The building – on stilts, no less – overlooks a beautiful Caribbean lagoon. Office hours and dress code are at each employee’s discretion. Food and drink are available on demand. There’s a life coach, and a meditation room.

It all sounds so appealing … until the alarm clock goes off. Back to reality!

Oddly enough, my vision of an ideal office first focuses on its physical attributes, when in fact the right office culture is far more essential. Although your office’s physical structure is important, your business – whether it’s private or public, big or startup — likely won’t survive in today’s competitive environment unless it fulfills most of the following:

It should be purpose-driven. People are looking for more than profitability these days. While profits, and shareholder or investor returns, obviously are important, companies also must have a keen awareness toward emerging social responsibilities, including environmental concerns and giving back.

It needs a clearly defined mission. While it’s great to be aspirational – everyone wants to be the best – your mission also must identify the company’s direction, and all employees must be able to personally connect with that. They need to know daily, weekly and monthly that their contributions are impacting the mission’s success. If they don’t, then quite frankly they are working on the wrong stuff.

Its culture must be diverse and inclusive. Diversity in ethnicity and gender are necessary, and so is variety in thought and opinion. For that variety to really have impact, however, there should be no first among peers. I encourage using a round table for leadership team meetings, with the idea that every function’s individual objectives, from the CIO’s to Sales’ to Human Resources’, must align with the business mission. A mutual respect for one another, all working for the success of the company, can be fostered as each initiative contributes to the sum of the total, and each function works to bolster the others.

It recognizes employees with vision. Face it, many businesses are out of balance, rewarding time served rather than a job well done. Too often we acknowledge the individual who fixes the problem, without realizing that perhaps that problem never should have occurred in the first place. There’s a lot to be said for sustained and predictable performance – the employee who gets the job done, and keeps unforeseen issues from ever cropping up. These are the people who keep the ship on course, and they deserve our appreciation and recognition.

The spirit must be energetic. At GE Transportation, our rally cry was “Together We Can.” At GE Power Systems, we created “From Wellhead to Consumer.” The spirit from these slogans brings the organization together in a very powerful way. A self-motivated workforce does the right thing voluntarily, without necessarily needing direction from the top. Every employee or associate then works to continuously improve – personally, functionally, and for the collective business.

It encourages personal growth. Engaged employees are always growing, whether they’re taking on broader horizontal responsibilities or working their way up the corporate ladder. An important part of any business is succession planning, too, which goes hand in hand with personal development and promotional opportunities.

The office’s physical structure should be open and inclusive.  Now back to my office in the Caribbean, because the physical office structure obviously is important, too.  While office setup can vary tremendously depending on the type of business you’re in, the trend has moved away from anonymous cubicles and the status associated with “the corner office.” To save space while not crowding employees, office sharing is becoming the norm, as is open office architecture. These floor plans are not as capital intensive but allow for greater communications speed and less isolation behind a closed door.

Put all of these characteristics together, and you will have a remarkable workspace that better enables you to attract, motivate and retain a high-performance workforce. No need to dream. This ideal office can and should be your reality.

Read more about Bob Nardelli at

Bob Nardelli has more than 100,000 followers on LinkedIn. During his 45 years in the business world, he has grown the sales and profits of a number of multi-national corporations including the General Electric Co. and The Home Depot, and he helped save Chrysler and its iconic brands when the American auto industry began to collapse. In addition to his board and volunteer service, Bob is the founder of XLR-8, LLC, Investment & Advisory Co., which helps companies identify weaknesses and improve performance.