Workplace Tango: How Healthcare Organizations Can Leverage Design and Culture’s Symbiotic Relationship
Although most healthcare leaders recognize the inherent link between work place design strategy and their organization’s culture, few deeply understand the reciprocal relationship that exists between the two. Far too often, healthcare leaders view their places of work and care as a container that responds to existing culture and not a change agent to inspire culture change. Those with this viewpoint have a limited perspective on how design can positively impact their system and workforce to spur new levels of success.
In truth, the relationship between work place design and company culture isn’t all that different from a tango. When leveraged correctly, one can lead the other and vice versa to move a health system forward. While design should take cues from existing culture, it should also serve as a tool to transform patient care, multidisciplinary teaming, learning, engagement, transparency and the overall user experience. Health organizations should embrace work place design changes as a bridge tool that can move their culture from where it is today, to where they want it to be tomorrow.
For example, a healthcare organization that is dissatisfied with the level of collaboration should not design spaces that simply respond to existing work styles. Instead, it needs to spur new behaviors through new types of spaces that challenge and reshape how their people work to spur multidisciplinary thinking and teaming.
The University of Minnesota Health took such an innovative approach when designing its Clinics and Surgery Center, moving away from private offices that could be empty up to 90% of the time and introducing a variety of touchdown spaces, collaboration areas, adaptable clinical modules, a small number of unassigned offices that could be reserved for certain times, and a two-story staff café and atrium space. The resulting facility has increased staff engagement and satisfaction, saved University of Minnesota Health tens of millions, and earned national media attention from the likes of STAT, Fast Company and Modern Healthcare.
Not every health system requires a solution as radical as Minnesota Health’s, but all should focus on the symbiotic relationship between work place design and culture to take purposeful action knowing the positive impact it will have on their culture. This is a careful dance and anyone hoping to “Master the Tango” between the two, must commit to some fundamental steps and strategies to ensure success.
Understand Your People
Before embarking on workplace design strategy, every organization should understand and align on the needs and constraints of providers, clinicians and employees in addition to its business goals for the future. Without this foundational knowledge, health systems are ill-equipped to define the where, what and how of their work place. Space changes can help companies achieve their organizational goals but any ambiguity or leadership misalignment could lead to inefficient decision-making and potential roadblocks. Organizations with articulated goals can ensure every space decision they make is in line with their broader long-term objectives.
Establishing a baseline around the needs, wants and hopes for future work place investments requires input and buy-in from the end users — leadership, physicians staff and sometimes even patients. Through individual meetings, focus groups, town hall sessions, surveys, workplace simulations, prototyping and other prevalent feedback communication tools, healthcare organizations can engage stakeholders thoughtfully before finalizing and implementing workplace changes. Reliable two-way feedback loops will reinforce the validity and strength of both the design changes themselves and adoption.
Establish Measurable Goals
Data is an incredible advantage modern health systems have at their disposal that their predecessors lacked. While many organizations may not yet fully leverage it, there is a deliberate science to developing measurable goals for work place culture change. Be it a percentage increase in physician engagement or employee satisfaction across all generations in the workplace or metrics surrounding research and education — today’s health systems are equipped to leverage data to ensure their work place design investments deliver ROI.
Used strategically, data can help health systems understand exactly how employees work today, their organizational networks and adjacencies, space utilization rates, demographic preferences and how satisfied different users are with their experience. With baselines established and goals set, organizations can invest more confidently and better evaluate success throughout the transition. The future demands effective workplaces that are regularly monitored, measured, recalibrated and re-evaluated as organizations strive for elite performance and experiences.
Marry Policy with Workplace Design Strategy
Once an organization has a thorough understanding of its people, business goals and the culture changes it hopes to realize via work place design, it must also consider how it all relates to existing policies. One of the leading tripwires for successful implementation is disconnects between place strategy and work or talent policies.
For instance, many providers are concerned about the health and wellness of their staff and are beginning to introduce staff gardens, decompression rooms and other wellness-focused amenities. However, if there aren’t policies in place to encourage their use, they may not achieve their full impact. Similarly, simply changing policy to facilitate staff mobility and flexibility to conduct charting work remotely can help with time management and wellness. But again, without the policy change, technology or design changes can only go so far.
As more organizations shift toward mobile work strategies, health systems will need to revisit policies connected with the scheduling of meeting rooms, use of collaboration tools or digitization. They will need to develop relevant guidelines that help their employees understand and adopt new protocols. All new policy, process or practice changes should be paired with programs to change behaviors and the organization’s culture to ensure successful implementation.
