Help Staff Embrace the Evolution of their Workspace

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By Jenny Bengeult, Design Manager
(Originally published on

Tips for effective change management in a culturally shifting workplace.

Communicating change to staff in a positive way can be difficult, even daunting. But helping staff to understand and embrace an evolving workplace, specifically the design-build changes you may envision for a branch or flagship office, cannot be hit-or-miss. It’s essential to craft a comprehensive communications plan to address a variety of staff needs at varying times in the building cycle.

Be diligent and proactive:

  • Communicate to staff early.
  • Give everyone a voice (not just managers).
  • Take the time to survey staff needs, likes, and dislikes.
  • Be upfront. Explain the reasons for the evolution of their workspace.
  • Share the big picture.
  • Focus on the positive outcomes, turn the negative into a positive (i.e. improved productivity, member service, and retention).
  • Present a timetable on the changes before they occur and refine throughout the process.

Why consider staff in your design-build plans?
Staff buy-in makes the likelihood of success much greater and gives you an edge in the war for talent. Like every generation, the next one views things differently. Millennials are currently entering the workforce in droves, and, by 2020, expected to comprise 50 percent of our country’s workforce. Gone are the days of closed doors for this generation. They’re seeking open, collaborative workspaces, urban influences, and green design. There’s no doubt their preferences are driving today’s design-build techniques. So the stakes are high in communicating your vision.

Along with effective communication, Millennials are changing the way businesses approach their building needs. Plan for today’s generation. See our list of what Millennials want from their workspace.

What Millennials want from their workspace:

  1. Less hierarchy
  2. Open, fun and often renovated space in urban areas
  3. Balanced workspaces and fewer barriers
  4. More ‘we/me’ spaces for collaboration
  5. More natural light
  6. Good indoor air quality
  7. Broader range of employee amenities (break room, workout facilities, quiet rooms)
  8. Access to outdoor spaces
  9. Technology built into the workspace seamlessly

What’s important to communicate?
This may be the most critical step in formulating your strategy. Knowing the needs and expectations of your staff will help you to share the information relevant to them.

  • Conduct pre- and post-occupancy surveys. It’s just as important to gather results after the fact (three, six or even 12 months after project completion).
  • Consider outside influencers. For example, find the places your team identifies with or the brands they like.
  • Identify ‘me’ (individual) vs. ‘we’ (company) benefits. This step will help you to bridge the gap between expectations and realities.
  • Take extra time to collaborate with call center and branch employees when determining needs.

How do I communicate change?

Be thoughtful, listen, and bring staff into the design-build process early. Embrace their ideas, and communicate the changes honestly. You can hire a change-management company or look to your design-build firm for guidance. The firm you choose should understand unique market conditions and provide research on shifting employee patterns and needs. These shifts can include cultural influencers or community trends.

When explaining change management to clients, I stress the importance of communicating change and the consequences of not doing so. I also quote performance strategist, Glenn Llopis: “Without strategy, change is merely substitution not evolution.” Obviously, substitution alone isn’t what a progressive organization seeks. Nor does it want the pitfalls of not communicating change effectively, such as:

  • Loss of productivity
  • Turnover
  • Loss of information
  • Confusion

A solid communications strategy will engage your staff and divulge information that is relevant and timely for their needs. It will also be upfront in how the changes impact staff personally, relayed as a positive. Finally, it will stress the benefits of change to both the CU and employee.

Recommended reading: Glenn Llopis, “5 Most Effective Ways to Sell Change” Forbes Online Leadership Blog, November 2012.

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