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