Invest in Change Management
While it is widely acknowledged that organizational change management is vital to any transformation, many organizations are still guilty of relegating it to the back burner until later in the process. This is especially true in larger projects where design and transition activities can stretch across years. Starting the change management process sooner rather than later helps companies reap the benefits of their investments and results in higher employee satisfaction and productivity. Employees require time and coaching to adopt new behaviors that respond to a new workplace’s benefits and advantages. For example, a system may open a new medical office building with leading-edge technology to accelerate patient intake. However, until employees understand the new tools and feel comfortable using them, performance and patient experience fail to improve.
Investing in change management can accelerate this learning curve. Successful change management programs should begin early and encompass cultural and behavioral change in addition to employee engagement and training.
Healthcare work places can do more than just house existing culture — they should foster exciting culture change for health systems of all types and scales. Emerging tools and research practices empower organizations with more resources than ever before to leverage design to influence culture change. It’s not an easy “tango” to master, but when executed properly it can help healthcare organizations dance toward new levels of success.
The Workplace Tango: How to Leverage Design and Culture’s Two-Way Relationship for Better Workplaces
If most business leaders recognize the inherent link between workplace design strategy and company culture, few deeply understand the reciprocal relationship that exists between the two. Far too often, company leaders view the workplace as a container that responds to existing culture and not a change agent to inspire culture change. Those with this viewpoint have a limited perspective on how workplace change can alter the course of their business and spur new success.
In truth, the relationship between workplace design and company culture isn’t all that different from a tango. When leveraged correctly, one can lead the other and vice versa to move the company forward. While workplace design should take cues from existing culture, it should also serve as a tool to transform entrepreneurship, innovation, collaboration, transparency, learning, engagement and other culture realities in an organization. Companies should embrace workplace design changes as a bridge tool that can move their culture from where it is today, to where they want it to be tomorrow.
For example, a company unhappy with levels of entrepreneurship and innovation inside its company should not design spaces that simply respond to existing work styles. Instead, it needs to create entirely new types of spaces that challenge and reshape how their people work to spur multi-disciplinary thinking and higher levels of innovation.
Once companies understand the symbiotic relationship between workplace design and culture, they can take purposeful action via design knowing the impact it will have on their culture. This is a careful dance and anyone hoping to “Master the Tango” between the two, must commit to some fundamental steps and strategies to ensure success outlined below.
Understand Your People
Before embarking on workplace design change; every company should understand and align on their employees’ current realities and the business goals for the future before they can develop a successful strategy. Without this foundational knowledge, companies are ill-equipped to define the where, what and how of their workplace. Workplace change occurs to help companies achieve their organizational goals and any ambiguity or misalignment will lead to inefficient decision-making and potential roadblocks. Organizations with articulated goals can ensure every workplace decision they make is in line with their broader long-term objectives.
Accelerating discovery and R&D innovation can be a key goal of workplace design like at CJ Blossom Park.
Establishing a baseline around the needs, wants and hopes for future workplace investments requires input and buy-in from the end users — leadership, employees and consumers. Through individual meetings, focus groups, town hall sessions, surveys, workplace simulations and other prevalent feedback communication tools, companies should ideally engage stakeholders regularly before finalizing and implementing workplace changes. Reliable 2-way feedback loops will reinforce the validity and strength of both the design changes themselves and adoption.
Establish Measurable Goals
Data is an incredible advantage today’s companies have at their disposal that their predecessors lacked. While many companies may not yet fully leverage it, there is a deliberate science to developing measurable goals for workplace culture change. Be it a percentage increase in employee satisfaction across all generations in the workplace or a doubling of internal startup teams — today’s companies can leverage data to ensure their workplace design investments deliver ROI.
Zurich North America’s HQ outside Chicago is rooted in one of the most expansive employee engagement efforts in history, and the extensive data it generated.
Used strategically, data can help companies understand how employees work today, their organizational networks and adjacencies, space utilization rates, demographic preferences and how satisfied different groups are with the workplace. With baselines established and goals set, companies can invest more confidently and better evaluate success throughout the transition. The future demands effective workplaces that are regularly monitored, measured, recalibrated and re-evaluated as organizations strive for elite performance and experiences.
Marry Policy with Workplace Design Strategy
Once an organization has a thorough understanding of its people, business goals and the culture changes it hopes to realize via workplace design, it must also consider how it all relates to existing company policies. One of the leading tripwires for successful implementation is disconnects between workplace strategy and work or talent policies.
