Companies are increasingly transforming their workplaces to a new world of work. They are eliminating offices and assigned seating, and increasing shared work space. While some companies are doing this to save cost, Microsoft has a much more strategic view of workplace transformation. They see these efforts as a key strategy to achieve business results.
This article explores a few key principles that help Microsoft drive business results through workplace transformation. A recent office transformation in Prague is used to highlight how these principles are put into action.
Define Business Goals First
Microsoft has a set of goals it is driving globally with its workplace transformation efforts, but also adapts its efforts to meet local office needs.
For example, at a global level, they want to create work spaces that better drive connection and collaboration. Based on their own and other research, they know that increasing collaboration across teams will drive improved innovation and productivity. Teams that interact with each other better coordinate work efforts and timelines, which improves quality of work and productivity. Sharing ideas across teams stimulates creativity and innovation. These outcomes support Microsoft's broader business transformation efforts and its Cloud strategy.
These goals shape common elements of design for Microsoft globally. At the same time, they use their workplace transformation efforts to help local offices drive business outcomes. For example, the business in Prague wanted to lead the way and set an example for how companies in the Czech Republic can adapt new technology to work in the Cloud. Showcasing technology for customers and the community became a key design goal for the project.
Design for the Business
Creative décor and features can create a "cool place to work" that excites employees and increases their pride in the office. However, form is not everything! Many companies have created interesting features such as rock walls that can't be climbed because of liability issues, slides that cause injuries, plant walls that die because of placement and bean bag or fatboy chairs that are never used. Design should be interesting and aligned with business goals.
Based on its experience, Microsoft has developed a global set of guidelines for designing a functional office. They know the technology needed in meeting spaces, the number and type of meeting rooms needed for different departments, and have layout principles to reduce noise and increase sunlight for employees.
Décor also is defined locally with the business, so that the office reflects the needs and character. In Prague, employees defined the themes they wanted, the look and feel for showcase rooms, and colours for the floors. This resulted in graffiti walls, creative spaces, and places for employees to gather. These floors are meaningful to employees and also showcase the space for customers.
Use Measurement to Drive Change and Results
In the Prague change, business goals such as collaboration and innovation were defined and operationalised with manager and employee input. These measures served as both an improvement metric as well as a method to gather input to ensure the goals were achieved.
For example, Technology Showcase was rated at 41% on a 100% scale when employees rated their old office against the definition. They then provided input on what needed to change to improve that score with ideas ranging from building a showcase space for devices for their customers to improving WIFI and printing. Many of their ideas were integrated into the design, resulting in a post-move score of 81% against the same definitions. Measurement was used to refine what the business needed and to drive change.
Change Mind-set and Behaviours
Changing workspace is great, but the investment in a new office, new technology, and great meeting spaces won't pay off unless employees change how they work and managers change how they lead. Without this mind-set change, employees will reserve their seats and avoid collaboration spaces, resulting in little business benefit for the change.
To address this, Microsoft Czech Republic included a significant change management programme designed to build leader capabilities to lead the change and to lead differently in the new office. For example, the programme helped managers understand how to address challenges in the new environment (e.g., reserving seats, misuse of conference rooms), how to lead effectively when their employees are working more flexibly, and how to engage their employees in the change process.
At the same time, employees were engaged by gathering their input and helping them understand how to use the space and follow norms to maximise the benefit of the new office.
Because of this, employees were excited about their new work environment and were happy to explore different ways of working in the space. By changing their mind-set, Microsoft started to realise the benefits in the new environment.
To succeed, Microsoft has made business ownership a key part of every office transformation. Their Real Estate and Facilities team partners with business leaders, IT, Security, HR, and other departments throughout the process. Key decisions are made by a steering committee of business leaders. Underlying this is the core belief that workplace transformation should drive business results.