As I travel around the world, I continue hear a lot of buzz around the term “workplace transformation.” Every company seems to have a project (or a few projects) underway, whether it be as significant as the building of a new head office or as minor as remodeling an existing branch location. Each workplace transformation initiative, no matter how large or small, successful or not, has an impact on the employees that work in that space. Winston Churchill once said, “we shape our buildings, thereafter they shape us,” and that sentiment is particularly true for work environments. The workplace is the glue that binds organizations, teams and employees together. The “built” environment is the physical embodiment of a company’s brand, culture, and values, so getting it right is critical. If that isn’t enough pressure, in today’s hyper-competitive battle for top talent, a modern, open, and collaborative workplace is an important tool for attracting and retaining the best of the best. For a potential new hire, the workplace is an expression of “who we are” and “what we stand for.” Good luck trying to hire someone from a top university if you parade them through a cubicle-based workplace built in the 1980s!
But creating a workplace is more than filling a building with attractive furniture, cool tech, and a bunch of modern amenities. Those are, as they say, table stakes. Creating an environment that allows people to work more efficiently and effectively…well, that’s a bit more challenging. To address that problem you need to put employees, and the work they do, at the center of the equation, and then carefully balance space design, technology, and workplace policies around them. If this sounds as hard as solving a Rubik’s Cube, you’re wrong….it’s actually harder. But, with every great challenge comes great opportunity. Companies that solve this puzzle and deliver on the promise of the next generation workplace position themselves for breakthrough levels of productivity, employee engagement, and growth.
So, what’s driving this change? Traditional, cubicle-based workplaces have become obsolete and are a thing of thing of the past. Shifting employee demographics, the demand for flexibility and the changing nature of work are challenging the assumptions that have driven workplace design for a generation. The days where workplaces were organized around process-oriented work are over. Today’s workplaces are designed for impromptu collaboration, rapid innovation, and complex problem solving. Technology has been a big catalyst of this change, allowing companies to automate and streamline that old work, and will be an even bigger part of the workplace moving forward. Pervasive and secure wireless connectivity will allow employees to move un-tethered throughout the workplace. As people move from space to space, location data from that same wireless technology, combined with wayfinding applications, will help them navigate the work environment and locate their colleagues. Video devices, installed in every collaboration space, will not only allow employees to connect with their remote colleagues, but will also report on the availability and utilization of those spaces. Collaboration tools, such as messaging, calling, web and video conferencing, will connect the increasingly dispersed workforce and make distance disappear. Finally, cognitive capabilities, ie. the application of intelligence and context, will be embedded throughout the entire collaboration experience, reducing friction, enriching interactions between employees and allowing organizations to better optimize their workplace assets.
But ITs role in creating the next generation workplace needs to be far greater than simply deploying technology, IT must have a seat at the table throughout the entire transformation process. There are four areas where IT can lead:
- Re-Imagining – The pace of new technology introduction can be overwhelming, IT leaders plays a crucial role in helping their Corporate Real Estate and HR peers gain a better understanding which technology solutions are right for their next-gen workplace, helping them determine the business impact of those solutions, and recommending how and when they should be deployed. Additionally, by leveraging their relationships with their strategic solutions providers, industry analysts, and consultants, IT leaders can provide valuable insights on where technology is heading, minimizing the disruption of future technology deployments.
- Assessing – Before embarking on any workplace redesign effort it is essential that you have a solid understanding of how your employees are using their current work environment. WiFi technology, security applications, collaboration devices and tools, as well as other building technology being used in the work environment offers a wealth of data that can be used to help paint a picture of how often employees are coming to the office, what parts of the office they are using most, who they are working with and how they are working. These insights will help Corporate Real Estate and HR make more informed, data driven design decisions, which will lead to a more efficient and effective future work environment.
- Modernizing – Creating the next-generation workplace is more than building out physical space, it’s about creating new workplace experiences. With that, IT can take the lead as “workplace experience designers.” Whether it’s finding the best place to work, locating a colleague, using a collaboration space for an impromptu meeting with your project team or having a guest visit for the day, IT has the opportunity to use their consultative and design skills to re-engineer each of these experiences.
- Promoting – Change management and adoption is a critical element of every workplace transformation project. In addition to the introduction of new technologies and the migration towards more open, collaborative physical environments, changes to workplace policies, processes and procedures also typically occur. With all this going on, significant effort must be placed to ensure employees remain informed and educated during the transition to the new work environment. A comprehensive internal marketing and communication program is an essential element of every adoption effort, and technology solutions such as digital signage, webinars and webcasting and video on demand play an important rolein ensuring employees successfully move to the new work environment.
The time is now for IT leaders to engage their Corporate Real Estate and Human Resource colleagues in a serious discussion on the future workplace. If you are looking for help please click here for more information on Cisco’s workplace transformation journey, or don’t hesitate to reach out to your Cisco account team. They are excited to help you get started.
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