Workplace transformation – how to setup for success

I recently caught up with Change and Transformation consultant, Janey Thomas.

We discussed how businesses might adapt as people return to work and Janey’s experience of managing the change workstream for Deloitte’s Workplace transformation programme. Here are her thoughts on how to setup for success.


Workplace transformation – setting up for success


If I’d been asked to share my ‘change top tips’ for a successful workplace transformation three months ago, how different would they have been?


Three months ago, a ‘normal’ workplace was very different. While many organisations embraced home working and some more aspirational organisations had transformed the way they worked through their physical environments, this wasn’t by any means the norm.


But since the end of March 2020, most people across the UK have shifted to working from home and the reality is that there isn’t any urgency to return to a physical space as health and safety challenges remain. And nor should there be.


Entire industries now question quite rightly whether their old ways of working serve them post-Covid-19 and into the future. But against what ‘new normal’? The fact is ‘normal’ no longer exists. COVID-19 has provided the ultimate lesson in the constant unpredictability of our world.


Rather than trying to achieve the impossible task of predicting the future, organisations should instead focus on building adaptability and flexibility into their workplace (behavioural, physical and technological) environments. Return-to-workplace strategies and basic decisions about how many spaces to open and how to open them should be planned very carefully. Workplace transformation is no longer only for aspirational organisations – it is essential for every organisation.


So, what workplace transformation ‘change top tips’ would I promote today?


  1. Lead from the top. More so than ever, leaders must fully and authentically support and coach their people through any workplace transformation. They shouldn’t underestimate the current volume and impact of change on their teams, and it will keep rising, necessitating them to focus on building resilience in their teams. Successful transformation not only requires an inspiring and honest change story (the why) and vision (the what) of the unclear future from leaders but a certainty of process, with clear, simple steps and timetables.
  2. Provide a sense of safety and security – a human need and the foundation of adaptability. Many people have recently experienced a sudden drop in job security, increasing stress, workloads and the inability to ‘carry on’. Losing the security of physically working with colleagues adds another layer of stress for many. To stop people relying on ownership of their environment, actively create and sustain their connection to the organisation through other inherent activities which maintain a foundation of trust and belonging.
  3. Give flexibility and choice in where and how people work. This is more important than ever. Change interferes with autonomy and can make people feel that they’ve lost control over their territory. Smart leaders leave room for those affected by change to make choices and involve them in planning, giving them ownership. They’ll not only be equipped to be higher performing; crucially they’re more adaptive to future disruption.


What next?

Is there anything new here? No, but the priorities are highlighted against the backdrop of the unchartered volume and flexibility of change that people are already experiencing as a result of the COVID-19 disruption. There is however a huge opportunity for positive change ahead of us. I have often found that organisations struggle with defining a clear and compelling change story and vision that engages people to want to embark on change and be part of it – the ‘burning platform’ ie. Why jump now? If ever there was a more compelling reason for workplace change it has to be now. ‘Let’s embrace this opportunity.


Janey Thomas is a highly experienced people change and transformation consultant with a strong track record of supporting global blue-chip organisations, including Deloitte, Heathrow airport, Eurostar and SABMiller on a variety of culture, workplace and business strategy change programmes. Some of her most recent experience includes nearly 3 years managing the change workstream for Deloitte’s North West European HQ transformation programme in London, 1 New Street Square.



James Cumming is our Interim and Transformation Search specialist. Please get in contact with him directly to discuss any of these topics further.


Can I become an Interim?

Our Managing Director, James Cumming, discussing how you can start and build an interim career.


Many people come to me and ask me, can I become an interim?

Becoming an interim isn’t as easy as people think. They think that their friends have done it, their colleagues may have done it – they see people around them going into it. But it isn’t always the answer they’re looking for in their career. Being an interim is really tough. It’s a challenging role, you’re always having to deliver quickly. It’s not a consistent job opportunity where you know you’re going to be paid every month. You can have a period of time when you’re not working. And actually, people find it really challenging not to be part of a team.


What do you need to think about?

So I think people need to think long and hard if an interim career is the right career move for them. I think some of the key things you need to think about are- what is your skillset? Is it the sort of thing a company might buy in to use? Why would they use that skill set? And is it rare enough in the market to demand a premium? Because if it’ not, why would they use you? Why wouldn’t they use someone else or an internal resource?