For instance, with the increase in desk sharing and co-working, companies have to evaluate their flexibility and mobility policies. This, in turn, must be coordinated with potential investments in mobile technology and security policies that address concerns associated with the use of mobile devices. A related example may include exploring how performance management metrics might change from traditional time-based utilization metrics to an outcomes-based measure.
With the move to open offices, companies will need to revisit some of their work practices like scheduling of meeting rooms, use of collaboration tools or digitization. They will need to develop relevant guidelines that help their employees understand and adopt new protocols. All new policy, process or practice changes should be paired with programs to change behaviors and the organization’s culture to ensure successful implementation.
Invest in Change Management
While it is widely acknowledged that organizational change management is vital to any transformation, many companies are still guilty of relegating it to the back burner until later in the process. This is especially true in real estate where design and transition activities can stretch across years. Engaging the organization sooner rather than later helps companies reap the benefits of their investments and results in higher employee satisfaction and productivity. Employees require time and coaching to adopt new behaviors that respond to a new workplace’s benefits and advantages. For example, a company may open a new office with leading-edge technology that eliminates the need for paper filing. However, until employees understand the new tools and feel comfortable using them, paper may still fill the office.
Many organizations use a new workplace to shape and redefine their company culture. Specifically, the workplace strategy could be geared towards making teams more collaborative, innovative or instilling a culture of well-being. These transformations require a deeper insight into pockets of current behaviors and drivers of desired behaviors. An informed, data-driven culture transformation relies on coordinated interventions that address change holistically.
Investing in change management can accelerate this learning curve. Successful change management programs should begin early and encompass cultural and behavioral change in addition to employee engagement and training.
Workplaces can do more than just house existing culture — they should foster exciting culture change for companies of all type and scale. Emerging tools and research practices empower companies with more resources than ever before to leverage workplace design to influence culture change. It’s not an easy “tango” to master, but when executed properly it can help companies dance toward new levels of success.
Learn more about our Workplace Strategy services >
Troy D’Ambrosio: Educating Tomorrow’s Entrepreneurs Today
Two years after opening Lassonde Studios – a breakthrough entrepreneurial education building – the University of Utah has quintupled the number of student-led startups on campus, bolstered its national undergraduate and graduate program rankings, increased student engagement, enrollment, scholarships and funding. A success by numerous measures, Lassonde Studios has also earned honors and/or media coverages from SXSWedu, ACUI, Fast Company, the New York Times, Business Insider, Bloomberg and more.
Troy D’Ambrosio, Assistant Dean and Executive Director of the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute, recently took time to chat with us about the building, the companies it’s generating, and what it means for education moving forward.
With four floors of student housing and an entrepreneurial hangar space all under the same roof, Lassonde Studios is an entirely new type of building. Can you walk us through how your team found a vision for this breakthrough learning space?
We’re a state university, so there’s a state process that we go through when building a new project. We initiated that process, and they kind of jumped the gun on, “This is what the building is supposed to be like.” We weren’t really happy with that. We were like, “You’ve already figured out what you want this to be before we’ve even really thought about it?”
From there, we hired a consultant to go out and look at different spaces. My initial thought was we were going to find something that would be pretty close to what we wanted to do, and as we got into it, we really found out that wasn’t the case. What came out of that initial process was a couple of things: we established where we were as a program, what we aspired to be, where we hoped to go with the program and how a physical facility could help us get there.
We also created a vocabulary around the building, and when we started working with Mehrdad Yazdani and their team, we were able to identify what the DNA of the building was, and then we took the DNA and put it into a physical structure. We did student workshops and had students putting stickers on equipment and furniture, etc. Often you do those studies and they just go on the shelf, but in this case, I can walk you around and show you almost everything in the building that is there today that came from those workshops. It wasn’t just an exercise, it led to the creation of the building.
We often jump to the numerical success of Lassonde Studios – quintupling student-led startups, etc. – but what types of individual companies are being started at Lassonde Studios?
The individual companies and products and the students generating them, that’s my favorite piece to talk about it. We have most of their stories captured on our blog and in our annual reports, but here are a few great stories.
- ESHOP Tanzania: In Tanzania, there is little industry so they must import electronics and supplies, but there is little distribution infrastructure so companies like Amazon and eBay don’t operate there. Bonaventure Mhonda launched an e-commerce platform and distribution network that could work in Tanzania while at Lassonde Studios. He now lives in Dar es Salaam – the New York City of Tanzania – and is growing that business.
