Most organizations are successful in creating and leveraging cross-organizational teams to achieve multiple business outcomes: incubating new ideas, bringing products to market, and moving through large-scale complex change. Success today depends on diverse teams coming together to ideate, create and achieve significant goals in business. But how important are these kinds of teams in moving organization cultures forward to embed mobile and flexible workforce initiatives across an organization? It turns out, very important.
Five years ago, we wrote a book, Workshift: Future-Proof Your Organization for the 21st Century, to help companies understand the importance of breaking out of siloed thinking and create a cross-organizational team of executive leaders to address the future of work and how to become an employer of choice. We had seen disruption in the workplace being led by employees who wanted more autonomy and control over how, when and where they worked, while companies struggled to keep pace with the innovations employees were using fluently. In addition, we saw companies stuck. Stuck in old ways of thinking about how to support a mobile workforce from separate business lines: HR, IT and Real Estate, without any of those business leaders coalescing to create a mobile-centric work culture — one where employees choose where they’re most productive on any given day, week, month or year.
Workshift for us was about building a strategic framework and roadmap that did not exist. It was about creating a mobile workforce maturity model that visualized how a cross-organizational executive team creates lasting change within a corporate culture that supports preferred mobile workstyles. It was about working with 13 multi-national organizations to bring their stories to life, showcasing how each one created thriving mobile workplaces by employing a multifaceted approach to flexibility and mobility. It continues to be the foundation of how we work with clients and customers as most organizations go farther and faster when mobility and flexibility are strategic business imperatives, ones linked to overarching corporate goals than relegated to an HR benefit or perk alone.
While many leaders understand this intellectually, a question invariably surfaces in organizations that haven’t tackled this before: what does mobility and flexibility as a strategic business imperative look like if we’ve only managed it as a perk or benefit in the past? Leaders often realize they need to socialize workforce & workplace changes in a more holistic ways to find answers to that question and many others that typically follow:
- What should our corporate footprint look like to meet preferred mobile workstyles of today to attract and retain top talent?
- How do you optimally design for collaboration and independent space in work settings? And how do we evaluate how we’re using our space today?
- In rethinking a corporate footprint, how can we achieve significant cost avoidance when you resize or right-size office space? What metrics should be tracked to determine ROI?
- How do you train leaders, managers and employees to manage by outcomes and create high performing distributed teams as a company grows?
- How does a company evolve outdated management thinking about co-location as a way to gauge employee productivity?
- What investments in technology (collaborative tools and apps) are needed to meet productivity needs of a growing workforce, and simultaneously, how can business assets be secured when teams work anywhere on any device?
- What policies need to be established or updated to communicate guiding principles of a mobile workforce that don’t overlook legal and compliance concerns?
These questions spark the kind of thinking executive leaders need to address jointly if they’re to be successful in moving through workplace transformation. When a team of HR, IT and Real Estate leaders understand the role each business unit and leader plays to create and formalize a mobile workplace culture, more successful outcomes are achieved.
But once successful outcomes are achieved another inevitable question surfaces: who owns flexible work initiatives going forward? In the past, ownership has fallen to HR, yet in more organizations today, ownership is mutually shared. Companies that create a governance structure for managing strategic workforce initiatives do well. While HR often plays a leading role, when a group of executive leaders commit to tracking HR, IT and Real Estate metrics to determine the ROI of mobile workforce initiatives, they’re more impactful in communicating business outcomes and gaining enterprise-wide support.
All organizations undergoing workplace transformation need cross-organizational teams to proactively manage complex change; doing so creates shared ownership, shared leadership and shared success. For managing mobile and flexible work initiatives, this is no different.