25 Aug 2017

Office moves, big change and corporate culture

Commissioned by the BCO and prepared by KKS Strategy, the report called'Corporate Culture: How Office Moves and Office Consolidations can Create Cultural Change' looks at the impact of workspace design and company leadership. Businesses are thinking more carefully about how to manage internal change in the face of profound external change, to protect their most important asset – their people.

In part due to the geopolitical climate, we’re likely to see some profound changes to how companies worldwide operate over the next few years. A number of banks and financial institutions are set to move staff from London to bolster their European operations post Brexit. Technology is also increasingly changing the shape of work, with artificial intelligence holding the potential to alter the shape of our jobs, automating simpler tasks to give people space to think more creatively.

As businesses evolve and change with the times, so too does the workplace. This may involve moving to a new office, altering the layout of an existing one to accommodate growth or a merger, or changing how and where a business operates to meet differing industry standards. We’re also becoming increasingly aware of the role a workplace can play in the well-being and productivity of employees. As such, businesses will need to think carefully about how to manage internal change in the face of profound external change, to protect their most important asset – their people.

Human Resources can, and should, play an important role in this. There is a commonly held misconception that HR is a back-office function. Often, however, HR is a bridge between the commerciality of an organisation and its workforce, and is therefore well placed to help organisations manage workplace change. A recent report from The British Council for Offices (BCO), Corporate Culture – How office moves and consolidations can create cultural change, suggests some key ways HR can be used to do this:

Be involved

Often, HR personnel find themselves brought in to a programme of change at a late stage, with no chance to make a positive input to the process. They’re forced to implement a programme that they may have fundamental reservations about.

Bringing HR in early means that they can use their insights into the organisation to make valuable input, and that they are more likely to feel comfortable with the changes they will be helping to enact.

Be consistent

HR is in a unique position to support the cultural change throughout all stages of the employee life cycle, through recruitment, orientation, appraisals, reward and recognition practices. It has the means to ensure that the desired office culture is reinforced.

For example, if the goal is to engender a collegiate and team-oriented culture, the reward and recognition structures should not be solely focused on the individual. Often, cultural change initiatives fail because there are fundamental contradictions in the behaviour that is sought
and the behaviour that is rewarded.

Be open

Communication with staff is vital to ensure that they have the information they need to feel secure in their position in the wake of upcoming organisational change, with a view to preventing high levels of attrition. The HR department, which often discusses pastoral issues with staff, is a natural choice to facilitate communicating this information.

The thoughts and input of workers throughout the change process should also be gathered, so that the workforce feels engaged and listened to. Focus groups are a tried-and-tested method to achieve this, but HR professionals also have the opportunity to provide an informal ear to concerned workers outside of formal feedback sessions. Throughout, it is important that HR personnel are managing expectations as to the impact this feedback will have, to ensure that trust isn’t lost if staff suggestions aren’t carried out.

Be aware

The HR department can also be used to monitor the success of organisational change. It has access to data such as absences due to sickness, which can be used to understand levels of staff happiness or stress.

As well as this, HR often acts as the cultural thermometer of a company, given its frequent contact with employees daily. Even without needing to look at data, HR should be able to provide useful insights into the success of an organisational change.

Indeed, the best measurement of successful organisational change is a positive and strong corporate culture. It’s difficult to define, but enhances an organisation’s performance and pervades all aspects of the business. A weakened or toxic corporate culture, impacted by poor change management, may result in a failure to meet commercial goals.

For this reason, companies across the globe need to think seriously about how best to make use of HR next time they undergo any kind of workplace change, be it in response to growth or downsizing, a merger or a relocation. By doing this, businesses can create a working environment that not only can survive unanticipated events and crises, but make the most out of today’s frequent and disruptive accelerating challenges.

-Katrina Kostic Samen, Managing Partner at KKS Strategy, and the Senior Vice President of the BCO.

Access the BCO research page to download the report to find out more on corporate culture. 

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