Understanding Workplace Disruption and How to Manage Change

17 Jan 2019

By Avinash Yalamanchili

understanding workplace disruption and how to manage change
This is the first article in our change management series, Managing Workplace Change.

How can we successfully implement change management in a constantly evolving workplace? This is a common question without a common answer.

At the heart of the matter is how to differentiate real change management versus the industry’s common understanding of change management as just a communications apparatus. Can standardized KPIS, processes and skill sets be adopted? And significantly, how can we deliver well-executed change management programs that will truly benefit a company, its real estate and its people?

These are straightforward questions. But they are questions that are rarely debated outside of the change management community. The need to broaden this dialogue is especially pressing, given that within the commercial real estate space, change management has become so entrenched we now consider it a commoditized platform. This shift has brought with it pluses and minuses for the change management discipline, but ultimately raises more questions on its definition and functionality in a workplace context.

Something which is not measured is never realized, the saying goes. The same thinking applies when analyzing the effectiveness of any given change management program, regardless of size and scope. But rarely does this measurement appear meaningfully or consistently.

So where do we currently stand? While positive for the broader real estate industry, the commoditization of change management has provided the solution with loose definitions – no one can argue this fact. The growth of the discipline has established varying benchmarks for what constitutes a robust change management program. This is particularly true as workplace strategies become more common across Asia Pacific and grouped as a wider spectrum of services.

6 Key Factors in Change Management

Where do go from here? Especially given that the currency placed on change management will only grow and ultimately, misconceptions about what constitutes a successful program have the potential to become more consistently inconsistent. The first key step is taking stock of what change management aims to accomplish in the workplace, the processes that all programs should consider and how to solidify program measurement.

In our view, the basis of any successful change management program, irrespective of size, scope and culture, can be defined by six core areas:

  • Change impact assessment
  • Stakeholder engagement
  • Change readiness assessment
  • Change agent network
  • Training and communication
  • Benefits realization.

What are the goals of these six core areas? Traditionally, they have been used to understand the impact, manage emotions, gauge staff readiness, achieve buy-in and ownership, enhance performance and sustain change of any given change management program. This is one starting point.

On the other side of the spectrum, there is the communications element. Let’s take a relocation for example.

Communications around a relocation will likely include move management, migration communications, logistical support, managing packers and movers. The objective is straightforward: to educate, to create awareness, to answer questions, to stay informed, to garner feedback and ensure a smooth relocation. All important considerations, but often we find that corporations tend to focus on the change aspect alone.

Concurrently, many view the communications aspect as the core of change management. In our view, both elements are essential and cannot exist as part of a successful change management structure without one another.

This misconception tells us many things. Primarily, what is needed is a more unified change management industry. How we get there is through an examination of the very sector we look to serve: the workplace.

Spectrum of Workplace Changes

As it currently stands, the workplace as we know it is being disrupted. And with disruption comes a whole new spectrum of workplace change management considerations when looking to better define and refine what we do and how we do it. Let’s unpack the current situation.

In recent change management experiences and projects, several more common triggers have emerged, which have forced providers to rethink and rejig existing change management programs.

Firstly, the focus on people will always be at the core of any workplace strategy, but how change management can maximize any transition is shifting. Whether clients are looking to grow or shrink headcounts or require more or fewer office spaces, they need options when it comes to a change management program.

Elsewhere, landlords are also influencing the needs of tenants when adapting to new change management processes. For example, we’re seeing landlords asking tenants to return some floors or office areas to optimize space. Equally, on the tenant side, many clients are now looking to optimize costs by moving staff from expensive office locations to cheaper sites. Also common is the reality of consolidating multiple offices into one single location to bring synergy and save costs.

Cultural and demographic change cannot be understated. The move from fixed seating to Activity Based Working (ABW) to enhance productivity, flexibility and collaboration can be a difficult hurdle to cross for many clients. Constantly evolving business and consumer requirements are also making the process of change more complex, underscoring the need for a more robust framework to govern change management services in commercial real estate.

Regulatory requirements are also a key consideration. Change management projects mean that Chinese walls often need to be set up and private screens must be installed, to ensure the non-adjacency of certain teams for the purpose of confidentiality.

Each of these types of workplace transformations requires different kinds of change management interventions. On the tactical side, the need for migration communications is key, but also standard. On the strategic side, is where the change management space really needs more consistency.

But as an industry, we clearly need to address the change management variance within Asia Pacific workplace programs. This is within our control. From our perspective, this means coming together as an industry. Discussing, debating and formulating a robust change management approach. Agreeing on methodology governing change management. And developing a consensus of the tools, templates, and innovative processes required to not only better define the very concept of change management in commercial real estate, but to gauge whether change management truly aligns with clients’ workplace goals.

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