The Translator of Change

The business world is in constant flux, and Lisa Rogers helps employees navigate change by adapting physical spaces for optimal collaboration and creativity at Thomson Reuters

Photo courtesy of Thompson Reuters

Conventional wisdom says that everyone associates success with the corner office, but Lisa Rogers is overthrowing that outdated line of thinking at Thomson Reuters. Rogers, director of workplace strategy and design for the Americas, knows how to manipulate the work environment to support business objectives at the multinational media and information company. “It requires a little bit of anthropology and forensics in the execution,” she says. “Employees may say they need more conference areas, but what if we’re seeing a lot of empty rooms?”

Through this reconnaissance, Rogers is aligning the work space with the true needs of the employees and leaders. “Our approach is about providing choice,” Rogers says. “Articles come and go about trends. For example, open offices can be good or bad, but employees should have the option to select the kind of environment they need to get whatever task done.” About 98 percent of Thomson Reuters employees own a laptop, so, accordingly, Rogers designs versatile places for solo work.

Lisa Rogers, Director of Workplace Strategy & Design for the Americas, Thomson Reuters

Choice is the answer to all the dialogue around new generations entering the workforce, according to the Rogers. “I have to be conscious of everyone,” she says. “We have to offer choices that appeal to Millennials, Gen X, Gen Z, and baby boomers by tailoring work environments.” From beanbag chairs in communal spaces to private, enclosed rooms, options must benefit all people, regardless of assumed generational preferences. Rogers adds, “What’s tough about that is, what’s the right mix?”

Yet Rogers and her colleagues are learning that distinct needs occur within Thomson Reuters. “Software developers are different from call-center agents, and legal analysts are different from Reuters News teams,” she says. “There are all these little nuances. I need to understand their daily workload and demands to meet their needs and get it right.”

In fact, Rogers has dedicated her career to finding those solutions. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in interior design from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and the University of Tennessee, respectively. She began her career in project management overseeing real estate vendors and renovations in greater Minneapolis for consulting firms ICF GHK and RSP Architects. At the latter, she was promoted to design director and spearheaded all office designs and standards for UnitedHealth Group. She officially joined the healthcare company in 2007 as its workplace design director.

There, she rose to the position of director of workplace strategy and implemented a new cross-functional mobility program and a change-management program—experiences that deepened her understanding of how physical spaces influence productivity and employee satisfaction. “It used to be a ‘If you’re not at your desk, you must not be working’ kind of mentality,” Rogers says. “The biggest ‘Aha!’ moment was adding change management to the platform.”

People often confuse change management with communication, according to Rogers. While it involves communication, change management is the broader strategy of how leadership gets employees from point A to Point B with the least amount of frustration. “I’m passionate about it because I’ve seen projects become successful by engaging employees and leaders in the process,” Rogers says. “It has just worked wonders.

Photo by Ben Rahn/A-Frame Inc.

Rogers brought that expertise to Thomson Reuters in January 2016 and earned her Prosci change-management certification the following year. The multinational media and information firm comprises about 45,000 professionals in more than 100 countries. Its legacy spans more than 200 years, requiring a remarkable ability to evolve with the times.

Improving collaboration and innovation is a key consideration at Thomson Reuters today, Rogers says, especially during consolidation. Thomson Reuters had acquired numerous small startups that often had limited resources. When one such startup moved into an existing site in Media, Pennsylvania, Rogers had electric sit-to-stand workstations installed as strategic morale tool.

Rogers also spearheaded the company’s transition from anecdotal feedback, using a systemized annual survey. “The feedback that we get now is fascinating because it provides additional objectivity to our leadership and gives me more credibility to address any issues,” she says. Results reveal that employees are increasingly satisfied at work, Rogers says, and she anticipates that progress will continue as they continue to address issues such as noise levels. “We’ve had to make changes,” she says. “When we didn’t quite get that noise solution right, we hired an acoustical consultant and solved the problem,” she says. “We all spend so much time at work; it should be an awesome experience.”

A view of a collaborative space in Thomson Reuters’s Toronto Customer Center. Photo by Ben Rahn/A-Frame Inc.

To boost employee experience, Rogers often works with technology teams. She’s added desktop videoconferencing as the company has moved away from dedicated rooms. “Most corporations are struggling with that,” she says. “Employees can go out and buy better technology than they can get at the office.” She wants to put money where there will be the most benefit to the most employees. At Thomson Reuters, that means providing better collaboration tools that work not only within the local office but internationally as well.

Rogers is also responsible for the company’s global design guidelines, working with liaisons and service providers in each global region for optimal project delivery. She selected the Americas as the launchpad for change-management programs, aiming to measure the successes there before implementing it in other regions.

For example, town halls introduce a project to the employees for the first time. Rogers gauges employee reactions, hears their fears, identifies concerns, and then builds a program to respond accordingly. Rogers also identifies “ programming,” which describes the process of assessing wants versus needs. After a project is completed, the site is revisited to assess any new conditions and if the new finishes perform well or not.

Creating a consistent look and feel across all offices around the world poses the biggest challenge, according to Rogers. She works closely with the brand team to deliver spaces with the right look and feel, and she also works with representatives from each region to incorporate as many different cultures as is practical to the overarching design strategy. “When you arrive in London, Hong Kong, New York City, or Australia, our office needs to look and feel like a Thomson Reuters office,” she says. “It’s an ongoing effort.”

Most importantly, Rogers considers all Thomson Reuters employees her constituents. “You’re going to hand over the keys and move on to the next project, but the people have to live there and get work done,” Rogers says. “Establish a way for them to tell you their needs. Even if the consensus is ‘I wish we had more room,’ or ‘I wish my locker was closer to my desk.’ You’ve got to find a way.”