- ColoClean: After learning that 25% of colonoscopy patients don’t complete the proper prep and still show up for the procedure with organic material in their colon, biomedical engineering student Tobi Yoon created ColoClean. The colonoscopy prep kit comes with anti-nausea medical, Miralax-type powder that has been condensed into pills and a colonoscopy-friendly cookbook.
- Boundary: Cavin Nicholson came back to study at Lassonde Studios after already starting and selling a previous company. Back at Lassonde, he launched Boundary, a company focused on creating technically innovative and sustainable backpacks and similar outdoor gear. He raised over $600,000 on Kickstarter to help fuel the company.
There are so many great and inspiring stories, it’s hard to pick just a few. I really encourage those interested to read our blog.
This building responds to shifts in students’ learning preferences and increased interest in entrepreneurship – can you talk about those changes and how Lassonde Studios strategically addresses them?
We have found that students are becoming much more entrepreneurial. Students from across campus are coming up with new ideas for products and services, and they want to develop them and see how far they can take it. We serve this trend by helping students in a wide variety of ways to prototype and test their idea and then bring it to market.
While students are working on an entrepreneurial project, they want easy access to real-time learning. They want immediate access to the skills and tools they need to bring it to the next level. We are fulfilling this desire by offering many programs that are accessible to students on a monthly, weekly or daily basis.
At Lassonde Studios, students can learn about prototyping tools and build their product any day of the week. We offer monthly seed grants to help students reach a defined milestone. We also have regular workshops and mentor hours so students can gain the skills they need to be successful.
Just as this building responds to change, you know more change is coming to education. How did you equip Lassonde Studios to respond to future change?
Lassonde Studios embraces flexibility, adaptability and creative change on numerous fronts. For students living here, the 24/7 nature of the building empowers them to act on their creative ideas at any moment, be it 3 a.m. or 3 p.m. Moreover, any student using the building is able to use the entrepreneurial hangar as they see fit. We don’t have rules that stifle innovation, if students can hack the space or use different tools in new ways, that’s the whole purpose of the building. Space itself is a tool to advance their companies, products and ideas.
From an infrastructure design standpoint, the building is also designed on a flexible grid system that will allow it to evolve and adapt to changes in technology, student needs and more over time. We know the building will need to operate and function differently five, 10 and 20 years into the future – it’s ready to do so.
We’ve talked a decent amount about the building, but what’s the secret ingredient making your program and its students so successful?
In my opinion, the secret ingredient is the diversity of ideas the building welcomes. Students from any class (freshman through graduate student) and discipline are welcome to live and learn here. Many of the companies and products we’ve seen students launch were created from the collision of ideas from disparate industries or fields. People talk a lot about the need to break down silos, well, there are no silos at Lassonde Studios and that’s making such a huge difference.
Teresa Logue: How Zurich’s HQ Fuels LEAN Success
Two years after its opening, Zurich North America’s (ZNA) HQ outside Chicago continues to stand out as a leading-edge workplace. Informed by a comprehensive employee engagement effort – Zurich built a pilot floor 18 months before the building opened where 150-plus employees tested possible furniture, technology and layout to share feedback – the workplace is reflective of Zurich’s vision for the future.
Thanks to the company’s commitment to an experience-centric design, Zurich’s HQ is driving measurable results. Employee satisfaction with the workplace is 30% higher than before and there has been a significant uptick in team interactions, work flexibility and wellness. Not surprisingly, the building has won numerous awards and garnered extensive national media attention.
To get a glimpse into how the HQ is driving a culture of excellence at Zurich, we recently chatted with Teresa Logue, the company’s Head of LEAN Management about the building, her team and more.
Thanks so much for your time today. For starters, can you tell us a bit more about your role at ZNA?
Absolutely. I lead our 25-person LEAN management team as we strive for continuous improvement across our business units. We help our leaders manage more effectively and efficiently, enhance communication and collaboration, improve quality, and identify the best processes to improve customer experience.
What are tools and tactics can you share that reflects how your team achieves constant improvement?
One of our core LEAN management approaches is a disciplined, fact-based approach that we execute with each of our different business units. This includes a six-week diagnostic effort that utilizes various analytic tools to evaluate the team across several dimensions, a six-week design phase to co-create a new model for how they can work, and then 10 weeks of hands-on implementation where my team works alongside managers to teach, train, reinforce and implement change. It’s a continuous process which delivers value for our employees, managers, customers and the organization at large.