The most challenging part of becoming an interim is building a network. Most people in permanent jobs don’t have a network, especially if you work for a company for a longer period of time. So where are you going to get work from? Yes, you can go to a recruitment agency, but recruitment agencies have lots of people on their books and they can only fill a certain amount of roles per year. You can apply for roles, but most companies don’t have interim roles advertised on their website. How are you going to get a role 100% of the time when there are limited resources to enable you to get one. You need to think about it more holistically, as a business opportunity and not just as a short term fix because you’re not in work. They’re two separate things. Especially with IR35 coming in this year, people need to think long and hard about is it a job you’re going into (as an interim) or is it something bespoke and niche that clients can buy in as a service.


The three most important things to think about if you’re thinking of becoming an interim are:


  • Speak to people alreay in the interim market, to get their opinion on whether you can be an interim or not
  • Think about if your skillset is required, is it niche enough and ar businesses looking to bring it in
  • Can you build a network orleverage people you’ve worked with before


James Cumming is our MD and leads our HR practice. He has recruited senior HR professionals for over 15 years and has experience in finding niche HR talent. Connect with him on LinkedIn here.

If you would like to find out more about re:find and how we can support you and your business, then please get in touch.

Restructuring? You must take an ethical approach during this crisis

On a daily basis I speak to C suite leaders of large corporates. It doesn’t take a data scientist to get that with the government’s furlough scheme soon coming to an end, there is a significant amount of restructuring about to happen.

It will be interesting to see how large businesses react. I hope that businesses will take in to account that this time is different than normal, people have long memories and will remember those that do the right thing and those that don’t.

You can already see from the negative press that a certain airline entrepreneur has had, that this isn’t the same as before.

Business leaders should heed Warren Buffett’s advice “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.”

In a typical recession, cuts are broad and indiscriminate, this time (from the conversations I have been having), it seems that companies are taking a more nuanced approach.

There are 3 key themes that come up time and time again:


Companies are mindful of the reputational damage associated with how they act during this crisis

Staff are often a significant part of a company’s P&L and are one of the quickest ways to reduce cost. During most recessions, mass redundancies are one of the first things that happen.

Government intervention has paused this for a lot of companies but it hasn’t gone away. Companies need to be mindful of the reasons why they might make redundancies.

If it’s because your levels of business have dropped and you are facing a liquidity crisis – people will understand.

If it’s because the CEO needs to keep profits up to keep the share price stable (and to get a bigger bonus), people will remember this for some time to come and it will have a negative long term impact on business reputation and ultimately performance.


Employees have realised how to get stuff done quickly (and have generally delivered it well)

Business leaders seem surprised at how easily people in operations have delivered things. Actually getting on and doing the job they are paid for… Who would have thought?!

It won’t come as a surprise, that given UK PLCs productivity challenge, that many companies are now reviewing their management structures with a view of having the right business people in the most effective roles.

In my view there is going to be a significant need for organisation design, change professionals and management consultancies to help businesses come out of this crisis in the right shape.

The common themes are to work out the most efficient structures, to define what job roles the organisation might need in a future state and to ensure that technology is adopted.


Communication and engagement has never been so important

Transparency is going to be key as we come out of this.

If your company is in trouble, I would suggest telling people the truth. People are well aware of the magnitude of what is going on around them, they might not like some of the business decisions that are made but they won’t appreciate being lied to.

Honesty brings people together around a shared cause or purpose. The more engaged and knowledgable people feel, the better their ability to understand and support decisions being made.

Remember, a few months ago that ‘Talent’ was in short supply and although the fundamentals may have changed in the short term. People will remember how their leaders have acted and how they have made them feel during a crisis. The best people will leave when things get better if they haven’t been treated in the right way.


Thinking of hiring an interim executive? You need to get it right! Discover the 8 step process you should follow, by downloading our free eBook here.

James Cumming is our Interim and Transformation Search specialist. Please get in contact with him directly to discuss any of these topics further.

So, what’s with all the cow puns?

So what the hell do cows (and cow puns!) have to do with recruitment? I often get asked what the deal is with re:find and cows – you may have been wanting to ask yourself if you’ve ever visited our website.

Well, unbeknown to most people, my family are Scottish dairy farmers! My family continue to run a few farms up on the West Coast. So, you could say it’s in the blood. But even though working in recruitment is a far cry from the fields of Scotland, I’ve never fully left behind my admiration for these fantastic animals.

Even my favourite artist is cow-themed…a lady called Caroline Shotton, you can check out her work here.

So, hopefully, that explains all the cows.

To discuss anything recruitment or cow-related you can email me at

James Cumming is our MD, Interim and Transformation Search specialist. If you’ve got a hard-to-fill role and need some help, get in touch. Connect with him on LinkedIn.