Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Alternative Workplace Success Strategies

FM’s and their cohorts are challenged these days to maximize space utilization and functionality while providing their organizations ways to increase headcount, productivity and revenue without adding real estate. Generational shifts in the workforce also contribute to the need to think about the workspace in new ways. These are just a few of the reasons for the current move to what is loosely termed “alternative workplace” solutions. Exactly what that term means varies widely from company to company. Despite the differences in definition, however, there are similarities in successful programs.

Know the Facts: Any time you start changing people’s environment you will meet doubt or outright resistance. That makes it important that you do not start in “unarmed and dangerous” mode. “Unarmed” in this instance means uninformed. Know your numbers and the facts behind them. Measure space allocation and utilization with fine detail. If your organization has a space entitlement policy then factor it into the process as well. First, make sure your numbers are absolutely correct, then know the numbers, then understand them and their implications. Spend time analyzing them to tease out understanding and insights to opportunity.

Build Executive Support: Before going public take your case to the C-Suite. Don’t expect this to be a quick sell, rather, consider it an exercise in patience and education. But when they say “go” be ready to mobilize and move quickly. Executives will want to review your data at a top level and the analysis that led to your conclusions. Once they trust that you’ve done your due diligence correctly you will have their attention. Now point out to them the value and opportunities underutilized assets represent. Expect a discussion about how the company can best take advantage of the opportunity to align real estate with new or emerging strategies. Your role at this point is to feed them information and help them understand the opportunities available, the risks of not proceeding with a project, and the conceptual costs of implementation. Your goal at this stage is to emerge from the C-Suite engagement with a clear mandate and a strong executive sponsor.

Build Influencer Support: Recruit influencers from across the organization to participate in the project. Meet with them individually to share and sell the project vision and charter, bring them together only when each has bought into the plan face to face with you. Use this group to accomplish the continued fact finding and analysis, and to conceptualize early solutions. As an intended side effect they will also advocate for the program among their peers, helping to speed adoption throughout the organization.

Engage Employees: Employees have a vital stake in the outcome and are vital to its acceptance and your success. Make sure you engage them to solicit information about their needs and desires, and to inform them about the project’s goals. Take advantage of this engagement process to sell the benefits of the project such as enhanced collaboration spaces and tools, technology improvements, environmental benefits, and employee amenities. When you use surveys make sure they are thoughtful and be certain to share the results of the surveys on a wide basis. This will support later concept and development work by allowing employees to connect the dots between what they said and what the project delivers. Take advantage of “town hall” and “brown bag” style meetings to share progress along the way and solicit feedback, and to share design responses to the feedback later on so they can see they are really contributing to the evolution of the project.

Discover, Prototype, Pilot: Conceptualize multiple solution options and analyze each. Do not be afraid to be a little edgy with some of your concepts. They may be largely discarded but some ideas will emerge that will eventually be included in the final plan. Use these concepts to socialize options and elicit further feedback. Create pilot projects that build alternative work areas or collaboration zones and let staff experience them on a day to day basis. This process also gives the implementation team a chance to recognize gaps in planning or resources and take action to solve those issues before the large scale project begins.

Build Your Future: When you have made the final decisions then communicate them well and often. Execute with planned precision and make the process as transparent as possible. Allow those not directly engaged to observe the transition as much as possible along the way. Celebrate gains such as new technology, environmental stewardship, improved amenities and a new and better quality workspace along each step. Make a big deal out of it, because it is!

In the end you likely will have improved space efficiency and utilization, shifted to more team like space for some functions, collaboration will increase across the board, and productivity and financials will improve as a result. You will also have demonstrated leadership and enhanced the credibility of FM throughout your company.

Not a bad thing, eh?

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