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Promoting Community through Workplace Transformation at GSA

The client’s perspective

By 2012, the General Services Administration (GSA) was an organization on the move—literally. GSA planned to consolidate all GSA employees from its four Washington D.C. metropolitan offices into one location by the late summer of 2013. The goal was to save operational costs, encourage increased collaboration, reduce environmental impacts, and break down organizational barriers to foster a single, cohesive GSA-wide culture. And the timing was critical, as GSA was working toward completing the move by the time its leases on the existing office spaces expired.

The move affected approximately 6,000 employees, all of whom had to adopt and adjust to a new, more mobile way of working—one that incorporated sharing common workspaces, hoteling, and teleworking. The challenge was much bigger than the logistics associated with moving—it involved changing an entire culture.

Working in close collaboration with GSA and our teaming partner, Eagle Hill supported GSA’s transformation to becoming a model example of the mobile government “workforce of the future.” 

A new view

Building on the work that was already underway in the Federal Acquisition Service (FAS) organization of GSA, Eagle Hill provided change management and communications expertise that then fed into the Agency-wide transformation efforts. We integrated the FAS transformation efforts into one cohesive, comprehensive project plan designed to support GSA’s overall transformation vision. We defined, established, and managed all project planning, change management and on-going communications activities to ensure they aligned at every point of impact for every affected workstream. We established the key milestones that would keep GSA on the road to success, and identified the critical project dependencies that could cause disruption if not kept at the fore. 

As GSA began their consolidation and transformation to a mobile workforce, considerable challenges surfaced. The largest and most persistent challenge was the lack of employee commitment and buy-in. GSA’s workforce had developed a comfortable routine and were uncomfortable with disrupting it. The concept of sharing workspace was new and unfamiliar, and questions of routine and protocol (Where will I hang my jacket? Can I decorate my space?) troubled some employees. Less tech-savvy employees resisted the tools that would now become part of their daily routine. Other employees felt the burden of a new commute to downtown while also resisting the idea of teleworking from home.

A breakaway approach

Eagle Hill recognized that robust communication would be key. We created a strategic communications plan designed to support the agency’s transition to the new way of working and keep GSA employees abreast of the transformation activities, milestones, technology updates, and available resources. We not only identified the most effective channels and timing for communications, but also defined the branding strategy for the website portal and developed and implemented customized communications, emails, newsletters, and point-of-need communications throughout the transition. 

Eagle Hill also helped GSA assist its employees in working through their discomfort by building an employee readiness toolkit to help employees learn, embrace, and leverage working in a more mobile, collaborative, and technologically-focused environment. The toolkit included web-based training on a wide-breadth of topics, from something as simple as “Workplace Etiquette in a Hoteling Environment” to more complex topics such as “Communicating with your Supervisor in a Mobile Work Environment,” as well as job aids that aligned with different phases of employee readiness. Job aids offered employee recommendations, information, and activities for preparing themselves for the move, including topics as straightforward as an overview of the new neighborhood to more complex topics, such as how to reserve office space and troubleshoot common IT problems.

In addition, we developed a Transformations Champions Change Network consisting of approximately 100 employees from GSA’s various organizations that provided two-way communication between GSA leadership and each organization. Eagle Hill helped establish the rules for operating this network, down to the details of how to run more effective and action-oriented meetings. This network soon became a trusted source of information and support for GSA employees as they moved through the transformation. 

All of Eagle Hill’s work supported GSA and its employees as they completed their workplace transformation and successfully moved to one consolidated Washington, DC location. We helped GSA streamline its change management and communications efforts and provided the right tools to equip its employees to deal with their immediate concerns and prepare properly for long-term success.