Change Management: Door opener for New Work

When it comes to transform a workplace environment, supporting the project with professional change management measures is paramount. On the way to New Work employees and managers will be moved to a new working environment which needs them to adopt a new way of leading, trusting and communicating. Change needs to be considered as an ongoing process. Change must become a state of mind.

When it comes to implementing New Work as a new way of working, the situation gets more complex – and exciting! We are no longer considering a specific transformation just as a project. When we speak about New Work – and we mean it for real! – it’s the mindset that often needs to be transformed. The brave ones who will embark on a New Work journey– will find change being the constant which will lead all decisions and therefore define the mindset. Change needs to be considered as an ongoing process. Change must become a state of mind.

Engage, trust and embrace the change.

As such, change cannot be managed as this used to be the case of projects. We are speaking here about an inherent attitude, a strategic decision, a long-term commitment made by the top management and cascaded down to everyone.A change project basically happens on the tip of the iceberg. But it‘s what lies below the surface of the water that really engages people. It‘s the human part, the emotions, concerns, but also the excitement that needs to be addressed – ideally anticipated – to make sure that employees not only follow the plan, but understand it and, more important, embrace it. Encouraging employees to address what is below the water is the way to turn affected people into participants. With this approach, employees will own the change – they won’t consider any other form of working than in continuous change. This is what New Work is about.

First comes the mindset – second the tools

New Work change is a matter of attitude. First comes the mindset, second the tools to support you managing the change. The following assumptions will guide everyone who is willing to embrace the systemic way of approaching change through the path of transformation. They sound simple – and they really are!

Take away: 8 simple assumptions as guidance

Always start with the “why”
Without a clear vision of where the company is going there is no chance to engage people. The vision should be embedded in the company strategy and should be referring to the values. Then break this “why” down into a clear communication, into a roadmap with defined quick wins and recognizable milestones. Make sure that the management uses this vision as the compass to lead your people through the transformation.

Assume: everyone is doing his/her very best
This is the first and most important – as well as the most difficult – basic assumption. Only if we remain open and really assume and accept that the person in front of us is doing the best he or she can within the scope of his or her possibilities, we will be able to work in a solution-oriented manner.

Create clarity and meaningfulness
People want to take responsibility and do something meaningful. If they why a change is happening, they are taken by the hand and their role is clear, they definitely want to take responsibility. It is important to define clear roles and to make sure that the involved people are also enabled to take responsibility (time investment and also a very clear mandate).

Heads up: the system knows the answer
Change processes should be supported by a participatory approach involving cross-section representatives of the organization: male, female, others, newbies, longstanding ones and the “keepers”. Those who make up the system know best what adds value and are also most interested in bringing the solutions to life.

Build the community first – decisions will follow
Take enough time to bring people together, to make them feel comfortable in their environment, to offer them a trusted space where they can ask questions, bring in their concerns but also ideas and engagement. Decisions – mostly the right ones – will follow.

Keep in mind: grass doesn’t grow faster when you pull it
Change processes are long processes. Don’t expect cultural changes to happen overnight. The systemic approach is a long process, but it is more sustainable because the ones who have been part of this process will also commit themselves to maintaining the implemented measures. Don’t skip any intermediate stage in the process. This looks like a time-saver at first, but sooner or later it is very likely to backfire.

Expand your focus on the positive
If you focus on the negative events that happen in a project or on the people who show zero appetite for it, it seems like there are not enough of them! But when you start switching your focus, suddenly things don’t seem so bad after all. That’s why it’s important to keep celebrating successes in the project groups, no matter how small they seem. Communicate successes, show appreciation to people who have worked on them – this little exercise works wonders – and it’s definitely contagious!

Consider: those who come are the right ones
If you have set up a workshop and out of the invited 20 people only 7 show up- it’s a disappointment at first, isn’t it? But if you think that the 7 people who are there are the ones who bring time, energy and motivation, then you can expect the result to be extremely good in the end. . When it comes on setting up groups for change projects – especially in the beginning: focus on the ones who want to be part of them. The rest will follow.

With these 8 take aways in mind, a New Work change project can be better initiated and supported. As a New Work consultancy we at workingwell, have learned that involving employees from an early stage by sharing the vision and goals is a successful way to increase the level of acceptance and identification with the new world of work. We assist our clients in accompanying their change projects and to develop long-term strategies on how spatial and cultural change can be realized hand in hand.

From: Chiara Polverini, HR People & Culture at workingwell. With her academic educational background and her professional experience as a change facilitator and systemic coach, Chiara combines theory and practice. She leads comprehensive organizational and cultural changes and supports employees and managers in change processes. This article is based on Chiara’s key note speech held at an offsite of the Cash Back Transfer (CBT) division the World Food Programme (WFP) in September 2021. The CBT is WFP’s innovation project. It combines social and behavioural change communication with a monetary incentive to encourage positive spending habits among recipients of cash entitlements.