the layout of the new building. The sports club is located in the basement and has a comprehensive gym area, plus additional space for activities such as yoga, pilates and spinning. Massages are available and a physiotherapist visits throughout the working week. There’s also an outdoor playing field where staff can play football and basketball, together with a boules court and a BBQ area where they can socialise.

We offer company health care insurance and a doctor and counselling service is available on the tesa campus. In addition, we’re very proud of our specially designed ‘parent-child’ office area which employees can use if they need to bring their children to work with them at short notice. For those who cycle to work, we have plenty of roofed bike racks for storage and there’s an adjoining changing room for them too. We also have a bike rental station on site.

OPI: What about catering and entertainment facilities – what do you have?

FB: We have a restaurant that offers an extensive menu and changes every day. The layout is based on themed food islands which include traditional, Asian and Mediterranean cuisines, plus an area devoted to healthy choices with a fantastic salad bar. A barista coffee area is also provided where staff can relax and chat. On each floor within the main building, we provide ‘communication zones’ where employees can congregate and enjoy a range of free beverages.

From an entertainment point of view, our HQ includes a large auditorium which can accommodate up to 280 people. It’s used both for internal information meetings and informal events – such as the ‘Culture in the Company’ programme whereby various artists come from across all genres to entertain staff. 

OPI: What impact do you think all these facilities are having on staff happiness and productivity?

FB: I already mentioned better communication. We’ve noticed a new culture of innovation emerging as the building’s layout has facilitated greater engagement between senior management and staff. Five months after all departments had moved to the new site, we conducted an in-depth survey to gauge staff satisfaction and identify what could still be improved.

The feedback overall was very positive and where there were any issues, we made sure to address them swiftly. We now have an ongoing system whereby employees can air problems or make suggestions to the facilities team that manages the building, and this is proving highly successful.

All of what we’re doing is a work in progress, of course, and we will continue to invest in the tesa infrastructure and add new facilities and programmes in the future.