Another tool we use is the employee barometer. We use it to help employees and their managers see how they’re navigating the change curve. It reflects both how the team is doing in change adoption and helps identify strengths and gaps to address. It teaches our people how to effectively manage change and continuously improve while building problem-solving skills and capabilities.
Now that your team has been in the new HQ for two years, can you share anecdotal ways the building is reshaping company culture?
Yes, there are a few different perspectives I can share. For my own team, the open spaces in the HQ do create more opportunities for natural and organic conversation and collaboration. For us, the very nature of our work requires us to literally reach across the aisle and work with other people. The space enhances our ability to do that in the HQ and the technology resources we now have enhanced how we collaborate with our teams across the country.
When I think beyond our team, the amenities available to our staff on the first floor are amazing and create a new energy for our people. The coffee bar enables more natural internal networking and collaboration. Our on-site fitness center connects people – I use it every morning – and you see our people using it throughout the day. The walking paths and exterior spaces are integrated into the building’s campus, our teams use them often and in more ways than we had imagined.
One thing our team at CannonDesign talks about frequently is marrying design with policy and culture change. Can you offer an example of how ZNA does this successfully?
I think how we’ve evolved our annual Play to Win kick-off meeting is a strong example. It’s an annual effort by our CEO and the C-Suite to engage our staff around our business goals and new strategies. In years past, our CEO and the C-Suite would literally travel across the country visiting offices to hold the event on different days.
This year, for the first time ever, we had all offices join via video conference to experience the presentation as one team. It was really beautiful and symbolic of our company’s message that “we’re all playing to win together.” It also inherently enhanced communication and transparency as everyone heard the same message and received the exact same information. I think it was a significant milestone for Zurich’s company culture in many ways, and I think our new building and its enhanced technology helped fuel the evolution.
That’s great, do other examples jump to mind?
The new workplace allows some Zurich values to echo louder. We talk about wellness and the new HQ has sit/stand desks for everyone, an on-site, state-of-the-art fitness center and extensive outdoor walking paths and fitness opportunities. We talk about sustainability and this building is certified LEED Platinum, there’s abundant access to green space, hybrid car parking spots – the list goes on. We’ve always had these values, they’re evident in exciting new ways now.
Even great workplaces require constant investment and modification. What’s one thing you’d like to see updated or changed in the year ahead?
The change I’d like to see is more cultural. Our HQ has so many different spaces and settings where people can work. People are collaborating more in these spaces throughout the day, but I still don’t see employees picking up their laptops and going to work in the lounge, or an open collaboration zone consistently. That kind of freedom is what the building is designed to empower, I still think we have some work to do to make it an inherent way of how our people use the building.
What’s the No. 1 thing that’s surprised you about the new workplace?
I don’t know if I’d call it a surprise, but it’s the energy in the building. It feels so different to me than our previous space in the towers. I’ve always loved coming to work, but more than that now, I love coming to this building. I feel something when I walk in that’s welcoming and energizing. Maybe that’s what surprises me, how great I feel in the space each day.
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Jeff Martin: Managing Change at Wells Fargo
Jeff Martin, CFM is a workplace change management consultant for Wells Fargo, helping the financial organization effectively manage Workplace change for team members across its global network of 230,000-plus people. In between focus groups, educational sessions and team video conferences, Jeff took a moment to talk with us about the future of work, his ideas, and Wells Fargo’s approach.
Your LinkedIn bio starts with this statement: “Technology and employee flexibility are driving a transformation in how, when and where we work.” In your words, what will this transformation look like?
What’s remarkable is how fast technology has advanced over the last decade. So many of the workplace possibilities we have available to us today – whether it is hoteling, work-from-home, enhanced mobility, etc. – they’ve really all been fueled by new tools like video conferencing, high-speed internet, mobile devices with 24/7 connectivity, the ability to access company networks safely off-site, the list goes on. These tools have reshaped how individuals and teams can work. We aren’t tethered to our desks, or even the office, anymore. Technology fuels work everywhere, anytime.
This translates to an individual being able to have a great relationship with their manager and connect with different leaders and locations each day without ever sitting in the same physical room as them. This level of efficiency and communication is incredible, and it wasn’t possible 10 to 15 years ago.
Most all companies have the ability to introduce these technology resources. Often, the harder part is then driving the culture change that needs to follow. Staff needs to understand how to leverage the technologies, they need to be empowered to rely on them to work from home or in different parts of the office during a given day. Companies that balance technology investment and effective change management will best navigate the transformation in how we do and can work.
So what are the keys to ensuring that culture change occurs to maximize these resources and opportunities?
