An office move is more than a physical relocation: it is an opportunity, and often a catalyst for a potential business transformation.
If a workspace is designed with the business’s strategy and it’s people in mind, and the process is managed effectively, the workplace becomes a driver of performance.
To understand how businesses can fully harness this opportunity, we spoke to our Strategic Operations Director, Ben Lonsdale.
Two years ago, Ben joined us from the glitz and glamour of KPMG’s business advisory.
At KPMG, Ben was part of a specialist team whose role it was to support ambitious leaders and improve business performance. The team focussed on driving growth, improving profitability and unlocking value for clients. At Oktra, Ben continues to help clients achieve their strategic objectives by enabling them to capitalise on one of their biggest (and often misunderstood) assets – the workplace.
“It might come as a surprise, but the worlds of business consultancy and office design are inextricably linked. Workplace design plays a fundamental role in supporting businesses achieve their strategic goals by enabling a company’s people, processes and technology to work better together; unlocking the true potential of the operating model.” Ben Lonsdale, Strategic Operations Director.
An office move creates a brilliant opportunity for business transformation. And, the good news is, there’s a huge amount companies can do without having to engage the services of a costly management consultancy firm.
1. Align your workplace design with the company’s business strategy and operating model.
In his 1962 thesis, business historian Alfred Chandler suggested that successful companies evolve their organisational structures based on their strategy.
Today, this holds true. But evolving your organisational structure is often easier said than done. For example, 2019 has seen a general shift towards agile work practices – but how do you really enable and encourage your employees to work in a more agile way? Well, office design is a great place to start.
The workplace is an often overlooked strategic enabler, and an office relocation provides a unique opportunity to create a space that aligns with your business’s goals.
Recently, Photobox Group approached us to design their new headquarters in the historic Herbal House. The move was part of a wider strategy to transform Photobox’s company culture and become more outcome-focussed. Jody Ford, the previous CEO of Photobox, commented; “We really thought about the design of our workplace so it fitted in with the new squad model. We’ve gone from these siloed departments to having squads, where there’s one person from each team working together, so we needed a new physical location that suited the new working structure. It’s been a big upgrade which gives space for the way we want to operate.”
2. Put your people and your clients at the centre of the design.
A company’s people and clients are fundamental to its success. Designing a workplace with these two groups in mind can have a huge impact on your business and its profitability.
In our Annual Workplace Report, 85% of employees in the UK agreed that visitors and clients make a judgement of a business based on the quality of its workplace. In the same survey, 79% of employees agreed they would be more inclined to covet a position at a company with a well-designed workplace. Clearly, putting your employees at the centre of your design can help attract and retain top talent. It can also help businesses create a positive company culture, improve employee wellbeing and increase productivity.
We recently designed and built a new workplace for Utilize, a leading technology provider in the South East of England. The brief: to put their people at the centre of the design and bring their company culture to life. Already, Utilize’s Group Operations Director, Andy Portlock, has noticed that “the new space is breaking down barriers between departments and encouraging meaningful conversations in a way that is physically tangible – morale has never been higher.”
But how do you achieve this? Well, keep your employees and clients actively involved in the process, carry out surveys to understand what they really want from the space and hold meetings to discuss the move. These processes will ensure your users stay at the forefront of your mind during the design process – enabling you to create a workspace that really works for them.
3. Understand the rational, political and emotional responses triggered by change.
Today, the ability to respond rapidly to change is fundamental to business success. However, the size and complexity of change relating to an office move can trigger a range of rational, political and emotional responses.
Rationally and politically, people want to know the long and short-term benefits to change. Providing a well-rounded view, and using qualitative metrics to support your point, will ensure the benefits are felt throughout the organisation. Be aware that benefits to change are often felt after the process has taken place. To ensure key stakeholders are on board from the beginning, understand what drives them politically – and align the benefits with their agendas.
Take time to understand the emotions triggered by change. Yes, change creates opportunity for growth, innovation and creativity, but it can also trigger fear and anxiety. Some may worry that a restructure may affect the company’s performance or their position, so be wary of how your team is feeling throughout the process. Since different emotions require different responses, emotions cannot be managed ‘en masse’. Be understanding of other people’s perspectives, make sure the process is transparent and fair, provide relevant training, hold meetings, answer questions, and explain what is expected in the new space.
4. Manage business transformation, workplace transformation and change management as one integrated programme.
Change does not happen in isolation – it impacts the whole organisation and everyone in it. As such, business transformation, workplace transformation and change management should be treated as one integrated programme, not in siloed work streams. This will ensure businesses have better control over the process, reduce performance disruption and speed up performance recovery.
1. Create a sense of urgency – for change to happen, the whole company needs to be on board. To get to this point, ensure there is a clear reason for change and create a sense of urgency around it.
2. Have a core group lead the process – having a core group, aligned around the direction of change, will streamline the process. Identify those who will be involved in specific areas of change, and work together to create and communicate your vision.
3. Overcome any obstacles – there will, unavoidably, be obstacles to change. Is anyone resisting change? And are there processes or structures getting in its way? Have the core group work together to overcome and remove any challenges.
4. Create short-term goals – if people are reluctant to change, it can help to create short-term, tangible goals. Success is a great motivator. If people start to see benefits, they’ll soon be championing change.
5. Build-on and sustain transformation – while it is important to periodically re-evaluate your strategy, having the fortitude to persevere and continually push things forward is key to successful business transformation.
Business transformation requires companies to think big, and few organisations achieve their original goal. In the words of Deloitte: “It’s not enough to win today. You have to be able to continue to evolve in the future”.
The alignment of the workplace with the business’s goals and objectives is essential for business transformation and success.