Change Management in the Workplace

Andrea Shook
Faithful+Gould’s Workplace Solutions service helps clients prepare their employees for workplace transformation.

Property is the second highest operating cost for most businesses, second only to payroll. Organizations with large real estate portfolios may be aware of the excess costs that result from a mismatch of property as a result of legacy mergers and acquisitions. What they may not know is that even real estate assets that are strategically located are generally not being used at peak efficiency. According to studies, anywhere from 20-25% of employees work outside the office at any given time, representing a large unnecessary operating expense.

Faithful+Gould’s Workplace Solutions service helps businesses reduce their real estate expenses while maximizing their investment in their people.

Faithful+Gould’s Workplace Solutions service helps businesses reduce their real estate expenses while maximizing their investment in their people. In many cases this involves the change to a working environment without dedicated office space or physical barriers between employees. This layout commonly features an open floor plan with shared office space for all employees and a range of meeting and social areas. Our clients have found that this layout promotes collaboration, speeds decision-making and boosts overall productivity.

Forward-thinking companies that opt to move to this environment, however, are challenged to overcome employees’ initial skepticism. It’s our nature to resist change, and this is never truer than when corporate culture shifts and employees find themselves in the middle of a workplace and business transformation. 

For this reason, our Workplace Solutions service line goes beyond the “bricks and mortar” of changing the physical location and actively works with clients to help change the way they view the office environment. We develop a comprehensive business change management program based on a client’s specific culture and needs. Employee engagements are incorporated throughout a renovation or relocation project so that team members are prepared to use their new space the day they occupy it.

For example, our multidisciplinary consultancy team worked closely with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) for two years before the global pharmaceutical firm moved from c. 800,000 square foot (s.f.) of leased office space in downtown Philadelphia to a new, 208,000 s.f. building. GSK’s new building features shared workstations and a mix of formal and informal meeting spaces – but no offices or cubicle partitioning. 

To ease this transition, Faithful+Gould and GSK led employees through a structured communications and change management program that included:

  • Town hall type meetings to explain the benefits of the change and to address staff concerns.
  • Identification of in-house change, move and file / storage “champions” to help management disseminate information.
  • Development of visuals, pilot areas and survey stations that showcased the look and feel of the new workplace.
  • Training sessions on the new technology prior to moving into the space.
  • Creation of furniture mock-ups to help workers become acclimated prior to the move.
  • Establishment of open-office etiquette rules, such as honoring quiet space and guidance on meeting room usage.

By preparing workers well in advance of the move and providing triage support upon move-in, our team helped GSK move 1,300 employees to its new location over the course of two weekends with minimum business disruption. Nelson Morales, GSK’s Global Workplace Strategy & Change Manager, said that the overwhelmingly positive elements of their new work environment are already apparent. One GSK employee, set to retire, made the decision to remain working because of the move to the Navy Yard. Nelson commented, "He said the new facilities gave him ‘a new career and a new life'."

Our goal is to help employees move past their initial skepticism to where they’re excited about possibilities of more teamwork and more freedom.

Faithful+Gould has been helping GSK implement this work environment for over ten years. While their model has been fine tuned and is widely acclaimed, the change management program is a complex one. Since the change program is difficult to effectively manage, our Workplace Solutions team designs client specific programs with multiple workstreams to allow employees to adjust to the change in increments. Our goal is to help employees move past their initial skepticism and reach a point where they’re excited about the possibilities for more teamwork and more freedom.

Perhaps the strongest testament of our ability to help clients adjust to new ways of working is the fact that we have implemented this environment in our own offices. In early 2012, our team moved from its former location in New Jersey to a new space full of natural light and spectacular views of downtown Philadelphia.

By adopting an office plan that features shared desk space, open collaboration areas, and a mix of large and small conference rooms, we were able to reduce its square footage by more than half, reducing our property costs by nearly 75%. As a result, our new office is a vibrant, collaborative space that is “right-sized” for our staff. Our Phoenix, Chicago and Washington, D.C. offices recently adopted this solution, and our goal is to adapt our offices to this working environment wherever possible.

Dan Shovlin, vice president and operations director in Philadelphia, commented, "Many of our employees were skeptical about the change, but the people who resisted the move the most are now the biggest supporters of our new space."

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