When companies introduce hoteling or free-address workplace policies, they need to work very hard to make sure people understand the benefits of driving the change and then feel comfortable relying on these new policies. It’s common for people to be wary of the change. They feel like they need a “home base.” They like coming to a space that is exactly as they left it the night before. It translates to comfort and convenience.
That said, I actually conducted a number of focus groups last week and I left convinced that employees are more ready for a shared work environment than leaders expect them to be. They have concerns about comfort and convenience, but if you can demonstrate how hoteling or free-address workplace solutions can still accommodate these needs, then even the people who resist change can usually realize the benefits for them and the company.
At Wells Fargo, our current solution equips some people with assigned space and some without based on their respective needs. We’re constantly studying data, gathering feedback and tweaking our approach. Over time, we’ve seen that most team members have some level of mobility – they travel for work, leverage PTO, engage in work-from-home policies. Team members with a high level of mobility tend to respond the best initially to the idea of using shared space.
How are you making decisions about which employees have assigned seats and which don’t?
All of our decision-making is rooted in data. So, here again, new technology is making a big difference in how we leverage the workplace. We rely on badging to understand space utilization and determine the level of mobility of a group or team.
It’s not so much that we look at individuals and make singular decisions. We look at groups and we seek trends. What are the busiest days of the week? What’s a typical Tuesday-Thursday when it comes to space allocation and ratios? We can use this data to make decisions about which teams need more seats and where we can reallocate space to other groups.
You’ve worked in different industries throughout your career. Do you see differences in how people work, or how responsive they are to work-transformation from one industry to the next?
I really don’t see major differences. At a previous company, we went through a process of introducing casual spaces, game rooms and activity-based work environments. We made changes and faced many of the same challenges non-technology companies face. We introduced new environments but we still required effective change management to encourage behavior and culture change.
At another company, we launched and managed a telework program where employees gave up their assigned space in exchange for the flexibility to work from home. I think this made space transformation easier for us. People were able to understand, okay, I’m losing my assigned seat in the office, but I’m gaining the ability to work at home. It’s sometimes easier to advance change when there is a clear give and take.
No matter the industry, when you ask people what they need to do their jobs, they rarely list an assigned space. They’ll say a phone, a monitor, keyboard, a stapler, etc., but they assume they should have their own assigned space. They don’t see space as a resource in the same way as their technology tools. I think helping people understand space as a resource is a key way to make workplace evolution easier for every company.
We saw data that Wells Fargo has 230,000-plus global employees. How do you manage and drive change for an organization that large?
It’s all about committing to process and adaptability. When we launched the workplace change program, we established a variety of tools and processes that ensured change management education, the development of key resources, and training programs to help streamline the process. You have to commit to that process and reinforce the availability of these resources on a regular basis. In an organization this large, it’s very possible I may be talking about workplace concepts every day, but there are still folks that have not heard the term in some of our locations.
I think one great thing about Wells Fargo’s approach is when we established the program a couple years back, we didn’t draw a line in the sand and say, “We’re good” or “This is it.” As we move forward, we’re studying data, we’re listening to our people, we’re evolving our standards along with the company culture and organizational goals. This is how you move change forward.
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Eileen Morgan: How Delaware North Attracts and Empowers Talented People
Serving as the Chief Human Resources Officer for Delaware North, a global leader in hospitality, Eileen Morgan is responsible for the company’s global corporate human resources strategy and function, including talent and organization development, compensation and benefits, employee and labor relations and human resources systems and services.
Leading HR strategy for a company with 55,000-plus employees and operations in signature places like Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, TD Garden, Wembley Stadium and the Australian Open, to name just a few, Eileen’s responsibilities and impact carry global significance. She took a moment to talk with us about emerging trends, shifting employee desires, the company’s new headquarters and more.
You have been a human resources executive at Delaware North for 17 years. How has human resources evolved in that time?
Delaware North is four times larger today than when I started with the company. That growth alone has driven significant change for my role in scale and reach. But, what’s always impressed me at a foundational level, is our company’s commitment to delighting guests via hospitality. Our business is about ensuring people have memorable experiences, and our people’s attitudes and loyalty is so key in making that happen. Delaware North recognizes that and the company’s focus is what keeps them effective and strong as a business. The full credit goes to the family ownership of the Jacobs.
Other than that, just about everything has changed. There’s so much change we could talk about just in technology alone. When I started, nobody used laptops, Skype or LinkedIn. So, meeting candidates, identifying people for strategic roles – all of this had to be done by extensive travel and phone follow-up. The new ways we can connect instantaneously all over the world help HR teams be more efficient and share ideas faster – it’s exciting.
