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This article was published on July 9, 2021

Turning my startup’s office into an art gallery was a weirdly good business move

How one painting led to our biggest talent attraction

Turning my startup’s office into an art gallery was a weirdly good business move Image by: SupportYourApp (edited)

I came into the office completely drained after a difficult meeting. But when I looked up I stopped awestruck: someone had hung a painting on the wall. Suddenly the boring hallway had been turned into a room with personality and mood.

My business partner had decided to hang up an abstract painting by modern Ukrainian artist Anton Popernyak he owned. The painting undeniably brightened up the space, but its real value was the course it put us on — turning our office into an art gallery.

Putting on an art exhibition in your office might sound like an indulgent thing to do for a startup, but we discovered that it actually led to a lower turnover rate and increased offer acceptance among candidates we interviewed. 

So here’s how we came up with this idea and what results we got from it. Hopefully, it inspires you to do the same!

Why we did it

My business partner is an experienced patron of the greatly underappreciated Ukrainian art scene. He’s always been keen on bringing art closer to people and wanted to help introduce the team to their local culture. I wasn’t as involved in art as he was, but I’ve always cared about making our workplace an inspiring creative space where people would want to come back, not be obliged to come in.

So when we saw our business would be expanding, we decided to combine our interests when designing a new office. 

Credit: SupportYourApp

We invited ten muralists, graphic designers, and calligraphists and gave them carte blanche — a censorship-free opportunity to use our office walls as a canvas. Five months later, our 350-person office space had turned into a modern art gallery. 

Now what did our team think? They loved it.

Of course, we had hoped for the project to be a morale boost for the team and maybe increase people’s interest in their local art scene. But in the end, what we got was so much more. 

office workers in front of art
Credit: SupportYourApp

Decreased turnover rate

We work in the customer support industry which has one of the highest employee turnover rates of any field. While the average rate for companies in general is 15 percent, for customer service centers it can reach 30-45 percent.

This is a big problem for businesses as the cost to replace a person varies between $10,000 to $15,000 and can add up to a lot of money for big call centers. 

But since we gave our office an art makeover, our turnover rate dropped by 16 percent. All of a sudden our fun art initiative had a real measurable impact on our bottom line. 

Increased number of job applications

happy office workers
Credit: SupportYourApp
As a customer support company, our recruiting process is continuous and requires a huge pool of specialists who speak foreign languages. Just last year, during the challenging 2020, we hired 658 people. 

Most of our candidates come from job searching sites or are referred by current team members. But after we introduced art to the office, the word got out and the number of organic job applications increased 1.5 times.

When asked, people said that they’ve seen the photos of our office on the job sites, on their friends’ social media, or in the press, and it made them want to apply. To them, our company seemed interesting and innovative and stood out among other offers.

Judging by the incredibly positive results we’ve gotten, I believe that our investment into the space paid off with increased interest among potential candidates. 

Increased offer acceptance rate

We have three-stages job interviews and in the case of a local hire, the last stage is an in-person conversation in the office. We noticed that an average acceptance rate is 50 percent higher among the candidates interviewed in our new ‘art office’ in comparison to the old one.

And it’s clear why from the feedback we’ve gotten from newcomers:  “The minute I saw this, I knew I wanted to work here.”

floral mural
Credit: SupportYourApp
To give you a bit of perspective on why this has been so successful, I think it’s good to note that 42 percent of our applicants are millennials.

Since 78 percent of them consider the quality of the workspace important when choosing an employer, it’s not surprising that a creative workplace attracts candidates’ attention.

However, they are not the only ones who care about it: 81 percent of all applicants would reject a job offer if they didn’t like the workplace. That’s why I consider resources put in the office a long-term investment into our recruiting efforts. 

Increased brand awareness

Introducing an art project like this also drew the attention of local media and put us on a map of global office spaces. It helped us reach a new audience outside our traditional channels and cement a reputation as a responsible employer. 

A lot of factors contributed to getting us there. Team members shared photos of the office on social media and brought their relatives to our corporate Family Days. I also found employees were also more willing to promote the company among their friends.

And because of all this interest, we introduced tours of the office for the public so more people could come to see the murals. All of this combined increased interest among potential candidates and, subsequently, clients.

fun stairway
Credit: SupportYourApp

Clients’ recognition

Since we’re in a competitive sector of the B2B industry, relationships and reputation are crucial for us.

Before signing a contract, clients sometimes go on a tour checking out different service providers. Before COVID-19, we hosted on average four client visits per month. Having a unique office makes a memorable impression and lets us stand out among the competitors. 

The contact center industry is stereotypically perceived as a toxic work environment with gray open-space and no air conditioning. We bust that myth and make our clients see how their money is spent: on happy representatives which means happy customers.

Clients, who value commitment to the team’s wellness, appreciate our efforts and tend to choose us as a partner. 

mural meeting room
Credit: SupportYourApp

Of course, we can’t credit all the above-mentioned achievements solely to art in the office. You can’t just hang a painting on the wall and expect the turnover rate to go down — that’s not how it works. It has to be a part of and supported by other strategic efforts to improve the overall employee experience.

However, the massive introduction of art into our space definitely played a key role in how our team perceives its workplace and the company. Still, one of the less visible yet priceless benefits I love the most is when I overhear two people chatting in the kitchen… about which mural they liked more — the one by Manzhos or by Kondakov.

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