Bringing the External Customer Model to Workplace

This post is the fifth in a series exploring topics discussed in Perspectives 2015, PDR’s workplace strategy leader-to-leader forum. 

By Kimberly Mercer

In workplace design we often talk about collaboration and collisions because the greatest ideas come from the intersection of completely different practices.  That is why at PDR we are always looking to other disciplines. I recently read “The Evolving Retail Climate” talking about the integration of the online experience with the brick and mortar experience of retail.  I started thinking about the potential benefits for workplace, if the satisfaction of employees is treated as carefully as the satisfaction of customers. 

In the shift to a more online world, retail companies have found that their customers don’t want either a good brick and mortar solution or a good online solution.  They want both. Their customers don’t just want a good product.  They want to have access to research and reviews to make the most informed decision.  Their customers want control of their own shopping experience.  But they do want an experience: online and in person.  So, how much can this help workplace strategy and design?  The Answer. Quite a bit in both process and design.


First, we learn the need for effective processes for information sharing.  Creating user friendly processes and platforms to exchange knowledge, ideas and requirements can go a long way in lessening employee frustration and increasing productivity.  Just like a retailer may lose sales if the process is complicated – a company will lose profit if employees are plagued with poor, and poorly communicated, information.


Next, we learn that people are more satisfied if they are given control. At the workplace, this could be control over the environment. Control over where work takes place. Or, control in how they accomplish a task.  Giving over control involves trust, and feeling trusted boosts an employee’s confidence and sense of purpose. Just like a customer chooses retailers that give them the control over method of purchase – employees prefer working with companies that offer control in how they personally interact with their space or their company.


Finally, we learn that designing an experience is critical.  Creating an integrated experience for your workplace – both physically and online – gives employees a sense of belonging to something greater. Digital processes and tools can reflect a brand and be as user friendly as customer facing applications.  The physical environment of an office can make an employee’s day easier instead of being an obstacle to overcome.  Like a great retail store, a workplace can be a place that evokes comfort, innovation, home, professionalism, creativity, etc.  The possibilities are endless. 

The retail industry has built up these three ideas, resulting in strong relationships with their external customers and some are seeing the benefits of building these relationships with their employees too.  This is why we are seeing more retailers, thirteen in 2016, on Fortune’s list “100 Best Companies to Work For”.  At PDR, where we made the Forbes Great Places to Work list for recent grads, we work with companies all over the world and use lessons like these and many others to help our clients get the best results.  Better relationships with their employees.  A more engaged workforce. A higher performance workforce.  Ultimately leading to a greater profit. 

Are you a leader in your organization’s strategy for team effectiveness and innovation? Perspectives is a workplace strategy leader-to-leader forum, designed to spark a valuable exchange of ideas about the future of workplace strategy. Perspectives 2016 is set for August 31st and September 1st. The topic focus is Collegiate to Corporate: Workplace Insights from Learning Environments, and how we enable the next generation of problem solvers.

I invite a deeper discussion with your organization. If you are interested in Perspectives, please contact PDR.


Kimberly Mercer

Kimberly Mercer is a Senior Associate and Registered Architect at PDR who focuses on design of workplace at all scales.  From master planning and programming to designing the architectural details of a space, she creates high impact places for her clients.