Relocation boosted morale at Sodexo

1 Feb 2017

When Sodexo moved to Arenastaden, the primary focus was on quality of life and the employees. It was a move that also entailed a change of approach. Here are some top tips from the company.

“At the time, our lease in Västberga was about to expire, and we wanted this to coincide with giving our way of working a new lease of life,” explains Katrin Andréasson, Workplace Service Manager at Sodexo. “We needed to review our own needs and at the same time challenge ourselves to gain a better understanding of our customers’ needs as well.”

Good communication

A project emerged out of these issues, which was to involve more in-depth analyses of needs, along with communication and finances. Considerable emphasis was devoted to regular and detailed communicating regarding the move.

“We issued internal newsletters, created our own information pages on the intranet about the move and Arenastaden, and provided regular updates at our breakfast meetings,” says Katrin Andréasson. “We also organised site visits to the new office building for everyone who wanted to get to know the area before the actual move.”

Sodexo has 8,000 employees in Sweden, but only 190 of them are based at the office in Arenastaden. The vast majority work on site with the customers and are less affected by the move.

Challenge of moving after Christmas

When the office staff went back to work in January 2016, it was to Arenastaden. It meant that most of the move was carried out just after Christmas, which is something that with hindsight, Katrin Andréasson would advise against.

“Our contractors found it difficult to get hold of the right people that week and we had to redo some of the planning. But it all worked out in the end.”

Activity based working

Before the move, a thorough feasibility study was carried out encompassing everything from capacity utilisation at the office and in the conference rooms, to commuting patterns. In-depth interviews were also conducted with employees. The feasibility study provided information about the needs of the business and how the new office should be designed.

“We came to the conclusion that an activity based approach could suit the business quite well,” says Katrin Andréasson. The new approach would support both employees and customers via greater flexibility.

The new office was divided up into zones: quiet, common, meeting rooms etc., in order to offer staff the best possible working environment.

“Naturally some were a little sceptical at first,” continues Katrin. “Accepting change is always a challenge and we went from a very traditional way of working in which everyone had their own desk and their team close by, to an extremely modern, activity based approach. Of course it took time to adjust.”

Great results

But the change turned out very well. Most are happy with the new way of working. In employee surveys, the new approach has boosted overall job satisfaction ratings, but also the sense that employees have begun using their time more effectively, according to Katrin Andréasson. 

“The overwhelming majority think it’s exciting and fun to get to know new colleagues by working in this way.”

Sodexo’s tips for successful change management

  • Analyse your current and future needs.
  • Put together a project team to manage the project in smaller subprojects and together with employees. Participation is essential.
  • Communicate to all employees regularly and give them plenty of warning.
  • Allow opportunities for and encourage questions and answers.
  • For activity based working, it’s important to have a good HR process when it comes to inducting new employees. Make sure new employees have a mentor to start with and get to know working practices and new colleagues. It’s also important for managers to hold regular team meetings, so everyone feels that there is still team cooperation.
  • Some can feel that they’re losing the sense of being part of a team and are more on their own with the activity based approach. Discuss and come up with solutions together. Team lunches? Sit together as a team on certain days? Be flexible and listen.
  • Appoint someone who is responsible for managing the change process before, during and particularly after the move/change. That’s when issues tend to arise.
  • Accept the fact that not everyone will be positive to changes. Give it time.
  • It’s important for management to show commitment and get involved, and for the objectives of the change to have the endorsement of staff.
  • Be bold and don’t negotiate on the strategic objectives and vision.
  • Don’t shy away from looking into the reasons behind the challenges that come up along the way. Adopt a long-term approach with solutions that help you achieve your goals. 

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