Commercial office accommodation can yield dramatic workplace changes that often cause employees to resist, thus generating a project that is ultimately unsuccessful. The following case study will demonstrate the importance of employee involvement and how engagement can dramatically shift project outcomes.
When an organisation undertakes a project of its commercial office accommodation, there are a number of measurable by which the project will be measured;
- Was it on Budget? Did it meet operational costs?
- Did it improve workplace safety?
- Did improve productivity?
- Does the final design reflect the values of the organisation?
Keep these questions in mind as we go through the case study.
The project undertaken by GPT group at its head office (19 Martin Place, Sydney) is a prime example how stakeholder inclusion within the project provided superior measurable outcomes. The project brief encompassed the recent workspace philosophy of flexibility, moving away from the existing traditional fixed and allocated workstations.
Noting that a workplace change as dramatic as this may cause some resistance from employees, GPT acknowledged that staff were an important stakeholder within the project. There was a decisive involvement of staff which was genuine and across all organisational levels.
Rosemary Kirkby, GPT’s head of sustainability, stated, “If you don’t leave enough room for people to personalise the new environment you won’t be able to release its full value and future potential. People must understand this is just the starting point. Too often we don’t leave enough room for people to personalise spaces”. (1)
An early inclusion activity undertaken was to survey employees on the existing work environment. The resulting feedback was then implemented into the design brief to focus on details that mattered to employees. The benefits that this process provided were:
- Acknowledgement of employee value
- Employees having some ownership in project
- Reduction of employee resistance
- Project brief receiving greater detail
- Possible ‘out of the box’ ideas
- Discovery of possible misalignment of organisation values and employee beliefs.
With a workplace cultural change on the horizon GPT didn’t wait until the fit out was complete and moved the employees in early. The goal of this early move was to minimize employee resistance.
A program was established to facilitate the cultural change which ran for 12 months and targeted four main areas:
- Paper reduction (paperless office)
- Technology training
- Introduction to new protocols and practices
- Behavioural training (managers in how to lead in the new environment)
To ensure participation and the competency of employees, the program combined a passport system where a participant’s involvement was recorded with competitions within the organisation.
The inclusion of a non-formal approach (the competitions) permitted the activities to become personalised with employees and strengthened their ownership in the project.
In addition a ‘non’ IT team was formed where members were employees from across the organisation (none were from the IT department) and their task was to test and evaluate the new technology to identify any possible bugs prior to the systems becoming live.
The benefits this initiative provided were:
- Reduced loss of productivity from employees frustrated with a system not built for them
- Real world testing by employees that will use the system,
- Identified possible communication blocks where the system authors believed the process is correct but doesn’t match projected usage
- Identified possible bugs
- Evaluated the interaction of users with the system
- Increased ownership by employees
- Reduced demand on the IT department when system went live
- De-facto trainers were already distributed through the organisation.
The resulting effect of the program undertaken by GPT is to have a workplace where the employees have the highest satisfaction rating compared to any other office measured in Australia (2). The success of this project is fully realised with the following measurable results:
- Consolidation from 5 floors down to 3 floors
- Reduction of desks by 17% while retaining 20% daily vacancy (indication of mobile workforce)
- 75% reduction in paper use and 90% reduction in paper storage
- 98% of employees said the new workplace reflects the organisations values
- 76% would not go back to the old way of working
If GPT didn’t embark on the engagement and inclusion of its employees on this project it would not have achieved the high results that it did and the project may not have been a success.
To drive the best possible outcomes with your own projects ensure that you have the provisions for the correct engagement of stakeholders.
With each project having its own particular characteristics, defining stakeholders and appropriate engagement can be confusing. With direct experience across a broad range of projects (public, commercial, industrial and institutional), Seeed has the expertise to manage your project from conception while facilitating the identification of stakeholders with appropriate management.
The above case study has focused on improving project outcomes through the involvement of stakeholders within projects however this project had many other successful attributes including the achievement of a Six Star Green Star rating for Office Interiors (3).
To read more about this project The Fifth Estate has an in-depth case study covering all aspects of the project.
Acknowledges & References
All images are property of GPT group