At The Dock, Accenture has developed a purpose-built space devoted to improving the employee experience with technology, design and a touch of experimentation.
The modern style of Grand Canal Dock makes it a popular spot to capture the ‘look’ of 21st-century Dublin. Many images of the capital in print and on screen will include a nod to Martha Schwartz’s instantly recognisable red poles, jutting out of the edge of the dock as if signposting the way to the global companies dotted around. This way to Facebook, this way to Google, this way to Airbnb.
In among those born-on-the-internet trendsetters is a much more seasoned multinational. Accenture, a global consultancy of all stripes, has no less than three office spaces in Dublin’s digital heartland. Its newest build, The Dock, officially opened in February, revealing a creative and colourful workplace design on par with the famously enviable workspaces of Silicon Valley’s finest.
Employee Experience Innovation Space
Aesthetically pleasing as it is, savvy workplace design is as much substance as it is style. Done right, it can have a positive impact on employees’ health and wellbeing. And so, included in The Dock – Accenture’s centre of innovation in Ireland – is the Employee Experience Innovation Space.
Opened this summer by Accenture’s chief human resources officer Ellyn Shook and chief talent officer Rahul Varma, the Employee Experience Innovation Space is both the brains of studying how design can improve the lives of employees, and the physical embodiment of its best practice.
“The purpose is really to experiment in this space in service to creating better experiences for our employees,” explained Susanne Jeffery, global head of employee experience at Accenture.
Everything in the Employee Experience Innovation Space, Jeffery explained, has a specific purpose. A soundproofed isolation booth with a VR headset helps employees take a moment to get away from it all, virtually. An ‘ideas board’ invites them to share the inspirational thoughts that occur to them, openly. A well-stocked aquarium is pleasing to the eye and a booster for concentration, while the seating area has been built to facilitate a more relaxed, almost university-like, environment in which to work (or play, if you decide to pick up a colouring book).
Plants are also a common office feature, though in the Employee Experience Innovation Space, the design, selection and placement of these living, green ornaments has been thoughtfully considered.
“When we were researching and designing what this space would look like, technology was the first thing that came into our minds … but, actually, our philosophy in Accenture is that technology is there to enable us to do our jobs better, to look after ourselves better. So we flipped from that into this concept around ‘truly human’,” said Jeffery.
‘Truly human’ is Accenture’s latest internal motto of sorts and, as such, it directs the work of Jeffery and her team. “We’re humans in the workplace and, when we think about the future of work, we’re very passionate about focusing on the human aspect and ensuring that our people have a really positive experience in the workplace,” she said.
Jeffery’s team is also running experiments from the space, engaging employees with technology and trials to continuously consider and improve the employee experience. For example, they are using a tool called HeartMath, which syncs an app with a sensor connected to the user’s ear to provide guided breathing exercises.
They’re also running Accenture Fit to test the impact of wearables on employees’ mental and physical wellbeing. Employees participating in this experiment each had a one-on-one consultation with a trainer to determine goals that are now tracked using Fitbits. The data feeds into an internal platform, adding a competitive edge to the project. This will run for two months, and then Jeffery and her team will analyse the data and study the impacts.