Having a new work method and a fresh office design sounds wonderful doesn't it? Here on the turnstone blog we often discuss ideas for improving productivity, designing for collaboration, or improving your brand's image throughout your space. But we may have overlooked the most important topic, which can either make your amazing changes sink or swim: Change Management.
The definition of changes is defined as being "an approach to transitioning individuals, teams, and organizations to a desired future state" whose goal "is to maximize the benefits and minimize the negative impacts of those effected." Usually, it seems that organizations remember the definition and forget the goal, especially the part of minimizing negative impacts.
One common workplace change I see is that of the move from private offices to cubicles. This change is often sold to employees as being important for improving workplace collaboration, when in reality its goal is to reduce the overall real estate footprint of a company. Neither of those reasons are bad, but change experts agree that being upfront with employees will help the process go more smoothly.
Tips for Preparing Employees For Change
Ket Malkoski, a Workplace Research Psychologist explains in a recent article that in order for workplace change to happen successfully, employees need to be ready for it. She believes that the following five items are important markers for their readiness:
- Employees must believe that change has benefits, and a belief that change is needed and will improve effectiveness.
- Employees must believe that the proposed change is an appropriate response to a situation.
- Employees must believe the change is actually capable of happening.
- Employees must believe that their organisation will provide tangible support for change in the form of resources and information.
Practical Open Office Change Management
While thinking about change management is a great start, it is important to think about it practically. For instance, lets imagine a company that is planning a transition from private offices to an open plan using Turnstone's Bivi System.
Make the Case – the first step in an change management program is to explain why the change needs to happen. In our scenario, it would be important to explain why changing to an open plan layout will not only improve company processes, but enable employee work conditions to improve. Because Bivi put employees closer to one another, it can be a big boost in team-based efforts. And of course, with less square footage used by each employee, lease dollars can be saved. Many large companies like Microsoft, Eneco, and Credit Suisse are undergoing this process.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate – Of all the items I've read, communication seems to be where 90% of change management programs fail. Employees should be included in the process so they know what the actual changes are going to be which affect them. In our transition to Bivi, one idea would be to bring in a sample team workstation and allow employees to try it out and offer feedback.
Allow Choice and Upgrade! - There is nothing worse than being told what to do and if you're anything like me you'll immediately want to rebel. In your change management plan, allow employees to have some choice in customizing their workstation. Perhaps make your office a chair democracy. Other ways to allow employees choices to be met would be to give areas in a team work area that can be customized like walls and shelves.
In your change, don't simply present what might seem like a "downgrade", also include upgrades. If employees really liked privacy, create some phonebooth areas nearby their new stations where private calls can be made. Upgrade their pantry area to include more choices or better coffee. Give employees that are now in an open area great headphones.
Pilot and Test – Now that you've basically got your idea and plan in place, you should test it on a small scale before implementing it company-wide. By testing Bivi out on several teams, you might find that certain types of workers need more storage, more lighting, or additional monitors. Finding these things out early will help the entire rollout happen more smoothly.
- Adapt and Evolve – Once You've rolled the project out fully, you should be asking employees for feedback, collecting more data, and just generally improving the new Bivi-filled workspaces so that the change will not only be successful in changing, but successful for the future. I've called this process Iterative Office Design.
While I like to think I'm an expert in all things office design, if you're serious about Change Management, you should look for help. Here are some resources I found to be helpful in researching:
- Opening Minds to Open Offices
- Overcoming Resistance to Workplace Change with Employee Participation
- Diverse Personalities and the Workplaces that Support Them
- Turnstone's Knowledge Center
- Steelcase's Workplace Consulting