The following is an extract from the Journal of Internal Communication. See if you qualify for a free industry subscription at www.internal-communication.com/joic.
EY is one of the biggest professional services organisations in the world with 210,000 people globally. Our global headquarters are in London and around 900 people were based at our Waterloo office, which in November 2015 relocated to a new office with different ways of working at London Bridge. Some of our people had been in the Waterloo office for 30 years and had grown accustomed to the building, the working environment and their offices or desks.
Globally at EY we have a programme called Workplace of the Future (WOTF) which is our move to activity-based work spaces. WOTF offices are designed around how our people work, not where they sit, providing a variety of spaces. Dozens of our offices around the world have moved to a WOTF environment and our relocation from Waterloo gave us the opportunity to do the same.
We were moving to 6 More London Place, which is next door to our UK&I headquarters at 1 More London Place, in London Bridge. The building was occupied by our UK&I colleagues who were going through a restack as well. Our project team had three months to renovate the office ready for our move. The UK&I teams moved out in July and we were moving in from November.
Our new office was completely renovated to make it open plan. There was to be no more assigned desks. Instead, people would sit in team neighbourhoods at desks or in informal spaces and collaboration rooms.
This represented a big change to our current ways of working and we had to devise a communications approach that would help our people with that change.
Our communications approach started with recognising the impact this would have on our people. For effective change, a key principle is that you start at the top and involve every layer.
A year before our move, we set out to engage key people in the business using a number of face-to-face channels, including town halls. We informed leaders and stakeholders about the move and the new ways of working so they would understand why we were making these changes and be supportive. We then asked them to hold meetings to cascade these messages to their teams and we provided them with a ‘meeting-in-a-box’ to help them do this. Our thinking here was that people are generally more receptive to change when their leaders champion it.
Our Executive Assistants were key to our engagement strategy. They know the business and work closely with senior leaders and therefore have a lot of influence. We invited them to a series of informal lunches and meetings to keep them in the know and to hear their opinions – their feedback was invaluable to the programme.
To help manage the move, we asked team leaders to nominate a Move Coordinator (MC). Our MCs managed the logistics of the move and played a key role in communicating key messages answering questions and generally being the go-to person.
We developed a SharePoint site for the move. It included a welcome message from our Global Managing Partner, images of what the new office would look like and an explanation of our new ways of working. It had our key messages, Q&As, information about our new area (like the best places to have lunch!) and much more. We had a 6MLP Yammer feed too so people could share tips and ask questions.
We wanted our people to get a feel for what life would be like in the new office. So we set up a show suite at our Waterloo office, ordered coffee and cupcakes, and hosted a number of drop-in sessions to showcase the new layout. We had an IT expert on-hand to preview our new technology. One of the key features of a WOTF office is the technology. At 6MLP, we have port replicators to minimise cables at desks, intuitive room booking screens, super fast and confidential printing via a new system called PrintPlus and more.
Six months in advance of the move we hosted a series of ‘get ready for the change’ sessions. Here again, we started at the top. Our Global Managing Partner held sessions with our leaders explaining the changes and asked them to deliver these sessions to their teams using the materials we developed to help them. All teams participated in this.
A month before the move, we sent weekly countdown emails. This was to help make the transition as seamless as possible for our people. It included detailed information to help them prepare for the move, and a checklist of actions. We also designed a very comprehensive Welcome guide and sent this the week before the move.
On day one, we stood in reception and welcomed people to the new office with a postcard that had the top five things they needed to know to help them get started. This included where to get a coffee – we knew it would be a popular question. Floorwalkers were around all week long to help answer technology questions, point people to their lockers and help them settle in. This personal touch was really important, we may have a high-tech office but we’re still a people organisation.
We surprised people with a gift bag in their lockers. It contained an EY-branded power bank that said ‘Welcome to 6 More London Place’ and lit up with the London skyline, EY-branded sweets and a food voucher for the restaurant next door at our UK&I headquarters.
We received very positive feedback on our communications. People told us they felt informed and prepared for the new office environment. Most importantly, people were prepared for the change and we had very few questions on the move-in day. In fact, by 9.30 it felt like we’d been in the new office for months! Our people are really enjoying our new and modern workspace. It has definitely been a great move for us.
BIOGRAPHY – JENNY MOSS
Jenny is the Communications Leader for Business Enablement at EY. She has worked with EY for 17 years, including 15 years in communications. Since June 2014, she had led the global Business Enablement Communications team.
She has a Bachelor degree in American Studies from Hull University and a post-graduate diploma in Internal Communications from Kingston University.