Office rationalisation and relocation: how I made a difference Jo Brown, HR manager, strategy and policy, Hertfordshire County Council

I played a big part in a property rationalisation programme called ‘The Way We Work’, where we moved people from 51 offices to three.

It turned into a very big change in culture, and has had a really great knock-on effect in terms of what we’re trying to achieve around diversity and carers (employees who look after dependants).

We decided to sell off a lot of our older properties and move to three main bases: Apsley, Hertford (County Hall) and Stevenage.

I was initially involved with the Apsley move, where I was leading on the HR support, developing the consultation frameworks and leading negotiations with the trade unions, co-ordinating the HR activity and reporting back to the project board.

I began by identifying the people who were going to move into the building, and looking at their specific needs. We had a huge consultation programme, to engage staff, managers, trade unions, and to make sure that people were actually able to move, and we couldn’t afford to have a gap in service delivery, so that was a priority.

Each member of staff had a one-to-one consultation with their line manager, to discuss simple things such as how they would get to the new office. We then identified people as ‘red’, ‘amber’ or ‘green’ in terms of risk.

Red people said that they absolutely could not move. When we started, this was about 20% of the workforce, and we managed to get that down to less than than 10 people.

Redundancies were rare. From an HR perspective, there was very little disruption, no turnover in the organisation. We looked at how people were working, and we gave desks to people with ‘mostly in’ status, while ‘in and out’ staff, such as social workers, were given team desks and touch-down areas.

We moved more than 3,000 people, and after the transfers we did a pulse check to see how they were feeling and they were really happy in their new buildings.

We’ve co-located teams who normally work together, which wasn’t always the case before, so service delivery has improved. The biggest cultural change has been around flexible working. Although all of our employees have been able to request flexible working since 2000, the lack of technology had been an issue. On the back of this project, we’ve been able to invest in it – this has been especially important to carers.

Jo Brown, HR manager, strategy and policy, Hertfordshire County Council

Lessons learned…

  • Consult your staff from the start
  • Use moving as an opportunity to address other issues
  • Be innovative

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