The DNA of Work

Why you need the workplace management framework

May 16, 2023 Season 1 Episode 47
The DNA of Work
Why you need the workplace management framework
Show Notes Transcript

Organizations are finding it increasingly difficult to attract and retain the right skills and talent – in the face of rising employee expectations and fierce competition. Under these conditions, the experience people have at work is critical – leaving this to chance is foolish and wastes an enormous opportunity to ensure people have what they need to deliver for your organization.

Delivering the best workplace experiences requires you to carefully manage the workplace (whether that’s an office, or people’s homes). The Workplace Management Framework provides a structure for the development and assessment of best practice in the management of the workplace. And there is now a training course (available through IFMA) to help workplace professionals learn what they need to know and how to implement these best practices.   

Here's a quick overview of the topics in this episode:

  • Defining the experience of work (05:40)
  • The creation of the workplace management framework (12:25)
  • Discovering the “how to” aspects of the training program (18:14)
  • Designing for change (21:31)


AWA Host: Karen Plum


  • Andrew Mawson, Founder & MD, AWA
  • Brad Taylor, Director of Consulting, AWA
  • Lucy Jeynes, Managing Director, Larch Consulting

 AWA Guest details: 



AWA contact: Andrew Mawson 

AWA Institute contact: Natalia Savitcaia

Music: Licensed by Soundstripe – Lone Canyon

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Thanks for listening to the DNA of work podcast

00:00:00 Karen Plum

Hello! It seems that many organizations are finding it more difficult to recruit and retain people and even to find the skills that they need. This might have been an issue before the pandemic, but it seems much more widespread now, perhaps because so much has changed in terms of people's aspirations and their choices. 

So how is this impacting the way workplace experiences are delivered, and how can we make sure that they're good enough to retain the skills and the talent that we need? We're going to talk about that right now. 

00:00:34 INTRO: Welcome to AWA’s Podcast, which is all about the changing world of work and trying to figure out what's right for each organization, because we know that every one is unique. 

We talk to people who have walked the walk, who've got the T-shirt, and who've learned lessons that they're happy to share with us. I'm your host Karen Plum, and this is the DNA of work. 

00:00:58 Karen Plum

We've talked about workplace experiences in recent episodes, and we've also talked about the importance of treating employees as consumers of the workplace. These are big changes and ideas for many workplaces to think about. So how do we need to go about delivering the experiences and the workplaces that our organizations need? 

Here to discuss this with me are three guests, all of whom work with clients and deliver training in this field, so we're in good hands.

 AWA’s Founder and Managing Director Andrew Mawson is joined by Director of Consulting Brad Taylor and Lucy Jeynes, Managing Director of Larch Consulting. 

If we want to curate and deliver targeted, well thought through workplace experiences, then it makes sense that we have to manage the workplace itself. So I started by asking Lucy how workplaces have traditionally been managed. 

00:01:51 Lucy Jeynes

Well, I'm not sure that it was managed in an integrated way. I think that you'd got the HR teams looking at the work experience and the relationship experience, perhaps that kind of management and hierarchy relationship. And then I don't think there was very much strategic looking after the physical, the kind of sense of place in that relationship.

And we've often talked about that interface between people, process and place, as if that was something that workplace professionals were looking after, but actually it didn't really happen like that because place was looked after by property and facilities people, who mended things that broke and people were looked after by HR. And process tended to be looked after by IT and technology.

So this pulling together of that curated workplace experience that looks at the whole journey through the day and all the things that you would need in terms of physical facilities, collaboration facilities, social interactions, meetings, one on ones, all that sort of thing, I think this is really the first time with the development of that workplace management approach, that it's been recognised that all of that comes together in an integrated way and that that is what makes the workplace experience. 

Because I think people talked about the workplace experience without imagining that a key responsibility, a key role needed to be created to actually look at all of those facets rather than it just coming together without any sort of organized management of that. 

00:03:27 Brad Taylor

Probably the only time that that ever was looked at was when there was a move. If they were moving premises and then these teams would get together and they would think about how do they want to do things. And that's typically where you’d see the great divide between all the different functions as well, you know - IT asking HR, how do you want people to work in the future? HR saying well, I don't know, what can the technology do, then how would that fit in the environment?

