Case study: GPT Group

by 10 Nov 2011

Human Capital: Can you outline what GPT Group has done with its physical work environment over the past 18 months?

Amy Davies: We’ve worked to create a new work environment in the MLC Centre Sydney which provides our people with leading edge facilities and technologies to support their best work. It offers a diversity of workspaces and facilities required by our people now and into the future, taking into account an increasingly diverse workforce as well as the evolving nature of work in the 21st century.

In terms of the physical environment, our workspace has undergone a dramatic transformation. While the location of our headquarters in the MLC Centre was ideal, the environment itself didn’t reflect our brand or culture, and lacked the flexibility to adapt to the changing nature of our business. The fitout was outdated and we were continually having to find more and more office space as our business grew. It was clear that from looking at our office layout and the way we were using our space that there were some inefficiencies we could address to get more value from our investment.

The new work environment we have created now sits on three contiguous floors of the building, connected by two open staircases to encourage movement and interaction between and across teams. Through leveraging clever design principles, we were able to provide our people with a greater diversity of work spaces and facilities, while at the same time reducing our overall footprint. Sustainability was also a key driver for the change. We are targeting an Australian first in a building 33 years old – aiming for a 6 Star Green Star Office Interiors rating in an older building that hasn’t been through a refurbishment.

HC: You’ve taken a holistic approach to this change in office space – can you outline why?

AD: For us, the workplace is about more than the bricks and mortar – evolving how our people work in the space was equally as important as the physical design. We’ve moved to an Activity-Based Working model for all employees based in our MLC Centre office. This means that our people are free to move around and work in spaces that suit the task they are working on. For example, if an employee needs to focus on a concentrated task such as completing an important report, there are quiet spaces where mobile phones are switched off and there are no interruptions. Or, if two team members need to collaborate on a spreadsheet, instead of emailing it back and forth or crouching over a tiny computer monitor, we have provided collaborative spaces with wireless technology and big LCD screens so people can work in real-time together on documents – saving time and making collaboration easier and more comfortable.

HC: How important was technology in this evolution?

AD: The technology we introduced into the environment was key to making this work. The core principles underpinning the design were to enable our people to work anywhere at any time – providing mobility, facilitating communication and enabling greater efficiencies and productivity. We introduced a range of technologies, including tools designed to support communication and collaboration such as better video conferencing , Microsoft Communicator and Live Meeting, and tools to support real-time working such as Interactive Whiteboards, dual screen computer monitors and a wireless internet network spanning three floors.

HC: Do you believe physical work environment can have an impact on engagement, heal and productivity of employees?

AD: From a cultural perspective, workplace redesign is one of the best tools we have available as HR professionals to achieve behavioural and cultural change in a business. It throws open the opportunity for really powerful conversation around the way we work, our core business processes, the way we interact, and what behaviours are acceptable and encouraged in the workplace. For us, this was a chance to take a good look at how we were working, and see what needed to evolve to achieve both a greater level of performance, but also engagement and satisfaction of our people. The cultural context was key here – GPT was undergoing a period of renewal and transformation as a business, so transforming our workplace and the way we worked was a logical extension of this.

HC: What would be your top tip(s) for other HR professionals or other companies looking to make a big change to their office space like this?

My top tip for other organisations looking to make a significant change to their office space would be don’t underestimate the opportunity this provides you to achieve real behavioural and cultural change. The process is key – take the time to do your research, talk to your people and get it right. The opportunity to change your work environment doesn’t come up every day. Also, the journey doesn’t stop when you move in – how you continue to drive the value out of the workplace through ongoing monitoring and education is critical to realising the benefits. While taking this approach may mean a greater investment up front, it is hard to put a price on the value your organisation gets out of teams working together more effectively and efficiently every day.


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