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Arups Paperless Office Project An Investigation into Team Member Motivation Accompanying Report BUSM 1271 By Stewart Bird


In 2007 Arup established a project to digitise all of its hardcopy files that were being stored in their Melbourne office and in off-site archive facilities. The project was named the Practically Paperless Office Knowledge Management Project (PPOKM) and it has proved a huge undertaking. The project has faced challenges related to technology, peoples resistance to change and consistency of work, however the largest and potentially most damaging challenge to the project is maintaining the motivation of the project team members. At the beginning of 2007 Arup Melbourne was expanding at a significant rate and the number of employees was growing. This was putting pressure on office space and finding space to accommodate workers was becoming difficult. In order to free up space and streamline the office the PPOKM project was established. By digitising its paper records Arup was able to reduce the sizes of the work stations they used, and were able to fit more work stations into the same area accommodating more employees. They were also able to turn filing rooms into collaborative work spaces which could be used to foster creative and innovative discussion. This allowed Arup to occupy the same workspace for a longer period saving on moving and rental costs. Not only did the scanning project save money for Arup on-site, it is also saving them money by reducing fees paid for off-site archive storage space., and effectively reducing its carbon footprint. The paperless office project also proved consistent with Arups motto We Shape a Better World by making the office more green and forcing Arup employees to use documents in digital format rather than printing them off. The benefits of the PPOKM project are vast, however, there are a number of large challenges that the project continues to face. The most important and potentially most damaging being the motivation of its team members. The PPOKM team is made up of roughly 5 workers and 2 managers. The workers are mostly university students and are employed on a casual basis and work part-time. Their task is to scan and rename documents for roughly 7.5 hours a day. The work is not engaging and leaves little room for creative input in what is otherwise a very creative environment. The documents are systematically drawn from off-site storage to be scanned, therefore giving the impression that the project is endless; team members are not privy to the project plan and cannot physically see the progress they are making. The PPOKM team members also receive limited feedback or recognition for the work they do. Benefits that the paperless office project has produced for Arup are not explicitly made clear to the workers, and it is perhaps presumed they will know and understand the benefits. This inevitably have a negative impact on their motivation. This lack of motivation has affected the overall results of the project, particularly in recent months. Scanning rates have slowed due to workers becoming distracted. Team members often choose to complete their university homework or browse sites such as Facebook during hours at the same time they should be concentrating on scanning project files. Team member are also taking more sick days to avoid the work all together. The accuracy of the work has also suffered, with files being renamed incorrectly, saved in incorrect locations and scanned incorrectly (scanned as single sided when it is a double sided document). This could have major repercussions for Arup, if information goes missing it could affect the results of major engineering projects. Likewise, if information were to go it is missing for past projects Arup could face legal issues if problems were to occur in the future. Therefore, it is extremely important that these problems be effectively mitigated. The PPOKM project is particularly peculiar because the tasks that are undertaken very closely resemble tasks that are undertaken by workers in a more business-as-usual environment. A

project has a distinct start and end whereas business-as-usual work doesnt (Gallstedt, 2002). The scanning projects end is very hard to define and progress is difficult to gauge because the overall result is not physically seen by the team members, and any estimates that management might have made are not conveyed. The monotony also inevitably contributes to the business-as-usual feel of the project. The issues of PPOKM team member motivation are being addressed by Arup managers in a number of different ways. One method used by managers in more recent months is to split the workers time between the PPOKM project and Office Supports true business-as-usual tasks. This method is not only used to break up the monotony of the paperless office work by allowing the team members to perform some other non-related tasks, but is also used to help the project workers achieve a level of belonging within the organisation by having them interact and build relationships with other Arup staff. Belonging needs are the 3rd level on Maslows Hierarchy of needs and an integral step in improving employee motivation (Wong, 2008). However, this method has an overall effect on productivity of the project by taking workers away from their main task, and also leads to workers deliberately avoiding working on the scanning project in favour of other Office Support tasks even when they not authorised to do so, slowing the pace of the project even further. Another method often used by PPOKM is to provide small incentives after achieving small goals. For example, after digitising all documentation for a particular project PPOKM manager might provide free pizza and soft drinks to reward the efforts of the works. This method aims to help workers achieve self-esteem needs, the 4th level on Maslows Hierarchy of Needs (Clarke, 2003). This method works well because workers feel that they are at least receiving some recognition for their hard work, however these incentives are not used very often by project managers and scheduling a day when all team members are working at the same time is often impossible. PPOKM project managers also believe that recruiting educated intelligent university students is most productive for the project, which can only work if that higher level is recognised, ie by providing management information that allows these normally more motivated types to buy in or have some ownership in the process. However, not all university students are actually suitable for the role. Many university students that have worked on the project do not see a future for them within Arup and choose to see their time at Arup as a chance to study the work they are really passionate about. Although the PPOKM managers have thought up a number of methods to address the lack of team member motivation, there are still a number of methods that they could use to improve motivation. One method that Arups PPOKM managers should use is analysing employees using the Myer-Briggs personality test. Myer-Briggs will help identify which employees are suited to each role (Myersbriggs.org 1920). For example, an employee with the personality type ENTJ should be given leadership roles within the scanning project and encouraged to put forward creative ideas that could improve the project. Whereas an employee with the personality type ISTP might work more efficiently when left alone and undisturbed. Another method that could be used when think of incentives for the workers could be the analysis of Maslows Hierarchy of Needs (Gorman, 2003). For analysis shown in the documentary it is clear the employees are not obtaining self-esteem needs due to lack of recognition and lack of respect for the work. Incentives should be formulated with this in mind to maximise motivation.

Arup also needs to make sure that they align the goals of the scanning team members with the goals of the company as best they can (Hill 2012). The most reliable way to do this is if PPOKM managers choose to employ undergraduate students that could reasonably see the scanning project as a career entrance point, a point where they could then move up into a technical position upon graduation. This would ensure that employees are kept motivated because they are moving towards the self-actualisation level of Maslows Hierarchy where they can use their creativity and knowledge for the benefit of something greater than themselves (McLeod. 2007). Finally, PPOKM managers should also carry out some generational analysis if they will be continuing to hire generation Y employees to work on the PPOKM team. Generation Ys are said to be independent, creative and value social responsibility highly (Fdu.edu 1980). Therefore PPOKM managers should seek to foster creative thought amongst generation Y employees and give then the opportunity to run the project the best way they see fit to a certain extent. The fact that the paperless office project is promoting eco-friendly practices should be promoted more highly to the young employees as they hold these values highly (Voorhees 2009). However, generation Y employees can be inpatient therefore guidance from higher level PPOKM managers is still necessary. Although Arups PPOKM project faces large difficulties relating to the motivation of its team members, its managers are actively exploring new methods to address these issues. A more in depth look at the theory behind project team motivation could be of great value to the PPOKM project and potentially bring huge changes to not only the project but Arup as a whole. The PPOKM project is of great value to Arup, therefore a motivated team is integral.

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