28/02/2017 09:02 GMT | Updated 01/03/2018 05:12 GMT

The Best Investment You Can Make: What The High Street Can Teach Us About Employee Engagement

With new innovations like virtual reality meeting rooms, mixed reality teleportation, cognitive cloud services, chatbots and robots - why should we even bother going into an office anymore?

If you're an employer and aren't thinking about this question, you should.

In business, we tend to think a lot about evolving expectations of our customers, but not so much about employee expectations, which are changing just as rapidly. Combine that with the rise of automation and AI and we start to see that the age of disruption is just getting started and it's coming for your workforce.

With Millennials dubbed 'the job-hopping generation' now making up 50% of the workforce, and statistics that reveal a shocking 71% feel 'disengaged' or not emotionally or actively connected to their job and company, business leaders need to start looking at how they can retain the talent needed to navigate the fluctuating and turbulent times ahead.

The great thing about disruption though is that if you are expecting it you can prepare, and often the key to survival can be spotted in other industries that have endured recent transformation.

In the retail industry we have seen a shift in power from the brand to the consumer due to technologies forever changing our expectations around instant gratification, personalisation, and what it means to have a good customer experience. People feedback instantly on social media about their experiences, good or bad (but never just average), and that becomes someone else's 'zero moment of truth', or first experience with the brand. We've also accepted that we now live in the Global Experience Economy where we all expect more than just a product or service, we want memorable, impactful and sharable experiences.

This is the same in the workscape. The master-slave relationship between employer and employee is crumbling. In a recent survey people rated working in environments that reflect their culture and values as equally important to salary and benefits. Here the power has shifted from employers to employees, which may be a bitter pill to swallow to some, but the sooner leaders realise this and start investing in the workscape experience, which is essentially an investment in their people, the more future-proof they will become.

With the rise of online shopping, retailers were forced to rethink how they attract people to come into stores, and then how they convert those visits into sales. By giving people an in-store experience that they can't get online, brands have found the answer. For instance, Lululemon's flagship store on Regent Street uses interactive mirrors to add value to their customers by suggesting running routes that take you past the Queen's house, and let you get to know their shareholders in a more personal way. They also offer free yoga classes on Sundays making the store a destination, one that people talk about, providing an experience that you can't get from an app.

Businesses have the opportunity to give their employees workscape experiences that engage, inspire and excite by integrating new technologies into considered design, creating spaces that bring people together, enhance collaboration, accelerate productivity, enable more efficient working, and tap into 'group genius'. By providing the best tools for your people - whether it's hardware like Microsoft's Surface Hub, software like Engage Works' Co.Create, or smart furniture like Humanscale's Office IQ - you send the increasingly important message to your employees, current and coming, that you are invested in the future and recognise their value in that future. Companies like Karmarama and CapGemini are already reporting benefits and improved employee retention from putting these practices into effect.

Whether it's in retail or workscape, putting people at the heart of every experience is what will future-proof your business, and that is the best investment you can make.