Crown Workspace Embraced Failure to Change Business Model
Crown Workspace’s core business is commercial relocations for large businesses. However, over a decade ago it became obvious that the industry’s standard process for this service produced large volumes of preventable waste, with approximately 1.2 million desks and 1.8 million office chairs going to landfill every year in the UK.
Seeking to develop a more sustainable offering, Crown Workspace started a conversation with senior leadership and a handful of their most trusted clients to introduce concepts of reuse and refurbishment into their service offering.
“Creating that safe space with some of our clients was invaluable” says Ann Beavis, Head of Sustainable Development. “We used a test-and-learn model and kept storytelling along the way to make sure our clients understood where we were going. After every pilot, we ran a skills audit as well – otherwise you just assume that the business model has not been proven when in fact, it might just be that the skills aren’t there yet”.
We needed to create that safe space for them to say, ‘it’s ok not to be an expert in the circular economy.’Ann Beavis, Head of Sustainable Development, Crown Workspace
Upskilling and Addressing Failures
Changing its business model required a total skills overhaul starting with the board. Ann continues: “We needed to create that safe space for them and say, ‘it’s okay not be an expert in the circular economy’. We had to start from the beginning for the whole team to build the knowledge and understanding needed at all levels in the organisation”.
The transformation of its offering was not without its obstacles. Ann notes that at the start there was a strong focus on training, upskilling, and recruiting new skills into the business with all client-facing staff receiving climate training, and then applying circular skills knowledge to different parts of the business according to their needs. However, training was not embedded as well as it could have been despite an initial strong focus on green skills.
“A big mistake was doing lots of training at launch, and then not embedding as we went along. We shifted our attention to innovation, and other priorities came to the fore – as you have people coming and going from the business you forget the need to continue the level of training to the same standard”.
As well as upskilling, it was important to change behaviours as staff had been performing roles in certain ways for years and they had to completely change. “In some roles, their duties became more time consuming, so we had to stress what was in it for each person. We also assessed every failed project to see if it failed due to a problem with the business case, a lack of incentives, or a lack of appropriate skills.
“We were never afraid of failure at Crown Workspace and without that confidence, we would not be where we are today.”
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