It only really got thought about in those sort of moves and then afterwards ironically it all went back to the way that they ran things previously and the functions didn't talk to one another and therefore the whole experience wasn't necessarily maintained in its thinking, in the same way that perhaps hopefully it was when a move took place. 

00:04:05 Karen Plum

So is this all down to that very siloed approach of having, as Lucy said, HR looking after the people and FM looking after the premises and IT looking after the technology? All of those areas have got very specific objectives and drivers and budgets, and they're looking at it from their perspective, they're not looking at it in a joined-up way. 

00:04:29 Andrew Mawson

Yeah, and you know, that's how it's been for time immemorial it seems to me. But I think now that we have to think deeply about the experience that we first of all design and then deliver, we have to get those functions operating to a single tune, really, and it has to be a unique tune associated with the organization that they're involved with. 

And at the moment, I mean it's quite interesting, you think through the number of different touch points that the individual employee has from the moment they're recruited all the way through their life in the workplace. And remember that this workplace is no longer an office for many people.

Every moment they're receiving some form of support or message about how the organization feels about them. And it seems to me this is becoming a really important strategic tool. If you leave it to chance, I think you're wasting an important resource that you could turn into something which is quite powerful. 

00:05:31 Karen Plum

Does this require a very strategic realignment of those functions so that they can come together as one? 

00:05:40 Brad Taylor

There's a necessity at the moment organizations are finding themselves with, which is how do we define what the experience of work is now, given all the changes that are going on in the world and how people are relating to organizations and their career paths and how they want their lives to pan out generally. 

So that's causing businesses to look around and say, well, actually, who do I turn to here to be able to galvanize the workplace experience and the way that we're going to work effectively and that may start with, you know, the Chief People Officer or the CIO or the OPS Director. But ultimately those teams realize that they have to start talking to each other, because they all hold a piece of the picture, they all have a lens into it in some way or other. 

And so we're starting to see these teams come together to tackle the issue, but of course the next bit is how do they integrate effectively to be able to bring the skill sets and maximize the abilities that they have to create a compelling workplace experience. 

00:06:40 Lucy Jeynes

I can remember when we used to run management training courses kind of back in the 90s and we were talking about kind of drivers for change and we'd talk about the concept of the burning platform and it was very kind of conceptual, wasn't it? But when you have something like the pandemic, where you genuinely do have a burning platform where suddenly, IT have to talk to Facilities, have to talk to HR, because there is a sudden emergency requirement for people to work in a different way. Then although that was a dreadful period for all the reasons that we know, it did force a collaboration and it did force an acceleration of acceptance of things like using new technologies that would have taken absolutely years to happen gradually.

And I think firstly people have surprised themselves with how tech able they are, across all of the generations and how flexible they can actually be. And that they can work in places that they didn't think they could work. So it's given the workforce themselves much more pause for thought about what is work. I still work for this company even though I haven't been in for two years, so I'm still adding value and doing my job.

So it has enabled that dialogue to come to the fore, both I think at the tops of organizations where that strategic decision making is made, but also for people doing the work, thinking well, actually, what does work mean to me? What do I like about my job? How much importance do I attach to going to places, seeing people? What do I need to actually get things done? 

And I think if we'd asked people that before, which obviously we did in the work that we did, but nobody was really sure organizationally or individually, but now they've had two years to really think about it. They've got much more of a sense of what they need and what they like; what they would enjoy and what they don't really like about the work experience now that they've got more choice about whether to go back; do something else; stay at home; get another job. 

So I think lots of people, both organizationally and individually, have had a really deep think about it, that we couldn't have got them to do in other situations. 

00:08:56 Andrew Mawson

I would agree with that, but I think that having got through the pandemic and slipped back into sort of some normality, I think some of those imperatives feel like they've kind of left us a bit. And so I think what we've got is a bit of a void, because this idea of the workplace experience, it's kind of everybody's job, but it's kind of nobody's job as well. 

There isn't really anybody in organizations that we come across apart from very occasionally, whose day job is to worry about the first of all, the design of that experience - what do we want that experience to be, what does it need to be? And then the ongoing delivery of it.