When it comes to recruitment and retention, what are employees looking for today they weren’t looking for a decade ago?
There’s three “wants” today’s employees have that are different than in the past, including:
- Immediate gratification: More people today than ever before have an inherent expectation for instant “status updates.” They want to know now how the interview went and/or if they can fill the job. When I started, the process could take a month or more and that was ok.
- Authenticity: People want to identify organizations with strong values and then come to realize the company delivers on their promise.
- Experience: People seek flexibility, support and learning opportunities that help them manage their career experiences similar to how guests in hotels are seeking great experiences.
Amidst these shifts, recruitment and retention is a never-ending constant challenge. Finding and keeping talent is hard work and as our company grows, the number of great people we need around the world grows with it. We have to constantly keep up with new trends and shifting preferences to meet people where they are in the marketplace.
What has helped Delaware North retain talent?
There are a number of things, but I think the core driver for Delaware North’s recruit/retain success is our relationship-oriented culture. From the top down, there’s genuine care for our people and the relationships we create to move our business forward.
Beyond that, our commitment to leveraging leading-edge technology. This is especially helpful in recruiting our seasonal workforce year in and year out. That’s another area I’ve seen real change during my career. While there wasn’t much focus on technology toward the front end of recruitment 17 years ago, there is now. Our organization’s ability to recognize these shifting realities and adapt is key to ongoing success.
Three years ago, Delaware North opened its new dynamic HQ in downtown Buffalo. How has the new building helped your people and organization?
The new headquarters empowers Delaware North in multiple ways, but there are a few areas that stand out. First, the building amplifies our brand. Delaware North has been in Buffalo for more than a century, but up until the new HQ, the company lacked a building with its name on it – now it has an entire city block.
When we bring a strategic partner, a job candidate, or a community representative to the building, they identify the HQ as a physical representation of our 100 years of business. They see our team’s pride, the experiences they have here; it all adds value. We’ve even started having annual employee events here as our staff wants to show off the building to their friends and family.
Beyond its value as a brand amplifier, the HQ also embraces technology in exciting new ways. The phone system leverages Skype, so there are no desk phones. Wireless connectivity allows employees to work in various settings and remotely. These changes help us recruit and retain people, and also enable them to work in different ways that fit their needs.
Even great workplaces require constant investment and modification. What’s one way the new HQ may evolve in the years ahead?
We continue to study the best ways to balance community and personal space. New generations are less committed to the idea of having their own office and more open to collaborative, team-based work. This lines up with new realities of how we work that demand multi-disciplinary problem solving and ideation.
So, as we grow with our building, I’m sure we’ll continue to test new allocation ratios for these types of spaces. How can we give people a sense of belonging and ensure they’re inherently connected to others across the office? How can we ensure people use communal spaces for their full ROI? How will business look different a decade from now? These are all questions we’ll try to answer in and with our building over the years ahead.
Delaware North employs 55,000 people, all working unique jobs. From corporate employees to culinarians, how do you balance these diverse needs and wants in your workforce?
We bring the same philosophy and values to each employee, whether they’re an executive, a human resources specialist, a data analyst, a chef or a server. Beyond that, we tailor to their needs through programs, policies and benefits, etc. that are very local and functional for them. So on a high level, we’re committed to professional development opportunities for everyone, and then we customize those based on the different roles.
For example, culinarians, as a generalization, care deeply about professional development and education. So, every salaried culinarian at Delaware North has access to a national certification program; they can take a week-long class; we work with vendors who offer learning opportunities and we support professional certification in numerous ways. We even send teams to the Culinary Olympics. This commitment to professional development is a value proposition for those who work with Delaware North’s culinary group. The types of professional development others seek will be different and on an entirely different scale.
Outside of that customization though, we strive for consistency. Our benefits programs, health and wellness offerings – we strive to keep the philosophy and values driving them the same. We care about ensuring our staff feels appreciated and has what they need to be successful.
What is Delaware North’s focus on change management?
Given Delaware North’s long history and current global scale, widespread change adoption can be hard. So many different departments are constantly introducing change (finance transformation, procurement changes, new talent and capabilities, etc.). Moreover, change can look different at our different properties, and so the change journey can’t always be dictated from the center of the organization.
Recognizing the complexity of change in our organization, we’ve worked with outside groups, we’ve established a strategic initiative all around change adoption and we’ve built technology platforms that empower our people to connect, share and help each other adopt new behaviors and best practices.
