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 and 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.


The business change journey

the business change journey
The business change journey

Over the past few years, I have had a lot of people ask me what is meant by the term ‘business change’ and why do they need it? Not being a subject matter expert myself, I thought who better to ask than my wife who a) is always right about stuff and b) just happens to be a business change expert. (Go on, have a nosy at her experience). This was written over 2 years ago, but is still relevant, because, guess what – she’s still always right!

She told me about travelling for one assignment – as she was going through security at JFK airport – she was asked to provide her job title and I’m sure many of us have had the same confused look she got from security when trying to explain her profession. (I’m a headhunter?!).

She defined her role as “managing the journey we might go through when moving from one way of working to another”. The security guard clarified it for her “like ice melting to water, moving from one state to a different one?” and actually this made a lot of sense (more sense than going into any further detail at that moment, for anyone who has ever been through US passport control!).

So, simply put, business change is moving from one way of working to another and it could be focusing on either a strategic, technological, process or organisational change (or a combination of the four).

Businesses spend millions of pounds on new technology, developing highly skilled programme teams to implement it and setting up new processes and ways of working to create supportive infrastructures. But in many cases adoption rates are low, new ways of working don’t work and businesses don’t get the return on investment they were hoping for. This can leave businesses wondering ‘what happened?’.

From experience, where businesses tend to fail, is thinking that the new way of working is the final destination for the project (this view is compounded by the fact that many businesses tend to remove project teams as soon as a change has been implemented with a view that things should just work as expected).

Any change, whether it is technological, organisational or even a minor process change, has to be embedded in those who are impacted, ensuring that they truly understand how their day to day working practices have/will change going forward. This is why business change is so important. It ensures the company – and not just the decision makers – moves to the new way of working.

“The role of a change expert will help stakeholders determine what the final destination actually looks like and then plot the journey to get there.”

A change expert will support stakeholders and sponsors in gaining answers to the following questions:

  • What does the proposed culture look like?
  • Will individuals be bought into the change?
  • What reluctance is expected and how can we manage that?
  • How do we expect employees to behave and what knowledge do we want them to have?
  • Do they see the benefits and are they on board with making it a success?
  • “What does good actually look like?”

A change expert will help plot the journey and how that journey will take place, make sure everyone’s informed of the destination, get everyone a passport and ensure the employees get there, whilst participating in the experience and supporting to achieve overall success.

To discuss further, you can email me on

You can view more about James Cumming our change and business transformation specialist here.