And I think that's where there is a sort of a vacuum at the moment, which, many of us have been talking about a new emerging role, the Chief Workplace Officer or the Chief Workplace Experience Officer, for some time. But it seems to me its time is coming very rapidly, because HR have a tendency to be interested in a recruitment policy, process and very good at it as well. FM tend to be a bit more sort of interested in the day-to-day delivering stuff. And of course, Real Estate are more interested generally in providing the containers in which work is undertaken. So there isn't really anybody working on behalf of the Chief Exec or the COO, to make all this happen, and I think that's a sort of a waste of a, you know, of an opportunity really I think that that's where I think we may see some evolution in the short term. 

00:10:41 Karen Plum

I mean in terms of guiding people towards that sort of a way of thinking, I think we wanted to talk about the Workplace Management Framework, to introduce that to people. How would you define workplace management, Andrew? 

00:10:57 Andrew Mawson

For me, it's the role which is about coordinating all the different parties to first of all define what the organization’s experience needs to be, and I don't mean that just in terms of how it looks. For me, this is about every sense and every moment and thinking very strategically about what every sense in every moment can deliver, both in terms of function and in terms of impression. 

And it requires somebody to first of all pull the parties together to define what their needs are and then ultimately needs somebody who can then coordinate different elements and monitor how it's going, be involved in its evolution. Somebody who's constantly thinking about how can that experience evolve to give us an edge in the marketplace and also tune much more into different groups’ needs within the organization itself.

So that's how I’d define it, Karen. 

00:11:55 Karen Plum

We're not doing this for its own sake. We're doing this to deliver some form of competitive advantage for the organization to leverage those sorts of capabilities. The Workplace Management Framework sets out a number of competencies, sort of activities that are recommended that people focus on in order to bring all of these different strands together. 

Lucy, can you give us a little bit of background on the Workplace Management Framework, how it came into being? 

00:12:25 Lucy Jeynes

Well, it was an interesting initiative actually, because Andrew contacted a number of workplace consultants that he knew in the UK marketplace to say that AWA wanted to pull together the strategic model. And we thought, I don't know, why do we all want to work together on something when we're all doing the same thing?

And then I think there was some general sort of, we were in fierce agreement, if you like, that everybody was working to the same principles, and that it would be a good idea for the profession as a whole to develop a set of guidelines and a framework that would help all of our clients into that bigger picture workplace management approach. 

And so, as I remember it, the sort of brains behind it, Graham Jervis and Andrew, pulled together a peer group, and then we worked and developed it together. So it went through a very sort of robust peer review process, with lots of people working in the same field but not in the same organizations, to come together to say, well, this is what we all think is a strategic approach to workplace that is going to drive that area of thinking forward. 

So it's a useful, well, it is a framework, it's a useful structure that helps to explain to an organization how all of these things are interrelated and the fact that it's quite graphical in the way the model has been developed, which is something that I think didn't come out of the first iteration and we were sort of pushing for that. 

And saying, well, all the stuff is there, but it's still quite listy, but now it's visualized as that holistic circular approach with everything interrelated, that's a really helpful way, I think, to show organizations how all of these elements need to be taken as a whole, if you want to look at workplace as an experience, rather than individual lenses on individual things that you might focus on. 

00:14:24 Karen Plum

So Andrew is this - has the framework remained an AWA thing or is it endorsed by an industry body? 

00:14:31 Andrew Mawson

The framework was always designed to be a kind of cross-party initiative really, because I think a number of us felt very frustrated that there was no clarity around what good looked like for the industry. And also to raise, you know, elevate this a little bit strategically.

But since its formation, we've had a lot of success, particularly in the US with IFMA recognizing the framework, in fact there is now sort of an IFMA version of it and we built a training program with IFMA around the whole thing, which has four different kind of components to it, but over a period of time you can basically work with your peers to learn much more about the model and how it hangs together. 

And we've had something like 75 people have gone through that now and it's becoming mainstream within IFMA as it's recognized, I think that this is kind of a new discipline, it's not going to replace FM or HR or any of these other things. We see it very much as a coordinating initiative and it's giving rise to a new language, a new kind of way of looking at the whole, the whole world. 

