--> Gill Blog: Workplace Continuity Affects Roles of Senior Management

Gill Blog

Monday, October 03, 2005

Workplace Continuity Affects Roles of Senior Management

Change seems to be a recurring discussion theme within public and private organizations globally. Whether this is driven by the decline of manufacturing in North America (and the consequent rise in knowledge-driven organizations), the impact of globalization, reconfigured management structures, or the higher profile of enterprise risk management (ERM), change is indeed afoot.

If this is accepted as a given, it becomes incumbent upon executives to grow their organizations, in part at least, by redefining the roles of those who execute senior policy directives. This all ties in very closely with the underlying principles of Workplace Continuity. The connection points are fairly straightforward: organizational policies are changing because of a combination of factors are colliding simultaneously, including:
  • Globalization
  • the trend toward flatter organizational structures
  • the rising costs of employee turnover
  • the impact of rapidly evolving mobile technologies
  • growing recognition of the need for better employee work/life balance
  • the growing
    ubiquity of broadband that facilitates the expansion of telework
  • greater risks associated by manmade, naturally occurring and technologically-based phenomena
  • the need to better manage facility and overhead costs

Clearly, the dynamics of the workplace are in the midst of substantial change, and to remain competitive, organizations need to keep pace. So what’s the macro effect of workplace continuity on an organization? The impact of risk and business continuity planning is on the front burners of many organizations; therefore a more structured approach to ERM is required. The main challenge for the organization is to move to a point where it can connect a number of seemingly unrelated functional areas.

A growing number of organizations profess to having existing ‘plans’ in place, but the overriding question is how holistic are these plans and to what extent do they integrate multiple areas of risk on a uniform platform? For one organization, that plan may be focused on how to evacuate employees from a site in the event of a disruptive event; another sees this as an exercise in preserving valuable data by choosing one of a number of readily available backup strategies; a third might be weighted more toward quantifying intangibles and calculating how a ‘bad’ event may negatively impact their brand; while another will look at how risk can be somehow managed by using the assets within its real estate portfolio. Certainly, these are all valid concerns, but the real test is how well are these areas connected along a common continuum? Experience thus far has shown that organizations still tend to manage these functions at a very narrow bandwidth and within well-fortified silos. The result is a number of individual silos with a lot of white space (a.k.a. scant communication) between them.

The goal then should be to shrink that white space by better managing risk, costs and operational efficiencies. It would seem logical that the point where these initiatives can find some common ground is through one function that brings it all together. Because bricks and mortar seems to be a common denominator – place, as we know is where everything happens – it stands to reason that facilities personnel could conceivably quarterback or project manage the entire process. If your real estate executives gain a better understanding of workplace continuity principles – everything ranging from a fundamental understanding of emergency management, business impact analysis, and data backup – they can integrate this knowledge and form better working relationships with those who control the silos, and ultimately use this knowledge when putting together a comprehensive organizational facilities strategy.

By no means are we suggesting that the onsite facility manager should be managing the critical data or crafting its emergency response plan, but an efficient configuration of the workplace will at least in part be made more efficient if facilities personnel are empowered to better connect the dots. It may seem overly ambitious, but it just makes good business sense. As the dynamics of the workplace undergo transformation on an unprecedented scale, so too will the skill set requirements of those whose traditional roles have remained static, as they will have to adapt to the changing roles and responsibilities associated with workplace continuity. If executed properly, the organization will be rewarded with greater operational and financial efficiencies realized by making traditional organizational roles more cross-functional.