In my apartment hangs a framed picture titled “New York: a View of the World.” Central Park’s curving paths and green fields fill the foreground. Beyond Central Park South, a sea of buildings stretches from Midtown to the Financial District. Some are labeled—MOMA, ABC, IBM, Sony—and some are identifiable by architecture alone—the Chrysler Building, Empire State Building, and World Trade Center, where my grandfather worked, many years ago.
Beyond Manhattan, a few landmarks represent the rest of the boroughs, such as Mets Stadium in Queens, Coney Island, and Lady Liberty. Even New Jersey is large enough to merit details like Hoboken, Jersey City, and the Hackensack River. But as the picture heads south, down the East Coast, other cities fade into insignificance. Sure, D.C. gets a small scribbling of the Capitol, and a miniature Mickey Mouse waves from Orlando, but the picture’s point of view is clear: to New York, the rest of the world is background noise.
This picture hung in my grandparents’ home for as long as I can remember, even after they moved to Florida. True New Yorkers, with relatives who came through Ellis Island, they were defined by their past. And they proudly announced it to all who entered their home.
Last year, at age 96, my grandfather finally agreed to move into an assisted living home. He had to downsize, and the picture didn’t make the cut. Images of his family were more important. So the picture moved in with me.
I always liked the picture for the details, the colorful buildings, and the attitude it portrayed. But once I brought it home, it became something much more than a clever view of Manhattan. It was a connection to my grandparents, a constant reminder of my past with them. It brought my heritage to life.
The décor of an office building can have the same power, if it captures the values of the company inside. I recently worked with a client that has a proud history of dedication to its customers. Service is not only the goal of the company, it’s the personal goal of each employee. And it brings meaning to mundane tasks, which ultimately means these tasks are performed with care and diligence. When you walk through this company’s building, the core values that define this goal are literally etched into the walls. You know immediately why this company was founded nearly 90 years ago—and what still gives it life today.
Celebrating heritage is more than noting anniversaries and marking milestones, though those things are important. It’s how connected your employees feel with their surroundings, and the way their building speaks to them. Employees who make these connections will be more dedicated to your company. While it may be all business in the boardroom, for the workforce, sometimes it helps to make it personal.