AS BUSINESSES look to increase productivity, there is also a need to look into new ways of working, which may include changes to office-based work, home-based work, integrating flexible physical work spaces and enabling technologies.
Preparing staff for these new work arrangements ensures a smoother transition and a higher probability of success.
A change management strategy and plan are what is needed, and should include six critical elements.
Yesterday’s article looked at the first two — articulate the business case and desired outcomes; and set up an implementation team and engage staff in the design of the new way of work.
Today’s article discusses elements 3 and 4:
Communicate outcomes and expectations
When the design of the “new way of work” is completed, communicate the desired outcomes to all staff — especially those who are directly affected, and those who are managing these employees.
Even those who are not directly impacted should be included in the communication.
This is to ensure that all staff, supervisors and management are on the “same page” and aligned to overall benefits.
Where possible, implement a pilot site and gather feedback so that improvements can be made before the changes are fully rolled out.
Targeting the engagement sessions and communication at various groups would be ideal to address different issues, for example, those regarding staff level or function.
Tailoring your messages ensures that you don’t overload or confuse the target audience.
For example, is the session going to address supervisors’ concerns about managing staff performance or is the session going to address employees’ concerns about dealing with new technology and how the changes will affect their careers?
Further communication on the role expectations and behaviours are also critical.
Are there “dos and don’ts” or “rules of engagement”? Are there new work protocols? For example:
• Are staff expected to inform supervisors of their starting hours and, if so, how will the company operationalise this?
• What are protocols on staff accessibility on non-working days or days off?
• What are the protocols for using common work spaces such as collaboration spaces, hot-desking or video-conference facilities?
• Are there guidelines for using office equipment for personal use?
• What are the guidelines on handling confidential information while working away from the workplace?
The list can go on but it is for the company to define the boundaries according to its culture and defined policies.
Not all protocols or policies have to be defined; the key intent and guiding principles have to be clear so that staff can implement them. A lot is dependent on the current culture and the degree of openness and trust.
Develop competencies to support the new way of work
Beyond equipping staff with the right tools, technology and rules, the implementation team and the human resource department should identify specific competencies required of different staff levels for the new work arrangements to be sustainable.
For example, if the new way of work involves less face time with co-workers, specific skills may be required.
In a global study by Cisco Systems in 2007 (Understanding and Managing the Mobile Workforce), the research showed that there were key competencies demonstrated by effective mobile workers.
In particular, to be effective, mobile workers need stronger planning and organising skills, flexibility and adaptability and relationship-building skills in comparison to their office-based colleagues.
In contrast, they are less likely to need effective teamworking skills. This observation does not invalidate their need to work effectively with their colleagues, but stems from their strong drive to work effectively independently.
The implication is that as well as selecting employees with these key competencies (for mobile work success), organisations can also provide existing employees with the opportunities they need to develop these critical mobile working competencies.
We sometimes forget that not everyone zealously embraces new technology — there are people who choose not to use smartphones. It is also not uncommon to hear these refrains: “Why change when the current system is not broken” or “The new technology slows us down”.
When the new way of work involves adopting new software or hardware, do expect some resistance to change. Ensure appropriate training as part of the implementation plan to help employees develop specific capabilities.
Article by Jacqueline Gwee, director, aAdvantage Consulting. She has over 18 years of broad-based human resource, change management and business excellence consulting experience in both the public and private sectors. This article was first published in the New Ways of Work Handbook by the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA).