I'm in Sydney on my way to AHRI's National Convention in Melbourne, staying at the Swissotel where I discovered a Next Generation Workplaces conference and have talked my way in to listen to Audrey Briel, Senior Executive, Workplace Flexibility at Woolworths.
Their strategy has been to move from battery chickens to free range chickens! in an environment where costs are important given rising competition from Aldi and Lidl etc. This has needed space optimisation, office consolidation and to integration refurbishment into ongoing organisational changes.
But it's also been about smart workplaces - eg having standard IT connections rather than old TVs, projectors etc in meeting rooms where connecting was always a hit and miss.
Key elements of their flexible working strategy have been:
- Own to shared space
- Choices of spaces during the day
- Output based culture
- Enablers including lockers, technology and AOdocs - Google's integrated documentation solution.
There's been quite a bit of innovation especially for collaboration and encouraging creativity in an environment where people are used to working in cubicles.
Importantly all the changes have been needs based rather than wants based (rather then creating funky offices!) and everything has been measured in terms of productivity etc.
Also the change has been well planned and managed, for example by giving people the opportunity to opt in or out of the trial.
I thought it was a good session / strategy but I'm not sure they've fully succeeded in creating an environment where people love to work.
Perhaps that's partly because the field is still heavily influenced by, and this conference has been planned for Activity Based Working practitioners rather than HR professionals. Though I was pleased to here that Woolworths' planning group, the Movers and Shakers, involved staff from all functions across the business.
And I'm looking forward to Medibank's presentation on workplace design at AHRI's convention.
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