Leading Employees through Major Organizational Change I took over as CEO of KL- City Health Services Sdn. Bhd. (KLCHSSB) in January 2017 when the healthcare organization was preparing for major change. We were about to move hundreds of employees to a new corporate headquarters, a challenging operation at the best of times, while also getting set to transition to an open-plan workspace, a first in its history. The shift to a state-of-the-art office space, with employees working side-by-side in a collaborative environment, required a complete transformation in work culture. Many of our senior staff had spent several decades working in a closed environment. As a result, apprehensions ran high. Making sure the appropriate level of consideration was given to employee concerns, while ensuring a major shift in our corporate culture was successfully implemented, proved to be a massive job. Indeed, it turned out to be the challenge of my career, perhaps even a bigger challenge than I’d bargained for when signing on. To successfully meet the challenges of our corporate relocation, and bring about a fundamental transition in work culture, you have initiated a 12-month change management campaign in Q2 of 2018. You share key lessons and personal insights gained from that experience that you hope will prove invaluable to fellow executives embarking on a change journey. The Situation Throughout the 2000s and early 2014s, KLCHSSB built a very successful business around a portfolio of “blockbuster” drugs. By 2015, however, the company (along with its pharmaceutical peers) was forced to rethink its prevailing business model due to the industry-wide revenue losses that stemmed from the expiration of exclusive rights to drugs serving a broad base of the population. In July 2017, a strategic shift to new “growth platforms” prompted KLCHSSB to sell one of its divisions, a deal which included the transfer of the former head office. After a new location search, the company decided to move operations and employees to a new, purpose-built building in Johor Bharu, a dedicated technology park and life science cluster in Greater Johor. The new HQ was to be a state-of-the-art open office space that would stir innovation. But the new environment required the company to change how it set up teams as well as changes in the way employees worked together physically. The move was set to take place in early 2018. After arriving as CEO in January 2017, you found a group of employees that (after years spent working in closed office “silos”) lacked the collaborative and communicative style of work required to drive innovation and competitiveness. As a result, a primary objective of the relocation and move to open-plan offices was to bring about a transformational change in the culture to embrace collaboration, transparency and innovation. Simply put, while the relocation promised to be a major challenge, senior management recognized it as a rare opportunity to completely overhaul the company’s corporate culture and reposition the organization to respond to its changing needs. The Change Management Plan and Its Results KLCHSSB developed a comprehensive, year-long change management campaign with a steering committee comprised of executive team members and personnel from Human Resources and Communications. The campaign featured a variety of innovative tactics (expanded upon below) and had three objectives: 1. Ensure a smooth transition to our new offices; 2. Transform our corporate culture into one reflecting greater collaboration, transparency and innovation; and, 3. Minimize turnover. The roll out aimed to empower employees as active players in the change process from the very beginning. As executive leader, I assumed the role of the campaign’s “driver” and catalyst in its execution. Following the completion of the campaign, a formal company-wide survey was conducted to gauge employee satisfaction in their new work space, as well as its effect on collaboration, transparency and innovation. Overall, 88 per cent of employees polled were “satisfied” with the new environment, and 61 per cent reported seeing “a positive impact on engagement.” Basically, the company we succeeded in retaining all the employees during the relocation.

Please form discussions for the following key lessons:

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a. Communication is crucial

b. Convert employees into change agents

c. Deploy cultural and behavioural training

d. Surround yourself with the right people


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