Structured Choice: Formalising Your Team’s Working Options to Drive Success

MovePlan’s Suki Reilly and Vanessa Manipon consider how to continue to support the individual, while taking into account the needs of their teams and the wider operations and objectives of the business as a whole.

The past few years have seen much change in the workplace, as organisations strive to create spaces that cater to their employees’ needs.

“Workplaces of choice” have enabled staff to choose the way of working that suits them.  While initially driven by need (the Pandemic’s stay at home directive), employees have evolved their choices to suit their own personal circumstances: working from home but within a commutable distance to the office, working in the office, working fully remotely, or a hybrid of these options.

These choices now demand structure to ensure that the impact each has on people and the place of work is the right one for the individual, the team and the organisation as a whole.

Structured choice to deliver operational goals

At MovePlan, we have coined the term “structured choice”, whereby teams throughout the organisation formalise the working styles available.

What do we mean by structured choice? Having options available with policies, processes and a workplace that allow these choices to be efficiently used. This means that choices continue to support the individual, while taking into account the needs of their teams and the wider operations and objectives of the business as a whole. Specifically, this is focused on delivering employee experience objectives to attract and retain the right talent.

Introducing structured support around working choices can see the business benefit from the following:

  • Driving trust and loyalty amongst employees
  • Giving leadership teams a clear structure with which to lead and advise teams effectively. This will help to support consistent workplace practices, ensuring a consistent workplace experience for everyone
  • Creating team ‘norms’ and culture that is intentional and transparent
  • Aligning expectations between the organisation and the employee, which creates greater responsiveness to future change
  • Driving long term flexibility that creates a better workplace experience for all and leads to better wellbeing for the individual

Evaluate, evaluate, evaluate

How do you decide what type of structure is needed? As a very first step, an organisation should completely evaluate their business’s processes, policies and place (the “3Ps”) of work to understand and reinforce the available choices to employees and how it impacts business operations:

  • Policies: are the business’s policies around in-office working, employee residence and reimbursements fit for purpose?
  • Processes: do the business’s processes around occupancy management, facilities requests, new hire onboarding work with the ways employees are choosing to work?
  • Place: review of the in-office settings, amenities and technology available helps understand whether they help employees work effectively in the ways they choose, where they choose

While reviewing the 3Ps, it must be remembered that people are at the heart of all businesses, so assessing these through a people lens will ensure that they work for the employees on a day to day basis.  It is also worth bearing in mind that as employees’ own needs evolve, their choices may too. However, evaluating the 3Ps through a people lens means that any adjustments to the processes, policies and place of work should withstand any choice changes.

Communicate, communicate, communicate

Following any changes to the policies, processes and place of work, it is crucial that these are communicated in a clear and easily accessible way, along with why it’s happening and how these will benefit the employee. The organisation’s leadership and managers should be aligned to the choices and the structure in order to deliver effective communication and drive better uptake.

Implementing structured choice successfully

With all this in mind, here are some of our top tips to making structured choice a success:

  • Recognise that choice is different for every organisation and every employee: create a structure around what these choices mean and help people make it work for them
  • Challenge and review the choices to ensure they’re viable:
    • Do the policies and procedures (particularly from an HR and finance perspective) support these choices?
  • Be prepared for – and flexible to – change: by creating a structure around the choices on offer, decisions will change, but can you adapt? Can you communicate in a timely manner and with clarity?
  • Communicate!
    • Be transparent and clear when communicating any change or update
    • Have answers; reduce grey areas
    • Let your people know your expectations
    • Empower people to make choices that fit them best

Structured choice has clear business benefits, but at the heart of it is people. These are, of course, your greatest asset, so by demonstrating that everyone’s work choices are respected, while at the same time being viable for the business’s own operations and commercial goals, organisations can be confident that their organisations are running effectively and successfully.

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