Buy-in issues with your workplace change? Maybe it’s your workplace model

There is no easy way to say this. Leaders who don’t have widespread buy-in to their workspace design and ways of working could be barking up the wrong tree. People resist and reject workplace models for a number of reasons. One of those reasons is that the workplace model being sold to them is shoddy. 

Your workplace potential could be huge: improved individual productivity, improved team collaboration opportunities, greater information flow across the business, reduced office footprint and/or consolidation of sites. However, it is difficult to achieve those outcomes if people don’t buy into the workplace change. 

A workplace transformation example

Working with a client a few months ago, I was drastically reminded of how fast the workplace goalposts are constantly shifting. This organisation was housed in an office environment created in the 1960s. The executive leadership team had decided on a workspace redesign.

My first tour of the building was a visceral taste of the siloed, transactional way of working the organisation wanted to leave behind – teams were housed in small, enclosed offices, separated from other teams by layers of doors – door after door after door. Finding the lunchroom was like walking through a rabbit warren. 

These workplace leaders recognised that the modern workplace is completely different to the workplaces of the 1960s, as are modern ways of working. It can be a challenge to stay current and relevant but to this executive team’s credit, they sought advice about how to establish a workplace that would suit their organisation now and for the future. 

This organisation did another thing well. They created opportunities to hear from their people about their current Workplace Experience and their ways of working and let those points of view inform their decision-making about their workspace redesign. We helped them by running an organisation-wide survey to understand sentiment on key points, a middle-manager leadership workshop and several executive workshops to help them arrive at their key decisions. 

All of this input and engagement allowed the leadership team to narrow down their workplace model to two choices that held the most promise to realise the organisational outcomes they desired – to realise their workplace potential. When they made a decision for their workplace model, it stuck. None of the executive team wanted to revisit it, the decision was not undermined and the programme team was able to get on with their program of work. 

What’s involved

Now you might be thinking, that’s all well and good but who has time to invest in a detailed process like that to make a decision that seems straightforward? Let me just say that this decision involves your three most expensive assets – your people, your buildings and your technology. And anything that involves a major change for your people is not straightforward. If you kid yourself that this is just a property decision, you will think it is straightforward. It is anything but

This is how you can arrive at the right workplace model for your organisation, one that can achieve widespread buy-in: 

  1. Make sure your workplace model does not suck. Run leaders workshops, surveys and focus groups to ensure that you know the actual state of play. Where is your workplace satisfaction at? How stressed are your people? What is the source of their stress? 
  2. Consider your possible workplace models from all angles. Don’t be blinded by the potential to have a shiny, gorgeous new office. Consider the potential downsides, the resourcing required, the risks associated with the implementation, the likelihood that you will establish alignment with ways of working and well this workplace model will support your organisation under the most likely future scenarios.
  3. Don’t let the blind lead the blind. If you aren’t seeking specialist advice outside your organisation, you’re already taking great risks with your workplace model. Building a new workplace model is a specialist skill. You will need specialist Workplace Strategy, IT, Architecture and Change Management. This is an established discipline that can’t be done within BAU. 

The first cab off the rank in a successful workplace change is ensuring that your workplace model is actually, believably, right for your organisation. If the change is not valid, people will smell it a mile away and you will have a hard time achieving buy-in. Make sure you choose a workplace model that suits your organisation’s ways of working and makes sense to help you realise your workplace potential. If you would like to find out more about what this involves, schedule an Information Call today to find out more.

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