So yeah, I think we're having some success, but I think we're still in the early days, really. You know, we're also in the business of preparing people for a new role that we think is going to exist, as I mentioned before, what we can label as a Chief Workplace Office or a Chief Workplace Experience Officer. 

00:16:01 Karen Plum

Right. Looking at the framework, there are different competencies as I mentioned earlier, things like client relationship management, there’s risk management, project management, change management. But at the heart of the model is strategic management. So Brad, what is strategic management in a workplace sense? 

00:16:22 Brad Taylor

Strategic management in the workplace sense is thinking about, in terms of the organization, what's the organization trying to do? What is its strategic aspiration? Where does it need to be in the future? And through understanding those broader goals, thinking about, well, what does the workplace need to be able to provide, what does the experience of the workplace need to be able to provide in order to attract, retain the type of talent and capability that we're going to need to be able to deliver those broader strategic goals in the future. 

So it's moving away from a responsive, on demand request style response to what happens in the workplace, to something that's much more about understanding how do people behave and why do they behave the way in which they do and how does the environment and the processes and the system and all those things that we put in place enable people to perform at their very best to do the things that we need them to do as an organization to achieve our broader goals. 

And therefore, I think one of the things that people who go through this program particularly get excited about, is that the level of conversation is elevated to a much more strategic level about how do you influence a leadership team, a senior leadership team, made up of different disciplines, all with their own personal and functional interest as well as the broad organizational goals. 

How do you influence them in a way that they start thinking about workplace experience in a much more strategic way and therefore become true sponsors of the projects and the programs that need to be put in place to deliver that sort of change throughout the entire organization. And done well it can make a significant difference on the performance, the sustainability and the attractiveness of the organization to future talent. 

00:18:14 Lucy Jeynes

One of the things that I think is really helpful about the training, the modules, is that as well as introducing those concepts, there's actually quite a lot of ‘how to’ in there. So if you're coming along and thinking I'm interested in this, I'm in one of these areas and I would like to become more of a workplace experience person, there's a lot of information in there in that peer-to-peer learning environment about how would I do that? How would I start? What would I say? How would I get an initiative like that kicked off? What do I say to my board? How do I get this onto the agenda? How do I start to build a case for it? What sort of people do I need to work with? 

And I think a lot of training and development misses out on the how to do it. So we've got lots in there about the ‘what it is’ and ‘why it's important’ and of course that's in there. But also what is valuable is how to start, what to do, how to garner support, how to get it into the C-Suite, and I think that is a really important part of the development because I think it would have been easy to talk about the framework and how you might apply that and how you might use it without ever really giving people the confidence to take it upstairs and say - we need to do this thing and this is how we can get going with it. 

00:19:36 Karen Plum

Yes, because I think for so many years, the people in these functions like FM, Corporate Real Estate, HR, IT, haven't been at the top table. And haven't had that strategic input to the board or the senior leadership team, so they're not used to operating at that level and it's probably quite scary. 

00:19:57 Brad Taylor

Yeah, it's quite daunting. I mean, knowing that you are received and thought of in a certain way as a function, means that you have to change your approach and you've got to be able to start to have conversations and the confidence to have those conversations in a way that people will see you differently for the first time and think about your role differently. 

And it can be done and that's one of the values of the program is it builds up those skills over time about how to create, as Lucy was saying, that case for change, that compelling vision of what could be achieved and getting a leadership team on board with that. And also understanding how to understand where people in the organization are, both in terms of their rational understanding of how the change is gonna happen and their emotional engagement with the change as well. 

And then thinking about what can we do to influence them to get them where we need them to be, to be able to make this something that the organization achieves successfully. 

00:20:48 Karen Plum

I was just thinking that, you know, if you do manage to elevate the discussion, elevate your input to that sort of senior level and start to make some inroads into the design and delivery of positive workplace experiences, I guess it's not a one-time fix, right? We talked about this on the podcast recently and one of the key challenges I suppose is to change the way services are delivered and monitored and costed. And how flexible they are to change over time, because organizations are changing all the time, right? You can't have fixed agreements - it just doesn't work anymore. 

