Execs: Environment is crucial to keeping, retaining workers

Employers know that attracting and keeping employees is crucial in today’s tight labor market.

One way to attract new office workers is an appealing work environment.

Here is a look at the inside of the lobby of Five City Center in downtown Allentown. The 13-story office tower is the newest project from City Center Investment Corp. and was the site of a recent program about how to find and keep workers in a competitive labor market. (Photo By Brian Pedersen) –

For some, Five City Center, the latest office building to pop up in downtown Allentown, is a prime example of the kind of place workers want to be.

That’s one reason why the top floor of the 13-story building was chosen as the setting for a program hosted by the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp. about how to attract and retain workers in a tight labor market.

The program’s panelists shared ideas on how to achieve employee interest, attraction and retention through amenities, architectural design and technology.

Olympus of the Americas, which has its U.S. headquarters in Upper Saucon Township, employs about 1,000 workers locally. The medical supply company was an early adopter in establishing a footprint in the valley, having opened its corporate campus in the Center Valley area in 2006.

Though situated in a suburban market, the Olympus property offers a number of amenities including a full cafeteria, on-site day care and dry-cleaning services, and walking trails that connect to the Promenade Shoppes, said Therese Beck, director of employee experience at Olympus.

What’s challenging for employers is how technology has changed how people work.

“Working remotely has become more commonplace,” Beck said.

As a result, an attractive work environment with amenities can help attract and keep employees.

“The other thing that technology has given us is the ability to make smarter choices,” Beck said.

As an example, job seekers can now search online reviews of what it’s like to work at a company and weigh that against their decision to apply.

Companies should strive to control the narrative of their brand, to find a credible and authentic way to share their message to describe the experience of working at their companies, she added.

Dana Nalbantian, a panelist and principal and studio director at Gensler, said her company, which designed Five City Center, surveyed about 315,000 people to determine what an innovative company offers.

Innovative companies believe in creating more spaces for socializing and collaborating, Nalbantian said, which they can accomplish through designs that do away with traditional environments.

The newest office designs have more places for social interaction, and many show off their amenities at the front door, rather than featuring a traditional lobby space, she said.

ADP is set to occupy the top 10 floors of Five City Center. J.B. Reilly, president and co-founder of City Center Investment Corp., said ADP had looked all over for office space.

Reilly, a panelist, compared ADP’s move to an urban environment as a notable trend of companies migrating back to cities.

Employers should think not only about their office space but also their surrounding environment, he said. Many employees enjoy walking to stores and restaurants and that serves as an attraction tool.

Brian Pedersen
Reporter Brian Pedersen covers construction, development, warehousing and real estate and keeps you up to date on the changing landscape of our community. He can be reached at brianp@lvb.com or 610-807-9619, ext. 4108. Follow him on Twitter @BrianLehigh.

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