Last month, I participated on a workplace conference panel to discuss change management and workplace transformation. At The Clearing, we believe change management is a necessary component of successfully undergoing workplace initiatives, but at the conference, it became apparent that this is still a relatively new concept.
“Wait, this is a service?” and “How does that work?” were questions that needed to be discussed before my fellow panelists and I could get into the specifics. Reflecting on the experience, I realized that despite how essential I believe effective change management is to organizational culture during a workplace transformation, it’s a topic that still needs a fair amount of awareness brought to it.
So let’s back up a bit: it will come as no surprise that change, in general, is hard. Most human beings do not care for it; more often than not, we fear and resist it. Whether approaching a new strategy, implementing new technology resources, or undergoing an office move or renovation, many strategic approaches do not consider human behavior as the key element to a successful organizational transformation. A workplace change can encompass something as small as ordering new furniture, to something as significant as a complete relocation. And lately, a much-discussed topic is the increasing trend of moving from a closed office environment to one that is more open and collaborative.
Workplace change isn’t just about aesthetics; it’s shifting the behaviors that you tolerate and don’t tolerate; it impacts your entire culture – what your employees live and breathe every day. Project planners have timelines, architects have drawings, designers have fixtures, financiers have the budget, but who owns the social complexity of collectively bringing your employees with you along the way? This is where workplace change management comes into play.
My firm has a team of workplace experts. These folks work alongside the organization contemplating or in process of a workplace change, project planners, designers, and architects to set the organization up for success by enrolling the workforce into the effort through workplace expertise and project management efforts. “Why put such a focus in enrolling the staff?” you may ask. In our experience, without intentional communication and change management, there is high risk that the change might create an emotionally tense atmosphere for the workforce leading to a negative culture, resistance, unproductivity, and turnover. The most successful workplace transformations create highly adaptive environments suitable for an organization’s current functions, while being flexible for growth and allowing for learning and collaboration.
We approach change management for organizations by asking critical questions about the current state of their workplace, with a focus on four key categories: space, people, technology, and process. Simple questions like “What’s working?”, “What’s not working?”, and “What resources and tools could enable an even better workplace?” lay the foundation for each category. From there, we can begin working to develop the organization’s desired future state. Senior leadership has a key role to play in determining this vision for the transformation and creating a case for change to gain buy-in from their teams. Sometimes the hardest question isn’t “How are we going to achieve success?” but “What happens if we don’t make this change?” By engaging all levels of the workforce, the results are most effective as the organization as a whole yields significant returns with respect to morale, retention, and innovation.
Here’s the how: the actual implementation lies in the middle of those four key categories. Through change management, communications, and training, the project can move forward toward its vision. Change management drives the culture shift to adopt new behaviors while minimizing disruption through engagement efforts. Regular communication keeps everyone informed at an appropriate level throughout the lifecycle of the project. Training and outfitting efforts accustom employees to the new ways of working ahead of time, making the shift easier when it’s time to settle into the new space.
The approach we take acknowledges reality—your employees are extremely busy and have no extra time for concern about their physical space and any changes that may be made to how they do their work—while also recognizing that to maintain efficiency, the organization collectively needs to adapt to these new ways of working now. To learn more about how we can help enroll your workforce in workplace transformation, please reach out to me.