Strategic Planning for Future of Work – Case Study – Abt Associates

Strategic planning for future of work: A case study on global research firm workplaces

Gearing for a major workplace change

Upon celebrating 50 years in business, Abt Associates partnered with Stegmeier Consulting Group (SCG) to articulate to their nearly 2,700 employees around the world that their upcoming workplace change would set the tone for the company’s next 50 years of existence. 

Abt is a global leader in research and program implementation in the fields of health, social, environmental policy, and international development, with a mission to improve the quality of life and economic well-being of people worldwide. The four phase project aligned the work environment and styles of work with the goals of the company.

With approaching lease expirations for its Cambridge, Massachusetts headquarters and its Bethesda, Maryland office, Abt Associates focused on a significant reduction in its real estate portfolio. Their challenge was how to shift from an environment of private offices, isolated work, and underutilized space to a workplace that would lead to key strategic outcomes: knowledge sharing, collaboration, agility, and competitiveness.

SCG was engaged to guide the organization in creating a shared vision for a workplace of the future, define a work environment that is aligned with the strategy and direction of the company, and realize a workplace that ultimately allows the company to maximize performance and deliver the best quality and value to its clients.

Clearing the path for the future of the workplace

As a strategic adviser to Abt, Stegmeier Consulting Group conducted a number of consulting activities and deliverables. 

One of the early stages of the engagement included the facilitation of Discovery & Applications™ workshop for the C-suite. In this workshop, SCG presented its key discoveries on best practices in managing workplace change and how these can be applied in the implementation of Abt Associates’ new workplace strategy.

This pre-engagement activity was followed by the development of a Change Management Strategy and a Communications Plan. These comprehensive documents mapped out key activities and communication on the aspects of change, the respective schedule of each activity, and the responsibilities of the people/team involved.

Introducing stakeholders to the planned changes started with leaders and managers. SCG facilitated focus groups for Abt’s Management Advisory Group (MAG) to solicit feedback and ensure their involvement and engagement with the change process. 

Our project team regularly facilitated meetings with the company’s Employee Advisory Council (EAC) to discuss the change management process and enlighten each member on their roles as change champions. This council’s purpose centered on improving employees’ connection to the company by representing their voices on key issues and concerns.

In addition to leading these affinity groups, SCG conducted Mobile Brainstorming activities with functional groups to understand employees’ perception on the aspects of current work culture that should be addressed to shift to new ways of working.

For the leaders, SCG facilitated leadership training webinars with the goal of providing proper training and education so they can confidently lead their team through change. Furthermore, our consultants developed communications content and materials to reinforce key messaging about the change process (Leader Talking Points, FAQs, PowerPoint presentations, announcements/invitations to meetings & events).

Giving employees a glimpse of the future and gathering their ideas by hosting interactive visioning sessions 

One of the highlights of our engagement involved the development, planning, and facilitation of 17 Visioning Sessions at Abt’s headquarters, as well as in a number of their prime U.S. locations. 

These events featured a Star Trek theme, with a goal to create a hands-on, fun and engaging way to let Abt colleagues know their voices would be heard throughout the four phases of the change initiative. Attendees toured four interactive stations, each designed to define the future of the workplace, give a glimpse of the new office design, provide an overview of what a work day might look like moving forward, and stimulate discussions on the company’s workplace efforts. 

With the participation of 400 employees, SCG was able to gather insights through suggestion boxes that were placed in the venue to understand what employees were most excited about, what concerned them most, and what they wanted to discuss further. 

Some of the main themes that emerged were employees’ anticipation for telecommuting opportunities and workplace flexibility; and employees’ fear of losing private spaces and adapting to a new work location. This allowed SCG and Abt to identify ways to address these concerns. It was also uncovered that employees felt a greater emphasis needed to be placed on telecommuting guidelines, information on allocation of space, and fulfilling technology needs.

Considering the findings from these events and with guidance from SCG, Abt was able to come up with a plan that would enable a positive and effective implementation of workplace change.

Strategic planning for the future of your workplace

Does this sound like something that could help your company navigate the waters of a workplace change? If you’re interested in strategic planning for the future of your workplace, take the first step by reaching out to Stegmeier Consulting Group through the form below.