Can you match it with your foyer?
Story: Mug Punter
Back in the good ol’ days of football, meat pies, Sunday roasts with your mum, and blatant sexism, all any decent company needed in the foyer was a few plastic pot-plants, pastel colours on the walls, some framed prints of dogs playing poker, and piles of out-of-date National Geographic magazines — oh, and a stunningly attractive receptionist. The kind of girl who just oozes sensuality and seems to be offering to satisfy your every crazed fantasy just by asking you to take a seat.
(Yes, my wife made me watch Mad Men until, thankfully, Game of Thrones came along and proper cultural balance in the household was restored.)
Things improved over time. The plants became real — and cost a zillion dollars a month to be watered, fed and swapped around by some enterprising green-fingered type. You had to provide a water cooler that tasted like a dentist’s mouthwash. A telly was bunged in the corner with Ray Martin well and truly muted. The receptionist was allowed to be married without being too obvious about it.
Now, walking into any corporate foyer is required to be an experience akin to stepping into the wildest, most fantastical Disney World attraction ever. The walls are covered in floor-to-ceiling 4K, 3D displays showing stuff like extreme snow-boarding, surfing through ‘tubes’ surrounded by sharks … okay, and maybe the occasional flash of a company logo and building map. It’s meant to be a mind-blowing, gob-smacking first impression that will convince prospective clients just how awesomely fantastic the corporation can be. It’s the bestest ever company ever … just like, ever.
It’s creating a problem.
FORTUNE 500 FOYER
The question can be asked — just how impressive are the staff and facilities beyond that receptionist desk? In other words, how well does your company performance live up to the hype of your new-fangled foyer?
Take, for instance, an accountant’s business. The waiting area is festooned with high-res displays showing clients’ brilliantly successful projects, touchscreen stations with AV presentations, and a 60-inch 4K telly with Doctor Phil well and truly muted. That’s a hard act to follow, and when you finally get to walk into someone’s office you’re expecting at least C-3P0 behind the desk, or perhaps Leonardo DiCaprio dressed in a suit made from hundred-dollar bills.
Instead, you’ve got a short, balding sort of bloke who insists you keep the ticket stubs from your supermarket deli section so you can claim lunch on your tax return. It’s hardly The Wolf of Wall Street.
CARPARK KINDA GUY
So forget sexism, ageism, racism and bigotry. The HR departments have way bigger things to consider, and need to look at new employees in an entirely different way. You may have gadzoodles of qualifications, maybe were a Rhodes scholar, and topped every class you ever attended. Only to be told, “Yes, but you’re not very exciting, are you? Not like our foyer. I’m sorry, but you’re more a concrete carpark kind of personality.”
Aspirants for any vacancies in the corporation may need to acquire extra skills — like sword-swallowing, juggling chainsaws, or lion-taming — to have that edge over the other applicants. Perhaps a wide selection of vibrant costumes to wear across the week, like a chicken suit, Spiderman tights, and for the girls, the latest Wonder Woman get-up. Anything really, as long as it spices up the office and keeps everything stimulating with vivid colour and movement. Fortunately, anybody dressed in a chicken suit is, by default, in glorious 3D.
It’s yet another level of stress inflicted on our lives: matching up to the waiting room. And I’d suggest we do what we can to ameliorate the pain.
The answer might be to put in place some sort of standards that apply to certain types of organisations, and determine just how high-tech each foyer is allowed to be. So sure, if you are selling extreme snow-boarding adventures and surfing safaris, by all means have countless 4K displays showing someone risking multiple bone fractures or being eaten by a white pointer. However, if you’re an accountant — even a Big Four accountant — you can only have one screen in the foyer and it has to only show spreadsheets. Unless you specialise in tax. Then you can have videos of luxury yachts in the Bahamas and vast wine cellars.
A lot of companies will fall between these two benchmarks, and that’s where regulators and inspectors can be useful, and even consulting firms who can advise on just what is and isn’t permitted in your foyer — we’re creating a whole new industry here. It won’t be easy and some sections of the digital signage world may oppose any restrictions, but don’t forget this would work both ways. Some multi-national, multi-everything corporation might be told it has a too boring foyer with just plastic pot-plants and a septic water cooler. Money needs to be spent, displays should be installed, stuff needs to be 4K-ed and 3D-ed across every wall.
Another solution might be customer service and to not ever have anyone waiting in the foyer… odd concept, I know. It’ll never fly.
Mug Punter’s opinion of accountants are wholly his own and do not reflect those of the publisher, which is working hard on its wine cellar.