A cultural shift at ATB Financial creates new language

The shift to Workplace 2.0 at ATB Financial began with a conversation around culture and a vision board exercise with executives.  Magazines and artwork were used to create pictures to represent their vision of the office in 2020.  From this the ATB Workplace 2.0 team picked out themes and began facilitating conversations with others in the organization. They developed working teams made up of employees in different areas to meet and discuss a new office environment. The outcome of these conversations was a list of concerns, hopes and beliefs that employees brought forward.  How could they ever meet these differing and often opposing needs?

Positive workplace culture and flexibility lie hand in hand.

A visioning exercise with senior executives at ATB Financial has lead to a cultural shift and Workplace 2.0.

ATB partnered with Better Workplaces and Workshift – Calgary Economic Development to see how they could build a flexible workplace.  ATB employees now work from home, work remotely in branch’s boardroom space or ‘Now” spaces, fit their 40 hour work week into slices they require and rely on ‘benching’ spaces to collaborate with colleagues.   All employees were issued a laptop, had the option of keeping their office at work or having an office at home or using ATB buildings in different throughout the city for meeting clients or collaborating.

This significant shift in culture and work environment has created a new language within ATB.  When the team noticed that there was negative water-cooler talk around who was not in the office or who was working on weekends they brought awareness to the issue with the term ‘sludging’.  An awareness campaign developed at reducing ‘sludging’ was undertaken.  ‘Benching’ was another new word developed to signify the most popular new office arrangement of a long empty bench top table with chairs all around.  Employees loved this new work area and gathered around with their laptops and other colleagues to collaborate and hold meetings.

After a year or so, the U of C came into the picture to undertake a study to assess the outcome of the new office initiative.  They worked with managers who assessed the performance of their teams before and after.  They found an increase in productivity along with an increase in employee engagement, job satisfaction, and work-life balance.  Other outcomes from Workplace 2.

  •  Retention has increased
  •  Real Estate (office) costs have decreased by 51%
  •  Recruiting has become easier
  •  Commuting time was reduced substantially
  •  On-going Changes in compensation to reflect new working reality

The Workplace 2.0 initiative was successful due to the support of the ATB president and other top executives.  Their goal is to continue to be fluid and flexible to meet their employee needs into the future.

Thanks to Michelle Phaneuf for this guest post.

Head Down

Thank you to all who came to meet and hear Blaine Donais at our most recent Workplace Fairness Luncheon on September 9. Blaine spoke to the science of Workplace Fairness. I wanted to share his Head Down Theory with you because it really resonates with me, and every time I hear him speak about it, I understand it a little more fully.

The Head Down Theory goes to the culture of engagement. Why do people stay, and in fact push for deeper engagement? Why do they leave? Blaine reached his conclusions after extensive study and research in the US and in Canada.

There are four quadrants to describe behaviour in an unfair workplace. The distribution of people within the quadrants reflect the workplace culture. A quick survey of your own organization, or in fact department, may reveal much about the culture of your own workplace.

Blaine Donais's Head Down TheoryThose with high confidence in their skills, and high loyalty to their organization, will challenge for positive change. Unfortunately in many organizations those challenges are perceived as negative influence, and are not encouraged.

Those with high confidence in their skills, and low loyalty to their organization will walk away and find more work.

Those with high loyalty to their organization, and low confidence in their own skills will assimilate. In an organization with a dysfunctional or unfair culture, those in this quadrant will assimilate possibly perceiving it as the only way to advance or to stay employed.

Finally, there are those who have low loyalty to their organization, and low confidence in their own skills. Those in this quadrant will internally exit, with the unenviable result for the organization of increased presenteeism, increased absenteeism, and low engagement.

The majority of employees in most organizations rest in the Head Down zone in the middle, where they focus on the job to be done and possibly, their own survival. They are not loyal or stupid enough to challenge, and not desperate enough for an internal, or an external exit. This is a place of passive disengagement.

How does your department plot? Where do you sit?

For further reading, see “The Head Down Theory: Understanding and Mitigating the Cost of Unfairness in the Workplace” wfiJOUNRAL, Fall 2010 page 47. Other publications from Blaine Donais include Workplaces That Work (2006, Canada Law Book). Visit www.workplacefairness.ca to purchase and for further information.

Why do a Workplace Fairness Assessment?

Why do a Workplace Fairness Assessment?

One day, manager Dean invites new worker Melinda into his office to discuss comments he has received about her from her co-worker. He opens is conversation warmly: “Hi. I have been really happy about your work – it is timely and accurate, and I think you are a real asset to this team Melinda. ”And follows with “but I would like to talk with you about your relationship with the others on the team. Some things have come up.” Melinda is taken aback “What? What sort of things? What’s this about?” Dean is forced to continue, defensively. “Well, I’d like to be very honest with you. Each person’s contribution to the team is important. Some people think that you are interfering with their work and publically coming down on them about their performance.”

Where did this conversation go wrong? How can a Workplace Fairness Assessment help both Dean and Melinda understand their situation better, and learn to assess and improve the tools they have to address workplace conflicts?

The Workplace Fairness Assessment is a series of questions asked and interpreted of key stakeholders by a trained Workplace Fairness Analyst. Categorized by workplace culture, workplace conflict, and conflict management, the analyst asks a series of questions designed to paint a picture of the effectiveness of existing conflict management systems within an organization.

The data is analyzed and evaluated through 4 measures: justice, efficiency, engagement, and resources. Like four legs of a stool, healthy systems score well on all four measures.

Once the data is tabulated, organizations have comparative data with others in like industry sector and size. Melinda can seek information about standards, and be reassured that she is working for an organization that has the systems in place to address her concerns in a fair, economical, and effective way.

Dean will have clear insight into how to best use limited resources to change workplace conflict systems if he has concerns that Melinda and her colleagues do not have access to the help they need to address workplace conflicts.