Designing Headquarters: Create Your Culture

Think about it: you spend most of your life working. Forget boring, old office spaces. Would you consider your headquarters a fun place to work?

We sat down with Lou Trebino, Principal of Advisory at KPMG, along with NewGround’s very own Tom Auer, Senior Vice President of Design, and Jill Schumaier, Director of Interiors, to chat more about innovative headquarters design and how to create an exciting company culture.

Cool and Connected
KPMG’s Ignition Center in Denver leverages signature design elements to bring people together to remain engaged and energized.

“There are a few foundational design elements that are core in an Ignition Center. Special lighting, furniture, and a pool table are in Ignition Central, which is every center’s hub. At some point during your day, you flow through that space—it’s the only way to access coffee, water, snacks, and vending. Each center also customizes its furniture in different fabrics or colors. Ignition Centers include themes from the local area connecting to our communities,” said Lou Trebino, Principal of Advisory at KPMG.

Reflecting local culture is important at all the KMPG offices. Conference rooms and project rooms in Denver are named after local microbreweries, and there’s a feature wall of beer bottles that people love. In Atlanta, you’ll see famous golf references everywhere. Their Grand Rapids location is industrial, graffiti-like, and art-forward. NewGround has also designed headquarters with local culture in mind.

“One of the benefits of working with community credit unions and banks is that being invested in the community is part of their DNA,” said Tom Auer, Senior Vice President of Design at NewGround

Financial institutions are grounded and rooted from the people in their communities, so incorporating the local culture creates a cool, connected design.

“One of our clients in the Bay area has numerous bridges in their region, so we started to theme their conference rooms after different bridges, which provides a sense of place and meaning,” said Tom.

On the other end of the spectrum, new institutions in town sometimes question how they will be viewed by the community.

“Banks live with this fear that the community thinks this big bank coming to town will push out the little local banks, but they really are there to help support local businesses,” said Tom.

Credit unions and banks love telling stories about the people they serve. Real stories about real people make a heartwarming and sincere impact.

Work Hard, Play Hard

Want to reward your employees with a fun, exciting culture and a design that motivates them? Bust out games and host events!

In Denver, we have a wall of lockers that has black and gray magnets. If you look down the row of lockers, it forms the front range of the mountains,” said Lou. “A couple months ago, we had a competition for teams to come together to see who could most quickly and accurately recreate the image within their locker panels for friendly collaboration and competition.”

Whenever the Denver Broncos are playing, KPMG drops down the big screen to watch the game in Ignition Central and orders pizza, so people can socialize in the latter part of the work day or evening, not disrupting normal working hours.

Pretty cool, right?

One of NewGround’s clients also had a heavy football following.

“We designed a headquarters in Alabama, and they have a big football culture down there,” said Jill Schumaier, Director of Interiors. “We named and designed different areas after different teams, and the outdoor space was designed so they can all get together to watch the big games.”

Employees can sit back, relax, eat some food, and enjoy the game, creating a fun dynamic company culture that the staff looks forward to.

Break In, Break Out!

One thing everyone looks forward to: break time. Give employees a comfortable space for breaks to keep them happy and let them recharge!

Tasks like running errands on lunch breaks can cause stress in a time that is intended to be relaxing. Even just going out for lunch can eat up all your time and often leaves you with little rest.

“For one of our projects, we created this micro-city on the headquarters’ first floor since nothing was near their building. They had a little shopping mall, auto repair shop, convenience store, dry cleaner, and shoe repair shop. This supported the highest needs of their staff, so they just had to go downstairs for whatever they needed,” said Tom.

And maybe college campuses are onto something…

“Another one of our upcoming projects is going to have an amphitheater, jogging trails, and different sports fields. It’s a real campus-approach that’s designed to make you not want to leave!” said Tom.

“Pool tables or shuffleboard tables are another kind of break area to relax, have fun, or collaborate—with a section set up for employees to have quiet time to check social media, game, or dine,” said Jill. “It can really bring different people in different departments together, too!”

“We’ve actually had solutions born out of pool time, and I’d rather know that employees are doing that for five or ten minutes than on Facebook during the day to disconnect,” said Lou.

Unfortunately, research says employees spend about eight hours of their work week doing things like checking Facebook or surfing the internet, yet they stare at computer screens all day. Give your eyes a break!

“If you’ve been staring at the screen all day go chase a ping-pong ball around or something, it’s just better for you!” said Tom.

Stand Out from the Crowd

When recruiting, your headquarters design attracts top talent. Prospective employees analyze their potential work environment and compare it to others while job hunting. It’s important to catch their eye right away.

Providing an enticing atmosphere where employees can choose how they work results in an environment employees love, so why not design a headquarters that captures the best of the best?

“People really enjoy the space because they learn something new and are exposed to different solutions from different groups,” said Lou. “Every year, we somewhat throw the cards in the air and shuffle the space around again, and it’s been a positive experience on all fronts.”

KPMG has seen massive growth, with departments expanding rapidly beyond their little neighborhood areas. The flexibility creates a happy work environment and reflects the headquarters culture.

The ultimate reward? Seeing your smiling staff while working in a beautifully designed, innovative space they love!

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