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Jane Ginnever

Shift Consultancy Ltd


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Get comfortable with changing the world of work – now’s the time to act


The world of work needs to change and in a series of articles over the last few weeks, I’ve explained why and how.

Change is always a challenge to introduce and implement, and the transformational change that I advocate, which really alters outcome for organisations and their stakeholders, can be a major undertaking.  

Why are we doing all of this?

So what’s going to happen in your organisation that will make all of this effort worthwhile? And what are the signs to look out for that will help you identify that your initiative is working and really will have the huge positive impact on the organisation that it has the potential to?

People will begin to instigate change themselves. When people are really clear on what the organisation’s aims are, and have the freedom to decide how they work, they look at opportunities and challenges differently. They start to enjoy resolving problems and take responsibility for outcomes. They feel a greater sense of ownership, which has the added benefit of increasing their own sense of satisfaction about their achievements.

As a result, the whole organisation begins to respond more quickly and easily to its environment and changing customer needs. Opportunities are identified and taken advantage of. People achieve more in less time when they can work where and when they’re most productive so there’s more time to innovate and work together on success.

On an individual level much of the change that happens is in people’s heads; it’s a mindset shift and not necessarily a change in behaviour. What happens in the office may change less than you’d imagine in the short-term, but the positive signs that you can expect to see within the first few weeks and months will include:

  • People talking about the change and asking questions. The more questions, the better.
  • You’ll hear people are talking differently about the company to people on ‘the outside’, e.g. recommending you as an employer, talking positively about the changes on social media.
  • People talking to each other about how to make this new approach work and supporting each other to do that.
  • People are more excited about what they can bring to the organisation, as individuals and as teams.
  • Issues arise and people know how to resolve with them in line with the change, or know who to ask for guidance.

You’ll probably find that people need regular reminders that they now have more freedom to make choices about how they work. They may need reassurance that there’s no catch. For most of us this is a real shift in the way we approach work and it takes some time to adjust. For others it will be an easier transition and they will help lead others to make it work.

Why it took me so long to work all of this out

It’s not a new idea that giving employees more autonomy improves customer service, and in turn improves the way that a business performs. I also anticipated that it would make employees happier. What I hadn’t recognised was the true scale of the change that giving people more autonomy could bring about.

On the way to my Eureka! moment, I had tried and failed to implement organisation-wide change that aimed to improve engagement, and through engagement, organisational performance. I always came up against seemingly insurmountable barriers or failed to wholly align all of the messages going out to employees. Positive change was always the outcome, but in a limited way. The potential benefits that I knew could be achieved were always just over the horizon.

The importance of alignment

Alignment of communication is so important for any organisation and misalignment is a huge factor in the lack of trust in our workplaces.  People say one thing and do another, or they say one thing and then say something else that contradicts it. And messages in organisations are communicated to people in so many different ways that it makes alignment difficult to achieve. How can you ever hope to consciously align all of those messages?

The single most important thing that you can do to align all of your messages is to ensure that all of your managers really understand the principles by which the organisation is now operating. Some people won’t get it. They may never get it. Focus on upskilling those that do get it, and supporting the others to make choices about what they do next. Managers who can successfully coach and enable others to achieve their potential will have a huge impact on your organisation.

When things go wrong

Things will go wrong. Don’t panic and try not to over-react. Pressure to revert to more traditional ways of working are inevitable. Deal with every situation in line with the principles you’ve agreed. Seek counsel from those who have been instrumental in implementing the change and act in line with your values.

Check back regularly on the principles you’ve agreed. In some organisations they have an empty seat at every meeting so that ‘the principles’ can reside there like an additional member of the team and be actively considered whenever key decisions are made.

You’ll need to review your HR policies and procedures, including employment contracts, to ensure they align. I’d recommend you get rid of as many policies as possible. You really don’t need them all – ask your solicitor. You may need to revise your employment contracts, particularly if you’re changing the way that you think about time worked.

It’s a legal requirement to include hours of work (and if employees will have to work Sundays, nights or overtime), but not the actual times those hours are to be worked. Don’t be tempted to monitor hours worked; leave those decisions to the employees and focus on the results that are being achieved. If you charge clients by the hour, let employees report on it themselves.

Get started

Take a deep breath. Be brave. And make that change! Check out my previous article on redefining the way we work, and find out how to start preparing your organisation for the future.

Further reading

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Jane Ginnever


Read more from Jane Ginnever