BT’s flexible working know-how accelerates successful implementation for UK’s 2nd largest police force.
BT’s flexible working know-how accelerates successful implementation for UK’s 2nd largest police force
When Greater Manchester Police moved to its new, purpose-designed headquarters in November 2011, Superintendent Chris Ullah and his team took this opportunity to introduce flexible working and accommodate 1,100 administrative and support staff in a building with space for 500 desks.
Calling on the experience of BT’s specialists, Greater Manchester Police was able to design, develop and introduce shared desk working for 97 per cent of HQ employees - an astonishingly high proportion for a head office - in a very short time scale, achieving in a few months what conventionally might take years.
Greater Manchester Police is the second largest force in the UK, serving 2.5m people and covering an area of 500 square miles. It employs around 10,000 people and has 12 divisional offices and 90 police stations. Its mission is simple: to be the most effective police force in the UK.
The force wanted to reduce operational costs in line with government spending plans. It had previously considered flexible working (or, as Greater Manchester Police term it, agile working), but at that time had not the technology to make it feasible. The move to a new HQ building provided the catalyst for change. This move, in November 2011, would require the force to find office space for 1,100 administrative and support staff in a building with space for 500 traditional, allocated desks.
“We chose BT to help us because of its reputation as a leader and practitioner in flexible working,” says Superintendent Ullah. “Added to this was its holistic approach: where other suppliers just wanted to sell us IT kit, BT was very much more focused on our people, processes and new ways of working.”
Experts from BT Workstyle Managed Services worked closely with Greater Manchester Police’s project team to design a flexible working strategy that would maximise the new workspace and enable closure and disposal of seven separate properties.
Seven new working styles were identified and introduced to the organisation through briefings with its senior leadership team and workshops and presentations for all employees, including the use of colourful banners to communicate the changes in key buildings. Using its experience to support change management for the force was an important part of the BT solution.
Employees apply for a flexible workstyle via an online flexible working portal, which is provided and managed by BT. Once the application is approved, the employee uses the same online portal to order any equipment or other items he or she needs, making it simple and easy to switch to the new workstyle. A BT helpdesk supports employees throughout.
All newly-agile employees can now work from home or ‘touch down’ and work from any of Greater Manchester Police’s 12 divisional buildings. Additional locations will follow in the coming months. Ninety seven per cent of head office staff now work flexibly across all HQ job junctions. The remaining three per cent have jobs that are strictly location-dependent (such as receptionists) and are the only individuals with an allocated desk.
Flexible working has been largely embraced with enthusiasm. “For a handful of managers, it was initially a challenge; they are learning to have confidence in their team’s ability to meet objectives when they are no longer in the same location”* said Project HR Manager Carol Brady.
Flexible working will deliver considerable benefits to Greater Manchester Police.
It anticipates significant operational cost savings. Closure and disposal of surplus estate will reduce operating costs by £3.6m by 2014 and the force expects to benefit from a further £1.2m year on year saving from a reduction in business rates, energy and maintenance costs.
As a result, the force is on its way to reducing its office estate by 30 per cent by 2015, and reducing operational costs in line with government spending requirements.
Superintendent Chris Ullah, Greater Manchester Police
Flexible working will help the force achieve its 12 per cent reduction in consumption of gas and electricity by 2013, and also improve its carbon footprint. CO2 emissions will also be cut thanks to a projected 10 per cent drop in commuter car journeys by 2013. Many individual staff report a much improved work-life balance, thanks to fewer and/or shorter commutes to work.
Flexible working also underpins the cultural change embodied by its award winning, contemporary new workspace, which is designed to encourage more collaborative working. Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, Peter Fahy, is passionate about flexible working and has no personal office himself. “Employees already feel empowered and act accordingly, taking the initiative with others and sharing information and ideas. Previously, people tended to work behind closed doors”* says Carol Brady. To maintain team spirit, all teams are encouraged to set aside one day a week to catch up in person. A clear desk policy operates.
A new Microsoft office environment enabled the introduction of an electronic document management system. This has greatly reduced the need for storage in the HQ building, freed up additional space for informal working areas and allowed staff to access documents when working away from the building.
BT Workstyle Managed Services is a proven methodology for successfully introducing flexible working. It provides a structured change control service, practical expertise on the flexible working transition, support for property and HR functions, supply chain management and ongoing support.
BT flexible working specialists worked seamlessly as part of the Greater Manchester Police’s small project team* sharing expertise and supporting the programme of change throughout, including developing employee communications and helping managers adapt to managing people by objective, rather than physical presence.
Project Manager Norman Ridley explains: “BT helped us show how everyone was a winner. The organisation realises financial savings and efficiencies; managers see a reduction in absence and increased performance; staff enjoy better work-life balance and save real money from reduced commuting; and the environment benefits from our lower carbon footprint. Once people understood where we were coming from, selling the concept was easy.”
Central to the BT Workstyle Managed Services is a secure web application which is initially used to explain flexible working choices to employees and then supports them as they make the transition to a new work style such as more flexible office-based working as well as home-based and mobile working.
BT and Greater Manchester Police identified seven discrete workstyles. The largest group (50 per cent) were designated ‘Agile Plus’* mainly functional roles such as business analysts and project managers who were out of the office for two or three days a week. The next largest group was ‘Team Enhanced’ (30 per cent), people typically working in administration, recruitment and finance, who are out of the office once or twice a week. All these employees can now work from home or any of Greater Manchester Police’s 12 divisional buildings, with more ‘touch down’ locations to be added in the coming months.
Says Denise Byrne, Project HR Manager: “Staff are beginning to realise that working in an agile environment enables them to create the perfect balance between work and home life. Under agile working, team members are empowered to choose where and when they work, supported by modern communications technology, allowing them to keep in touch with line management and colleagues remotely.”
As a fully managed service, BT Workstyle Managed Services frees Greater Manchester Police from the burden of running the flexible working portal, and supports employees and their managers in their day-to-day flexible working lives.
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