The Great Workplace Experiment: it’s time to reframe, refocus and reanalyse
3rd July 2022
MovePlan recently held its third Workplace Experiment roundtable, with participants from across the technology, healthcare and automotive sectors. The organisations in attendance ranged from those with headcounts of 1,000 employees, to nearly 80,000 and those attending had director roles looking after real estate and workplace design strategy and experience.
Our regional director for the US’s west coast and APAC, Vanessa Manipon, welcomed guests and a lively discussion took place around the implementation of workplace strategy. The main insights and learnings from the session were as follows:
- It’s time to expand thinking beyond the term “hybrid” and make broader considerations that impact our people and business
- The workplace has a significant impact on corporate culture. It is imperative to align initiatives and leadership to promote the best culture
- There has been an evolution of traditional office usage paradigms – towards meaningful interactions and intentional use that enhances utilization
- Organizations must adopt an experimental mindset if they want to successfully implement an innovative workplace strategy
- The workplace conversation is bridging organizational silos. It is now best practice for Operations/Facilities, Human Resources, and IT to align and work together to provide the best workplace solution
- Finally, of critical value to all organizations going forward is data. Multiple data points must be gathered to inform the best direction for the company and employees alike
We take a closer look at these below.
Time to rethink the use of the term “hybrid”
The term “hybrid” has fast become too broad and unspecific. As we ease further out of the pandemic, businesses must modernise at ever greater speeds. To do so, they must bid farewell to the term in its conventional form. Instead, focus must be on modernising the way the workplace is viewed and consider how it enables its employees to interact meaningfully by providing aces, services, and tools that allow for intentional use. This will support employee connection and enhance utilization, adding more value to the employee experience. This led the discussion nicely onto the notion of culture in the modernisation of the workplace.
Culture is complex
The culture of a business is not just determined by the physical ways in which people work within the office. Taking this further, in the post-pandemic world, senior management can no longer simply or legitimately state that culture is about everyone “working better together”.
This was asserted by one of our participants: “The last two years have shown that the majority of businesses performed as productively as before the pandemic when everyone was in the office”.
In essence, culture is about more than being in one place – and it was asked whether it is still necessary to ask staff what days they want to work from the office. “The question they should be asking is what employees want to do and what they need in order to achieve their working goals.”
By allowing people the choice of how and when they use a workspace, and viewing the modern workplace as an intentional space to do intentional work, businesses will reap the most value from their employees. “Purposeful interactions will grow and prosper regardless of where employees are situated at any given moment.”
Aligned business functions
It was also revealed that the companies our attendees worked for had begun to align and connect three previously siloed departments: IT, HR and Operations/Facilities. While HR has historically managed the relationship with the employees and acted as a conduit of insight and requirements across other business functions, the alignment with IT has gradually increased over the years. The addition of Facilities to this business function trilogy is a consequence of the pandemic, and one that is proving inspired; necessitating decisions around property footprint and usage to facilitate shared ways of working and driving employee experience.
This new mindset is seeing material impact within organizations. “Aligning the people team (HR) is creating a culture of new thinking, with teams, including IT and facilities, focused more on people experience”, stated one of our attendees. “We’re finding that the real estate teams in particular are no longer focusing on core property and facilities management. Instead it is focused on the business of people.”
The alignment of facilities to drive the culture of a company, and the technology requirements, results in a robust intersection that will only seek to drive value and impact, most importantly around the retention of employees. We expect to see more adoption of this organisational restructure across businesses and sectors as more companies see the value of these three strategic teams working together for the overall success of delivering a modern, intentional workplace.
Data remains king
Finally, the session’s participants unanimously agreed that the most important thing for every workplace strategy is data; and most notably the need to capture the right data, at the right time from the right sources. To do this, organizations must determine its requirements for capturing and analysing it depending on need, sophistication and where the organization is in its journey.
What this means in practice is that all departments must quickly scale its technology to capture data from all sources to make informed decisions on strategy – with the overarching objective to enhance the employee experience. Investment is required in both new and existing technologies, as well as in teams to analyse the data and develop it into workable insight. As one of our attendees noted: “Where the last decade has seen a consensus that all companies must become a tech company, now every team must become a tech team.”
However, it isn’t just about investing in new technologies. Yes, a broader view must be taken on how and where data capture takes place, but also in terms of the type of data to capture. This will require consideration on whether data sensors are needed to track physical presence, or insights that enable understanding of employees’s behaviors and attitudes towards their working life – or both. Once determined, this will then inform when, how and why people are interacting with remote and physical environments, thus leading to better strategic decisions.
Ultimately, every organization must adopt a data first approach. This will be driven by the new and strategically aligned departments (HR, IT and Operations/Facilities) to connect to business needs, align solutions, capture and analyse data to drive commercial goals.
Bringing the session to a close, and considering all that was discussed, it was clear that all decisions and activities to modernise the workplace are driven by the need to retain talent, and this will remain the ultimate goal for all businesses. This does not mean placing the workspace at the heart of decision making; instead it is about placing people at the heart. “People are complex beings, with complex needs. One workspace will not solve it for everyone” summed up one attendee.
The new modern workplace must embrace flexibility in the way space is used and through the adoption of technology and strategic use of data to support remote connections and intentional workplace interactions. Furthermore, decision makers must adopt an open mindset and consider new solutions to support the spectrum of needs across the employee experience (i.e. the balance of work and personal lives; how people move and work anywhere).
To facilitate this, more and more training must be undertaken by all levels, but mainly by senior leaders, in developing deeper emotional intelligence (EQ). The more decision makers understand the nuances of its employees and their needs, the more that strategic decisions and activities will benefit not only the goal of retaining and attracting talent, but also commercial outcomes.
Concluding, one attendee summed up: “It’s about viewing the workplace differently and taking novel approaches to modernisation that allows employees to work with purpose and intention.”