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Over 500 Chicago-based HR professionals gathered on November 19 at SUMMIT 2019 for a packed day of education, networking and, of course, plenty of coffee! Throughout the daylong event, attendees chose from a wide variety of breakout sessions on new and emerging trends in HR, including “The Three M’s To Consider When Making a Workplace Change.” The session was comprised of expert panelists who specialize in workplace change and real estate strategy and included Karon Woodcock, director of change management at Cushman & Wakefield, Erica Ruder, director of strategic consulting at Cushman & Wakefield, Yvonne Franzese, CHRO at CNO Financial Group, Inc., and Palak Langenderfer, senior director of corporate real estate at AON.

The “3 M’s” panelists from left: Erica Ruder, director of strategic consulting at Cushman & Wakefield, Palak Langenderfer, senior director of corporate real estate at AON, Karon Woodcock, director of change management at Cushman & Wakefield, Yvonne Franzese, CHRO at CNO Financial Group, Inc.

Though the partnership of real estate and HR is not an obvious one, these leaders addressed powerful trends that were discovered through Cushman & Wakefield’s client-utilization studies: 58% of current office space in the U.S. is being underutilized, and 81% of companies have no real-estate strategy. In a period where the war for talent is at an all-time high, creating an office space that is not only cost-effective, but also attracts and retains next-generation leaders, is imperative. As Cushman & Wakefield advised, “Your organization’s real estate, both the locations you operate in and the workplace environment, directly impact your ability to win the war for talent. It’s critical that HR leaders are integrated throughout your company’s real estate and workplace initiatives to ensure alignment between real estate and talent strategies.”

Millennial turnover alone is costing the U.S. economy an estimated $30.5 billion annually, and not having a flexible work plan, up-to-date technology, competitive benefits or a workspace that feels positive, collaborative and energized, are all significant factors that affect employee retention.

The “Three M’s” panelists broke down how they help companies grow and change physical spaces to stay competitive, and how HR Leaders can guide current employees through the tricky process of organizational change. Here, we share their “Three M’s” and how you can lead your company into becoming a more modern workspace.

Mitigate Talent Risks

As you think about your company, what organizational change is needed in order for you to “make it” in today’s ever-evolving and tightening labor market? Perhaps relocating to a more geographically desirable space will work, or switching to an open-office floorplan. Whatever the case may be, Karon shared that no matter how positive the change might ultimately be for the company, employees will experience the “valley of despair” when being faced with a change that will impact their daily work life and routine, such as a longer commute or loss of personal space. To help employees see the overall goal and benefit of a change, panelists offered the following ideas, based on the PROSCI® change methodology, to consider:

  • Awareness – For company leaders: Do they know how to properly communicate change to employees? Is everyone on the same page?
  • Desire – How is the change ultimately going to benefit employees? Does each employee see a long-term plan that will positively impact them?
  • Knowledge – What are the basic updates and information every employee needs to have before making the change?
  • Ability – Do employees have the necessary tools and technical skills that are required for the change?
  • Reinforcement – What is needed to sustain the change for current and future employees? Will the change last through the years?

Motivating Your Team

As HR leaders guide companies that are “continuously evolving to remain competitive,” it is important to remember that a large workplace change is more than just a simple communication. If the change is not re-enforced through multiple channels, it can lead to “a resistance to change, [and] the project could be delayed or even cancelled.” The panelists added that, during the change process, having a “change-management program can guide employees and leaders to embrace the change needed to keep their company competitive.” Here are some ways you can not only clarify any change questions, but get employees excited about what the future change has to offer:

  • Communicate, Communicate, Communicate: In addition to multiple emails, utilize your company’s social media channels, webinars or even physical posters to make sure all employees receive the necessary information.
  • Focus Groups: Poll employees who have varying degrees of opinions about the change to analyze any gaps that may be missing in communication.
  • Change Champions: Gather C-suite members and associates alike who are excited about the change, and encourage them to connect to their peers on a daily basis to build positive momentum.
  • Post-move Interview Videos: Especially if the change is as significant as an office move or merger, video is an effective way to communicate with large groups.
  • Leaders Walk the Talk: Make sure all leaders are not only promoting the change, but following through. For example, if the office switches to an open floorplan, ensure leaders are truly accessible, and not just sitting at the same corner desks.
  • Tours: Fear of change quite often stems from the fear of the unknown. Actually seeing the physical space before your company’s move, even if it’s just to a different floor, can be a great way to put worries to rest.
  • Celebrate: Any organizational change, no matter how small, means a great deal to the people who made them. It’s not only important to celebrate people’s flexibility and open-mindedness, but it re-enforces the change so a positive pattern continues for the future.

Measuring Success

Without a tangible measurement, there is no way to confidently move forward or make improvements. As the Cushman & Wakefield team shared, “How do you know if your change-management plan was successful without measuring the results? Before the project starts, determine the leader expectations for success and then find a way to measure it for results.”

No matter what the change is, there are always ways to get employee engagement and feedback to measure the change’s progress, such as surveys, interviews, or time to productivity. Here are a few tips to think about at the beginning of the process to ensure the change has a data-driven approach:

  • Feedback – User Adoption: Are employees truly changing their workplace habits, or haven’t adopted the change at its core?
  • Post Focus Groups: Have early focus groups changed their answers or perspectives since the start of the change? Have answers trended in a positive direction?
  • Time to Productivity: Has the change increased overall productivity in the workplace? For example, if it’s an office merger, does being closer to once distant co-workers help with efficiency?
  • Anticipated Benefits: Are the employees taking advantage of the new changes? If budgeting for a smaller office space means gaining more office amenities, are the employees seeing and utilizing this benefit?
  • Project on Schedule: Is the change on budget and time, whether it be a new floor move or new healthcare enrollment?
  • Survey: Do you have an anonymous, safe space where employees can openly share their experience? (Be sure to ask what is working, too!)

Though companies are making large amounts of organizational change to attract and retain top-talent, it’s incredibly important as an HR leader to remember that any change, no matter how small, has an emotional impact on dedicated employees. HR and Real Estate can not only work together to evaluate the significant benefits of a stronger real estate strategy, but create an effective change adoption plan that will convert each hesitant employee into a change champion.