What is the Key to Workplace Transformation?


Workplace transformation is a necessary part of this transitional period as the pandemic becomes more manageable. HR leaders are leading this charge, but it comes with hiccups and challenges. In fact, 67% of respondents to a 2021 survey by Oxford University’s Saïd Business School and EY said they experienced at least one underperforming transformation during the last five years. 

What’s interesting about the Saïd/EY research is that it showed that successful transformation was reliant on tuning into the emotions of people and that both employees and leaders have to buy into change.

“Build a culture that embraces and empowers everyone’s opinion: Leaders need to harness the right emotions to keep workers engaged and motivated, while providing enough emotional support to prevent anxiety and burnout,” writes Matt Symonds, a Forbes contributor and Co-Founder of Fortuna Admissions & CentreCourt MBA Festival, in an article about the findings

In addition, the research showed that companies that did engage people’s emotions were more likely to be successful in transformation. This fits neatly into what other business experts have said about ensuring that a company’s workforce has a real stake in its success.

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“Building an exceptional team or institution starts with a founder,” writes Laszlo Bock, an HR executive who led Google’s People Operations, in the book Work Rules! Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead. “But being a founder doesn’t mean starting a new company. It is within anyone’s grasp to be the founder and culture-creator of their own team, whether you are the first employee or joining a company that has existed for decades.”

In the case of Google, every employee has stock options and a say in how the company is run. In the book, Bock explains that the founders wanted to create a company that enabled employees to take initiative, experiment, fail fast, and continuously learn from those experiences. The Googlegeist survey that allows employees to share their opinions on the direction of the company and how things are run empowers people to suggest change and be a part of it. 

Giving this kind of power to employees is bold and courageous, but experts have proven that it works. 

“There is so much untapped potential inside every organization; by having your people be the co-authors of change, you will significantly increase your chances of success,” according to a Q&A with Behnam Tabrizi, a world-renowned organizational transformation expert, in The Magazine of the Rotman School of Management, which is part of the University of Toronto. 

READ: Learning and Development for the Transformed World

Tabrizi stresses that “insiders must be engaged” for transformation to happen. He points to the many tech companies like Tesla and Amazon, which some people describe as cults. On the contrary, Tabrizi suggests they have become evangelist type of organizations because they help people connect their work to their values. There’s a higher purpose, which makes people more amenable to any necessary changes. 

The example he shares is Microsoft and how it has employees write a mission statement that connects their individual North Star to the company’s North Star. Those who cannot do it are told that they probably should not work there.

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Another example is Bay Networks, a company that was the result of a number of mergers and lacked culture. Tabrizi helped the Bay Networks to increase profit by twentyfold and market cap by fivefold. How did he do it? He says the key was giving people autonomy and helping them achieve a “founder’s mindset.” Employees and leaders together joined forces and felt they were part of something bigger than themselves. 

READ: How to Build a Culture of Learning

Leaders are clear that employee engagement and leadership buy in must go hand-in-hand for workplace transformation to have a chance at success. Cultivating a culture in which employees have a founder’s mentality or an entrepreneurial mindset is essential to successful and meaningful change.

Some of the world’s top organizations, including Google, Apple, and Amazon have used this belief as a foundation for their culture. As a result, they are more nimble and able to pivot when necessary. It also means that transformation is easier. No one, however, can rest on his or her laurels. 

READ: 6 Popular TEDTalks That Can Help HR Transform Work

“The effects of a particular transformation will last for as long as a company continues to adapt, execute, and anticipate trends in the market,” says Tabrizi in the Rotman magazine. “However, it will only be a matter of time before transformational change is required again. The challenge is to continue to change before you have to.” 

Photo by Alexas Fotos for Pexels


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