I don’t think an organization can ever rest on its laurels when it comes to change management, and that’s a main reason we’re committing enhanced focus to it in these ways moving forward.
Three Key Tech Takeaways from CNBC Talent@Work
The world of human resources and talent management is seeing exciting change – it was a consistent theme at CNBC’s inaugural Talent@Work event earlier this week. Part of CNBC’s new @Work series focused on making sense of the dramatic change occurring in the world of work, Talent@Work brought together HR leaders to focus on the workforce of tomorrow and how companies can best attract the brightest talent to fuel their business.
It was an enlightening discussion powered by inspiring thought leaders, and CNBC deserves praise for the high quality of the event. I was thrilled to see the passion and analytical rigor as fellow leaders shared their experiences, journeys and new ideas. The discussions provided insights into the role of technology and big data in shaping the workforce, and helped reinforce the importance of designing workplaces spatially and culturally aligned to talent strategies.
Talent@Work proved to be an event that every HR leader could benefit from. Given that there were only so many chairs at Tribeca 360 in New York City, I’ve compiled some of my takeaways from the event:
Data Is Crucial to Workforce Decision Making
Ryan Roslansky, Senior Vice President of Product LinkedIn, laid out the core challenge HR leaders face today, “There are more jobs than talent.” This means hiring top talent is as competitive as ever in our workforce and companies need to leverage every tool at their disposal to succeed.
Ryan shared how LinkedIn has developed a data platform that updates several million times each minute to bring companies the latest and greatest insight to inform their hiring decision. He shared examples and spoke eloquently about how LinkedIn has evidence that companies who understand data and use it to make talent decisions are progressively more successful in linking jobs to people than their peers. All to say, companies should hardwire data and analytics into their DNA as recruiting efforts move forward.
I took the opportunity to ask Ryan about predictive analytics and if LinkedIn uses them to help match employers and employees. He shared that while this is “true north,” – they are not there yet. He does envision a future where predictive data can recommend locations for employers and suggest potential candidates in locations automatically, but also indicated that preserving privacy of their members’ data would factor into any such endeavor.
Robots Might Not Replace Us
One of the more fascinating presentations came from Chieh Huang, Founder and CEO of Boxed – a tech company that makes shopping in bulk more convenient, easy and fun. Chieh spoke candidly of the company’s journey from a garage-based startup to one of the largest automated fulfillment entities in just over four years. The company has been able to embrace automation without laying off a single worker. Instead, they’ve retrained them to help power the company’s dynamic facility and service the numerous robots fulfilling orders.
Given McKinsey data that suggests anywhere from 400 to 800 million of today’s jobs could be automated by 2030, Boxed’s story is an inspiring one. Yes, robots and software will replace certain manual jobs as our economy becomes even more ideas-based, but that will also spur the creation of entirely new types of jobs. Navigating this shift will require a commitment to retraining that echoes Boxed’s efforts. All of this – robots, retraining, and more – will also influence how companies design workplaces to empower learning, automation and new scales of productivity.
Artificial Intelligence as Differentiator
An ever-present challenge in hiring is human beings’ inherent biases that can cloud decision-making. Into the future, machines and artificial intelligence (AI) may be the power source to help counter these blind spots for companies. Moreover, AI can help speed up our traditional, long recruiting cycles that drain time, resources and bottom lines.
Iba Mascood addressed this reality as she talked about TARA.AI – a digital tool that operates a secure contractor network of 50,000 pre-screened developers and can instantaneously assign them to manage projects or take on new roles. She pointed out how AI doesn’t bring bias into decision making and can make up for the recruiter’s lack of technical know-how in evaluating suitable candidates. Both she and co-presenter Frida Polli of pymetrics hailed the benefits of AI, which can not only match candidates to vacant jobs but also automatically identify alternate roles for individuals who weren’t a suitable fit.
Iba and Frida set forth a convincing argument that every company should be exploring how AI could bolster their talent recruitment efforts. Beyond its speed and accuracy, AI is also well suited to help companies thrive in a world where 65 million American will be temps, freelancers or independent contractors by 2020 thanks to the gig economy’s emergence.
The world of work is changing dramatically and daily. While this presents numerous challenges for HR teams, it is invigorating to see the promise of a future where humans and machines partner to enhance productivity and innovation. Kudos to CNBC for conceptualizing Talent@Work and providing a forward thinking platform as Talent leaders find balance in a shifting world. It was a great event and I’m hopeful to check out the future planned events in their series Productivity@Work and Capital@Work.