Optimizing Design Through Employee Engagement and Change Readiness

March 13, 2020

Developing a workplace strategy is a widely accepted practice used by many businesses to reduce costs, maximize efficiency and improve productivity. As technology evolves and accelerates its presence within the workplace, and as employee talent is increasingly difficult to retain, business landscapes are more complex than ever. Business leaders have come to learn that an implementation strategy is not enough and that they need a robust change and communications strategy too.

Architects play a prominent role in defining the features and benefits of the new space. They prepare the new workspace for people. But, the bigger question as employers face the harsh realities of attracting and retaining the best talent is, who is preparing the people for the new workspace? Change strategists are on the people side of the business. They connect the workplace strategy to the people through communications, planning, training, engagement and employee enrichment opportunities. It is much more than a push of information detailing the aspects of the new workspace. There is an opportunity to catapult your organization to next-level performance with the right change strategy at play.

Here’s a quick list of “lessons learned” from helping clients with major workplace transformation initiatives:


    There’s a tendency to throw the “kitchen sink” into the project…digitization of documents, new policies, new workplace technologies, etc. While the project presents opportunities for enhancements and improvements, it’s important to be focused, strategic and deliberate in the communications and, more importantly, in the implementation. Making changes at this level takes resources both during the project and after the project ends for reinforcement and staying power.

    Collaboration is the result of a series of deliberate behaviors performed simultaneously by a group or team. Collaboration is largely dependent on an organization’s culture and norms. Many business leaders want to increase innovation within their organizations. Innovation is an outcome of collaborative cultures. Collaboration doesn’t magically appear because of new furniture and workspace configurations. It is important to first understand and identify how your teams currently collaborate…however they do it today, is how it will show up in the newly transformed space. It starts with people. There are many opportunities to strengthen and broaden collaboration skills and techniques through training. Improved furniture and workspaces can provide enhanced collaboration opportunities, but they won’t create behaviors that don’t already exist.

    In change management, all things are not equal. Find a change partner that is focused on the people-side of the change, and leave the workspace planning to the experts. According to psychology theory, it takes the average person 7 times to hear something; it takes even longer to form habits. And that is what we are doing with change strategy…we are forming new habits.

    Sending an email that says, “you need to pack by next Friday” or giving a presentation that communicates “you will have new collaboration spaces with new furniture” is not enough to support people effectively. It’s important to clearly articulate the features and benefits of new workspaces, but a more enduring strategy is needed. As with all change and execution strategies, getting to the desired outcome is not just about having an implementation strategy; leaders need an accurate messaging strategy, as well, to communicate internally and externally about a new office setup and what the company is trying to accomplish by making the changes. Some of the best plans fall flat because intentions were not clearly articulated or were not aligned with the desired results.

    Have a “why”, but more importantly, understand precisely what it is that people will now need to start doing differently. What behaviors must shift? When? Why? What if they don’t, then what? How will people, teams, and leaders be held accountable? What is the impact of non-compliance/non-success in short term? Long term? On the company? On a department? On co-workers? On the individual?

Bringing a Change Strategy partner on board early can help optimize your workplace transformation investment. Here are some foundational questions and guidelines to consider during periods of change:

  1. How will this transformation enable us to reach our organizational objectives?
  2. Why are we doing this?
  3. What will success look like when it is all said and done? What will we see, what will we hear, what will we experience and how will that be different than what’s happening today?
  4. What internal resources are available to create, manage, deliver and sustain a communications campaign to support the change (i.e. lunch and learns, town halls, email correspondence, newsletters, email site, tours, trainings, monthly employee team meetings, photos, videos, etc.)?
  5. What do we want to hear people say upon conclusion? Which people? Why?
  6. Explain to employees what the information means vs. pushing announcements (i.e. “The new space will have lockers. This means you will no longer have personal storage space at your individual work areas. The lockers are intended to hold your personal items on a daily basis. The reason for this change is….and it benefits the organization by….”).  

Undergoing a workplace transformation, reorganization, merger & acquisition or implementing a new workplace strategy is a tall order. At some point, someone has to actually do it. More than likely that person will be you. Are you ready? Will you know what to do? The power of a team focused on the collective success of employees can be the difference between accolades or attrition.

We would love to partner with you. Reach out us for guidance and to help kick start this strategy by putting together a change readiness assessment. For more information contact Heather Davis at heather@kgopm.com or 202-552-0002.