00:21:31 Andrew Mawson

Well, first of all, I mean, you know, whatever you do, you've gotta design for change. I mean, I think that is a kind of a given. But there is a need, I think, to continue to innovate around the workplace experience. And you know, as we said earlier on, there are lots of different parties involved in delivering a workplace experience, some are more obvious than others, and there are also different service providers, so they all need to be kind of coordinated. 

They all need to have measurements that are integrated so that you can get a sense for how well the experience is actually delivering what you set out to deliver. There's a lot of work to do, and there's an evolution, I think the Chief Workplace Officer needs to be somebody who's continually scanning the horizon to identify what competitors are doing and not just competitors in their core business, but competitors for the labor that they're hiring and what other innovations might be out there.

And as I said before, the workplace experience is no longer about what goes on in an office. We have to start thinking about the experience that we deliver through technology and also in people's homes and how we discharge our duty of care to people who are simply not going to be in offices very much at all. 

So I think all of this coming together creates a new, very exciting intellectual challenge for those who are in the business of grasping this subject. 

00:23:02 Lucy Jeynes

I think it's been a long time, hasn't it, since employers have had to compete for staff in the way that they are now and compete for skills. And we're seeing that there's quite a divide, really, between the kind of oldest generations in the workplace and the youngest generations, and certainly one of the things that we're seeing with the youngest people, the Gen Z people, is that they've been very frustrated about all the time they've had to spend indoors and at home.

And a lot of people in that generation want a workplace experience, so they don't really want to work from their bedroom at their mum and dad’s anymore. And so they want to go into a workplace that is like the workplaces they've seen on television and on the web. And so they want to go somewhere to go to work, but they also don't want to go 9 to 5, Monday to Friday. 

And so they're coming with a set of requirements that are much more demanding than we've been used to expecting from young people starting on their journey. And I mean we've all seen that in our own organizations where you're interviewing people and coming on board and they've got a list of requirements; they don't want to be in every day and they want to know if they can have a sabbatical; and there are particular projects in areas that they don't want to work on because they don't want to work in that sector because they're very values driven and they're coming with a sort of shopping list of what they want from the workplace. 

And they're quite demanding customers, which is great, but I think 30 years ago when we were starting recruiting people, then you just sort of said well, this is what there is. 

00:24:35 Karen Plum

You've got what you got!

00:24:37 Lucy Jeynes

There's a horrible commute and at the end of it there's a horrible office and everybody would have put up with that. But because people are consumers in all areas of their lives now, I mean, you look at the changes the university sector have had to make for students, since we were all students, that the expectation now is of a much higher experience than it would have been 30-40 years ago.

And that's translating now into the workplace as well, people have got quite clear demands and requirements and preferences, even as they're joining workforces and they're the people that we really need to bring in and keep, because that's the talent for the future. 

00:25:16 Brad Taylor

We've seen the rise, I think of the individual as a brand, you know, rather than it, to Lucy’s point, it used to be you were one of a collective and you all worked to the greater good of the organization and that's changed massively, isn't it? People, thanks to technology and social media, are much more aware now that they, how they portray themselves to the world and what their personal identity is to the world and therefore how they want to contribute to the world of work. 

But I think following the pandemic they are looking for those opportunities to come together collectively and to be able to identify with causes, great causes, but the way in which they want to do it is changing and that's key for employers and organizations is to adapt and to be able to meet those needs and meet them in the space where they are now going. The landscape has shifted and organizations have gotta go to that new territory. 

00:26:06 Karen Plum

Thanks Brad, I think you summed it up really well. The marketplace is fiercely competitive in terms of products and services, but now much more so for talent as well. And it calls for a new approach to take advantage of the opportunities. 

Many thanks to Lucy, Brad and Andrew for sharing their expertise and insights - it was such an interesting discussion. 

If you'd like to know more about the Workplace Management Framework or the course that we discussed, there are details in our show notes, or you could search online for IFMA Workplace Strategy & Leadership Program and that should find the course for you. 

And of course, we're always delighted to hear from listeners if you'd like to explore the topic or find out more about how we could help you on your journey. Check out the show notes or head to our website

00:26:59 CLOSE: If you'd like to hear future episodes of the DNA of work, just follow or like the show. You can contact us on our website, Thank you so much for listening. See you next time. Goodbye!