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Why Change Management Needs to Be More Like Personalized Shopping

Gensler New York created excitement for its office move by inviting employees to post to Instagram. Image © Gensler

Phrases like “proceed to checkout” and “share to Facebook” are colloquial in this internet-of-things world in which we live. With technology changing at breakneck-speed, there is an inherent expectation that everything is both instant and customizable. Everyone from retailers to news outlets to your local coffee shop are “creating experiences” tailored to the customer. So if your favorite retailer can address questions in real time via social media, then why can’t a company do the same for its employees when going through a major change like a move or policy update? The answer is: It can, and it should.

Similar to personalized shopping that is catered to the individual, effective change management requires connecting with targeted communities in your company. We found this to be the case across the board for startups, boutique agencies and large enterprise organizations. Here are three ways to customize change so it appeals to employees’ hearts and minds.

1. Identify the Trendsetters

The social butterfly of the office can be your biggest change advocate – their popularity and positive attitude can go a long way in gaining buy-in and acceptance from other employees. When you announce changes, empower these change advocates first and let them inspire employees. It's inherent in human nature to trust customer reviews and referrals from people we know. For your move, consider “change networking,” in addition to traditional top-down communications. See below for a visualization of how this process works.


Image © Gensler

2. Add the Monogram

Customize the change experience. A strong digital strategy allows for personalization as a way to connect with employees. When working with L’Oreal on its move to Hudson Yards, our change management team identified the communication channels and styles that would resonate the most with their demographic when sharing information about the move and implementing new ways of working. This came in the form of gifs, social media campaigns, emails blasts, posters and even a Project Runway inspired video about ergonomics. All the content was shared through emails and pop-ups linking back to a mini site on the company intranet, which allowed employees to access the information when it was convenient for them. The experience needs to be a blend of technology and reality to humanize and individualize the experience.

3. Generate Buzz

Moving should be exciting, and many companies use a move or the design of their new office to change culture. Employees should be introduced to their new location and workspace with a communications plan that generates fanfare and excitement. Allow employees to post selfies to create and share experiences at work. It is always interesting to see the artifacts that people find when packing up for the move.

When our Gensler New York office moved this fall, we asked employees to share on Instagram some of the interesting things they found at their desks while packing. They were encouraged to use the hashtag #fuggedaboutit and tag @gensler_nyc, so we could easily find their pictures and share with our broader community of followers. We found that this promoted our culture, connected people to our long history working in Rockefeller Center, and also inspired everyone to look forward to making memories in our new space. To continue the momentum of excitement after the move, we had people share Instagram photos of our new workspace – the sit-stand desks being the clear winner for most people!

Proceeding to Checkout

Personalized shopping creates an environment of comfort, ease, and convenience for the consumer, and change management can do the same for employees. It is easy to be cynical about change when you receive impersonal, cookie-cutter email blasts with a laundry list of upcoming changes. By communicating with your employees on a personal, one-to-one level, you take out the uncertainty and fear that naturally occurs with major changes.

Try doing things that speak to humor, irony, purpose and belonging to a broader vision. If you can make a few people laugh out loud about a mundane subject such as purging files, you know that you are successful. It has been reported that happy employees are 31% more productive. What executive can argue with that?

Sonya Dufner
Sonya Dufner is a Principal in the New York office of Gensler. Sonya’s background in interior design combined with her planning experience leads to an approach that synthesizes strategy and design to create fully integrated environments. Sonya works with global clients to rethink their use of technology, workflow, employees and the influence on company culture, productivity, and the correlation that workspaces have in attracting the best talent. Recently, Sonya has explored what is happening as more and more individuals choose to work in ‘third places’. Corporate clients have been fascinated with the creative culture of coworking communities and their support of entrepreneurial spirit. Contact her at sonya_dufner@gensler.com or follow her on Twitter @sonyadufner.