Transforming the Workplace

In a previous post I talked about the importance of aligning company cultures in order to be successful. There’s an equally important cultural corollary: aligning and modernizing the workplace to join the 21st Century.

Guy Laurence, former CEO of Vodafone UK Ltd., talked about the “death” of the traditional workplace in a talk he gave back in 2012 – but what he said, it seems to me, is as valid today as it was then. Perhaps even more so.



The message? The conventional office and workspace is dead because they follow practices and formats that were developed 70-80 years ago, based on the principle of attendance and proximity. At that time it was the essential way to do business. You had to see someone to conduct business. Today, that idea is “out of date and redundant.”

In addition, customer expectations are changing more rapidly than the traditional workplace can cope with, while the workforce is also rapidly changing. Generation Y is much different than older employees, even Generation X, because by the time they get to work, “they are already are using more superior technology than they receive as an employee in their first job,” Laurence said. They also bring a different set of attitudes when it comes to technology, as well as a different mindset – “they assume that work is a community” and that traditional workplace rules are “alien to the sense of community.”

Laurence’s description of the drastic workplace transformation he initiated at Vodafone, including no private offices, no private secretaries, no departments, no “tribal areas”, 100 percent clean desks, all laptop and wi-fi, and even no fixed phones for his 5500 workers, is quite thought-provoking. It’s also quite Vested in its approach.

Laurence’s work space configuration is very much the same type of environment that’s needed to support the Vested mindset of high collaboration, trust, alignment among peers, communication and flexibility.

Laurence says his changes at Vodafone resulted in “lower costs, more productivity, higher commercial agility, better employee engagement and less CO2 emissions,” as well as higher profits.

That’s a six-win parlay. His talk is well worth a listen.

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