Rami Kaushal & Sumit Arora
Typical themes driving conversations between Corporate Real Estate Leads in India:
One recurring theme in these conversations has been the change in priorities & KPIs and its impact on RE decisions; a key element being the increasing focus on employee engagement and its perceived importance in successful transformation initiatives. The ‘People Factor’ is certainly gaining relevance across the RE landscape today, however, only a select few organizations are adopting the right processes of managing environment / workplace changes and its impact on staff.
This, at times, puts a question mark on proper implementation of change management principles at new set ups and makes us wonder whether the key constituents of the transformation cycle are being diluted to the extent that they end up losing their essence.
Misnomer vs The Real Change Factor
Research on ongoing workplace transformation projects has indicated that organizations that embark on structured change engagements have a higher propensity to outperform organizations that don’t. However, it’s extremely critical to drive the change process strategically and not just through tactical short-term interventions.
There are typically three types of changes, which characterize workplace initiatives:
- Change of location: Moving from one building or area to another (typically includes communications only)
- Functional change: Moving to a new workplace (includes communications on how to use the new environment)
- Transformational change: How the new workplace will improve efficiency, engagement & performance and how space is an active tool to enhance experience and work-related activities. This is more than communications. Here, we engage and understand an organization’s needs, challenges and methods to empower both the organization and its employees.
Ongoing client conversations have led us to believe that 80% of change management efforts continue to focus on top down communication programs, which aim at addressing relocation and functional environment changes. The real change factor – behavioral / transformational elements typically only receive 15-20% focus, often resulting in disengaged staff and diluted adherence to protocols at the workplace.
Another common misnomer about Change Management Programs is their perceived similarity to move management initiatives. Packing, moving, locker allocation and brief Day 1 communications about the new workplace are often treated as comprehensive change efforts - while they only constitute a small sub-set of the ideal change process. Something for organizations to think about !
Change management initiatives have typically been focusing on staff and leaders, however, the one critical stakeholder group that is often ignored is the support project team (CRE, IT, HR, Admin, Security, etc.) and the FM group that practically run the space. It’s not just about the users of the space, but also the space operators – those responsible for running and operating it! These folks need to be engaged and taken along this change journey as much as the core staff and leadership.
Now let’s talk about change messaging. Imagine that an organization is going through major leadership changes; its moving from a traditional closed workplace to an activity-based environment or relocating from the city to a peripheral office hub. Essentially, enough to create anxiety and apprehensions amongst staff groups. A classic case of a complex transition. It would be in the interest of this organization to drive the entire transition process in a phased manner, addressing not just the physical environment, but also emotions & aspirations across impacted groups. A strategy, which would tackle both push and pull engagement channels, utilized at the right behavioral stage of an impacted group’s mindset.
Sustaining and Making the Change Stick!
It is probably the most critical element ignored by majority of change management programs. Change Management is as much about pre-move support as it is about post-move sustenance. One of the most common issues faced by CRE & Business Leads today is not being able to sustain transformed behaviors and staff often reverting back to original state (though in the new physical environment).
Nevertheless, we have witnessed that an ongoing well-thought sustainment strategy with appropriate reinforcements & stakeholder engagement has often been able to overcome these hurdles.
The Way Forward?
Difficult to predict the kind of traction that the above thought process will generate on Change Management programs in the future. However, the one aspect that would increasingly drive these initiatives across organizations is the focus on personal experience beyond just the physical workspace – essentially, ‘the what’s in it for me factor?’. Any change program must respond to this – or be prepared to fail !