PREPARING employees for new work arrangements, such as working from home and hot-desking, ensures a smoother transition and a higher chance of success. To achieve this, organisations need a change management strategy that has six critical elements. 

Parts 1 and 2 of this three-part series on flexible work arrangements discussed four of the six elements, namely:

1.         Articulate the business case and desired outcomes;

2.         Set up an implementation team and engage staff in the design of the new way of work;

3.         Communicate outcomes and expectations; and

4.         Develop competencies to support the new way of work.

Today’s article focuses on the last two elements of an effective change management plan:

 

5

 Equip managers with skills to manage the workforce

For companies that are not already on a performance outcomes-based system, there is a need to first establish a performance management system that is not based on “face time”.

For example, punctuality may not be a key attribute compared to other output measures such as the on-time delivery of work.

Managers who are mobile and are managing either mobile or office-based teams will need to adapt their personal styles to cope with both being mobile and managing others at the same time.

The manager must understand the importance of knowing when to be physically present and when not to be, to provide coaching across the team, to nurture loyalty and encourage motivation.

Highlighting high achievers and demonstrating that their success did not stem from coming into the office every day is encouraging for others. 

Excessive scrutiny can result in increased stress, the breakdown of genuine relationships and the demotivation of staff.

In a flexible work arrangement, staff may spend most of their time away from the primary office, so the successful manager needs to work hard on the following:

 

•   Set good performance objectives that are output- or outcome-based. Move away from assessing staff on attributes which are only observable through “face-time”.

 

•   Give timely and valid feedback on performance. This may be a challenge which can be overcome by having a contact schedule that suits both manager and employee.

 

•   Set and communicate expectations of work performance. These include “rules of engagement” that set out the work behaviours expected of employees.

 

         Understand each individual’s challenges. Provide coaching and support where appropriate. For this to happen, it is critical that managers support individual needs and communicate proactively with them.

 

6

 Commit to improvements and celebrate success

Leaders strongly influence the culture of organisations. Hence, a leader’s consistent communication and behaviour will determine whether his organisation’s culture supports the new way of work.

Leaders should leverage existing engagement platforms or create new ones to inform staff about the progress of the work arrangement. 

A leader should be honest — acknowledge if things are not working as planned — and be open to receiving feedback on how work arrangements can be improved.

Close the loop with staff on the actions to be taken to demonstrate your commitment to making mobile work a success.

Middle managers also need to play their part in shaping the work environment within the organisation. Managers must raise the profile of the new way of work by publicising achievements and feedback about it. 

This is especially important during the “pilot phase” of the implementation.

Identifying “quick wins” early on in the programme and communicating with employees about the successes are critical in shaping perception and attitudes.

An effective change management plan can establish open channels of communication between staff and management to identify these.

It is a common practice to immediately disable the implementation team after the launch of any new initiative.

It is highly recommended that, in its place, a functional process owner or committee take over the role of continuously gathering feedback on the new work arrangements and evaluating their effectiveness.

This will allow room for improvements to ensure that the implementation of the new way or work is sustainable.

 

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).