Dockside Office Move Inspires Staff to Reach their Full Potential

Thales UK is part of the French owned Thales Group, a leading international electronics and systems conglomerate that addresses global markets. With 2007 revenues in excess of £8.3 billion, the Thales Group employs 68,000 people in 50 countries.

The United Kingdom is the Group’s second largest country of operation. With employees across the UK, Thales is a major industrial force and an important contributor to the national economy. One of the main suppliers to the Ministry of Defence, its business specialises in solutions for: aerospace, air systems, land, naval, security and services, and outer space.

Thales’s expertise ranges from retail video display systems and chip ‘n’ PIN technology, through to flight simulators and unmanned aircraft for military use. Employing 11,500 staff based at more than 100 locations, Thales UK’s revenues were over £1 billion in 2007.

As Thales UK’s business had grown organically different functions often had to work from different sites, making communication more fractious. Thales mentioned to the London Development Agency (LDA) that they needed to move and they were referred to inward investment agency Gateway to London (GtL) in April 2007. Following the recent acquisition of longstanding partner Alcatel-Lucent, Thales UK wanted to consolidate offices in Greenwich, Waterloo and Clerkenwell into one location and bring transport, security and space team members together.

The company spent eight or nine weeks looking at 70 different properties across London. To service their rail signalling systems commitments they needed a central location with access to a major rail terminus. It was also imperative for them to be somewhere easy for staff to reach by tube and for them to have 24 hour access to at least 20 car parking spaces.

The project completed in November 2007 when, finding ‘the one’ thanks to insider information from GtL, Thales took 50,000 sq ft of office space at Quadrant House, Thomas Moore Square, St Katharine’s Dock, London. This traffic-free environment in Wapping neighbours London’s financial district, making it an ideal business base for Thales.

For over a thousand years St Katharine’s Dock has been a hub for commerce. Today, the Docks have a pleasant marina feel. There are numerous quayside restaurants and bars as well as gift shops, a coffee shop, delicatessen, dry cleaners, bakery, hairdresser, beautician, and newsagent. A supermarket is also nearby in Thomas Moore Street.

Since December 2007; Engineers, Project Managers, Software Developers, Sales, Marketing, Finance, Human Resources, Administration, and other critical team members have gradually moved in.

Nigel Whitaker, Properties Director, Thales UK said of the move: “GtL helped us focus on our property search. They provided us with a list of new potential sites, made us aware of the benefits of each location and opened our eyes to other forms of assistance that were available to us.

The business benefits we have gained from consolidating three sites and moving to the Dock have surpassed expectations. The upshot of our move is that it has allowed staff members to perform more cohesively between departments, as they have been brought together under one roof; and really excel as individuals, in some cases, by being promoted!”

St Katharine’s Dock gave Thales excellent access to customers and potential customers travelling via the Docklands Light Railway. “Being in the heart of London Thames Gateway, we are well placed to reach customers like Transport for London and the London Underground and London City Airport enables our French colleagues to reach us with ease,” he concurred.

Other benefits to the site include having good access, being close to existing staff, having good local facilities and therefore being attractive to new staff seeking employment. Nigel Whitaker also stressed that the fact that the local Police had told them the area was very safe was also a key selling point.

Thales UK’s ‘People First’ policy was one of the secrets of their success. Thales consulted all staff on the move and set up a working group and employee forum to discuss requirements of the office. Considering the needs of its employees throughout the company’s office move had a profoundly positive impact on the business.

Benefits of the office move have exceeded hopes and Thales is seeing results already that they weren’t expecting to see for three years. Meeting the drive to match the quality of company’s working environment to their excellent level of service, the St Katharine’s Dock site impresses international guests, gaining superb feedback from colleagues. The meeting rooms have been used so much that the resulting change in people’s working practice means they now need more. When quizzed on whether they had any regrets; Nigel added that they’d taken five floors of the building but wish they’d taken all eight!

The staff consultation on the move, together with employing GtL’s expertise really paid off as 650 jobs were safeguarded and 120 new jobs will potentially be created. Thales’s working group is still in operation.

Nigel Whitaker commented: “We listen to all suggestions, staff are now requesting electrical gadgets for the kitchen, which in my mind means we’ve got the big things right”.