HR Confidentiality and new work

HR's door is always open — because we don't have one anymore!

What impact has DHL Consulting's office redesign had on its back-office functions — and specifically HR? And have more open and flexible working practices affected HR confidentiality in any way? Not at all, says Silke Blum, Senior Recruiting Expert and DHL Consulting alumna. In fact, the changes have improved the way HR works without compromising HR confidentiality. Here are Silke's seven takeaways from the redesign experience...

Author: Interview with Silke Blum

Published: Last updated:

Culture & Career, Future of Work

Office worker shows his two colleagues something on the computer

1) “The changes we’ve made encourage flexibility — but it makes more sense for some teams to have a dedicated space.”

DHL Consulting wanted to introduce new initiatives where they would prove beneficial, and not simply bring in change for change’s sake.

Take the idea of staff being able to sit anywhere in the office. It’s much more flexible; but the fact is this doesn’t work for everyone. Some back office teams need to sit together, and that includes Human Resources.

Why? Well, HR colleagues are always in demand, so it’s important for employees to know where they can be found at all times. People don’t want to have hunt around the office for them.

“The HR team is not as flexible as other project teams,” says Silke. “That’s just the nature of our role, so the five of us sit together in one place. But that’s fine by us. We don’t feel ‘left out’.

Having our own dedicated space also enables us to ensure HR confidentiality, keep data secure and have private recruitment discussions with colleagues and candidates. We’re not the only ones with a dedicated space. The admin team also has its own location within the office for the same reasons we do.”

2) “The HR team is now more accessible to staff, physically and psychologically.”

The office redesign has had a positive impact on how the HR team is perceived. Previously, HR occupied three separate enclosed offices; but now its members operate from one, new open-plan space. This change has been hugely beneficial says Silke, because bringing down walls and getting rid of doors has also removed psychological barriers among the staff HR is there to serve.

“As HR professionals, we always have to be approachable,” she says. “The redesign has helped us achieve that goal. People don’t have to knock on our door, step over our threshold or enter our room any more to ask a question. They can simply walk over to us for a chat.”

3) “Our new space has improved communication within the HR team.”

Silke believes that bringing the HR team together in one space has increased communication between its members. Now HR colleagues work together more closely, and the exchanges they have are more immediate, more direct and more effective.

“For example, when I started with the company three years ago, our manager had his own office at the end of a long hallway,” she remembers. “Now he sits with us and is much more accessible. When we have questions we can easily discuss topics with each other without having dedicated meetings.”

That said, flexible working models such as mobile office and home-working, have benefitted the HR team, just like other staff. “As as a result we all have a better work-life balance now and achieve higher levels of professional and personal satisfaction,” says Silke. “Overall, the HR function works better than it did before.”

Portrait of Silke Blum

The HR team is not as flexible as other project teams… Having our own dedicated space also enables us to keep data secure and have private recruitment discussions with colleagues and candidates.

Silke - Senior Recruiting Expert and DHL Consulting alumna

4) “We haven’t compromised HR privacy and confidentiality. Just the opposite.”

There are ways to adapt to more flexible and open working but still keep data secure. For example, HR team members have privacy screens on their computers to restrict the view of anyone sitting alongside them.

They also have their own dedicated meeting room so that interviews with colleagues and candidates remain private. “Our meeting room is for HR use only,” notes Silke. “Of course, we can still book one of the other meeting rooms within the office if we need to.”

Plus, HR has its own phone booth where team members can make and take confidential calls when necessary. “Our phone booth is only accessible by the HR team and, from my point of view, was always going to be an essential feature of the redesign,” says Silke.

5) “Everyone was kept well-informed about the changes being made.”

Silke is impressed with the changes that have been made to the office, and thinks the surroundings now look “modern, innovative, flexible and colourful” and that they “foster teamwork and flexibility.” That’s good for people’s motivation and creativity, she insists.

Getting to this point wasn’t easy, however. “Initially, we had a lot of meetings with our manager to address our specific needs,” she remembers. “For me, the main thing I wanted to ensure was that we as a team would be able to sit closely together in our own space. Things like the colour of the walls or the types of desks weren’t so important to me. We were kept super-informed about how things were progressing with emails, phone calls and meetings.

We were also able to give our feedback on a regular basis, and when we had any needs, requests or concerns we were listened to. That’s an important consideration for any organisation making a big change that will directly affect its people.”

6) “Getting used to the redesign has been a gradual process.”

Operating in a more open and flexible environment can take a bit of getting used to, especially when offices with walls have been the norm for so long.

Silke admits that she has been edging towards this more flexible way of working, bit by bit, for some time. “When I first started at DHL Consulting, I had my own office where I could make calls to candidates without being overheard,” she says. “However, the process of moving everyone closer together was already underway because I soon began sharing the office with one colleague and then another. So, for me, getting to this point has been a gradual process — but now I really, really like it. I feel more like I’m part of the team. I don’t want to be a single player.”

7) “The redesign is a great recruitment tool!”

DHL Consulting used to hold recruitment days in one of the hotels nearby. Now the company is inviting candidates into the office to showcase its new working environment.

“Their reactions have been very interesting,” says Silke. “They’ve really liked it and are very impressed — surprised, even. Like everyone, we’re in a war for talent, so the office redesign demonstrates one of the reasons why we’re a good firm to join.

It’s not just candidates who like our surroundings, either. Colleagues from DPDHL headquarters have visited to see the changes we’ve made and how we’ve made them. I think we’re all proud of being part of this modern and innovative solution.”

Text by Tony Greenway

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