Wednesday 31 May, 2017

What constitutes ‘change’ in the workplace? Is it the all-enveloping strategic focus which entails new operational practices across the organisation, or new legislation that demands a shift in practice? Or is it the review of internal policy directives? Or is it the arrival of a new leader who, inevitably, will bring some shift in the status quo.

Frankly, it is all the above and more.

The success of change depends on attention to detail. When the line of communication falters then the disruptive force of change begins to be felt. Generally, employees like to work within predictable expectations, where their knowledge, confidence and capacity to perform various duties is not tested by having to deliver additional or different outcomes.

So, what exactly is the meaning of change management?

“Change management is the discipline that guides how we prepare, equip and support individuals to successfully adopt change in order to drive organizational success and outcomes.” (Prosci) 

The definition confirms that successfully introducing change into an organisation is about people first and foremost. There are countless other definitions however all include people or by their statement imply that people are central to successful change in an organisation.

Some of the key issues that contribute to failures when implementing change:

  • Poor communication both initially and on a regular basis
  • Employees who do not fully understand the reason for change
  • Insufficient training for employees preceding proposed changes
  • Failure to identify potential risk related to change
  • Failure to understand the effect and impact of changes
  • Flawed strategy to implement change
  • Failure to identify resources necessary to support change
  • Unrealistic timelines leading employees to feeling burdened and rushed

All, or even some of the elements above can lead to disruption and resistance by employees, who are the most valuable assets in times of change.

Alarmingly according to Harvard Business Review, research finds that anywhere from 50%–75% of change efforts fail across a range of industries. And for those that do succeed, many don’t achieve the goals of the original vision.

Significantly Sally Blount and Shana Carroll identify the need for employees to be heard and respected during times of change: “This is especially true of employees who have been with an organization for a long time or have held a good deal of influence at some point in the past (and believe they still do). If these people don’t feel that they’ve had a chance to weigh in, they will assume that an important perspective has been missed, that the answer can’t be right if they have not been consulted.”

The Blount and Carroll observation is true, in times of change all relevant stakeholders should be consulted and experience a level of communication that keeps them ‘in the loop’ and updated as necessary.

Another reason employees might become resistive, is simply because they have to add new understanding, practice and learning rapidly to already busy schedules. They don’t have enough time to digest the new direction or cope with the situation emotionally. Adaptation is rarely accepted uniformly across a diverse range of individuals.

Organisations that recognise that change takes time are more likely to succeed in achieving their objectives and retaining their workforce.

Recently Sue Jauncey founder and director of the organizational culture firm Pulse Australasia (who are engaged to manage the UK’s NHS change management strategy), stated “In the majority of organizations, responsibility for cultural issues is all too often hived off to the HR department. However, there is now a growing recognition by corporate leaders and commentators that an organization’s culture is the key responsibility of the board, CEO and Executive teams.” (Francesca D’Arcy)

Utilising HR departments as a nod to recognising that people are important in change, and that the ‘people’ focused department of the organisation is best placed to sort through the various stages of change is not uncommon. Boards of management and CEOs can overlook a significant fact that very often employees within human resource departments are also impacted by change, facing challenges similar to other employees across the organisation and yet they are tasked with, and have responsibility to drive the change.

Is there a better way to manage change? 

Throughout this article constant reference has been made to the value of people, effective communication and leadership responsibility for effective change management. Simone Ball on behalf of the Australian Institute of Business lists 7 items that can support successful change management:

  1. Plan
  2. Communicate
  3. Integrate
  4. Motivate
  5. Be Confident
  6. Manage the Workload
  7. Evaluate

Of course, complexities will inevitably arise at any point along the way, but little can be lost from planning first with realistic timelines, and evaluating progress regularly. Above all, listening to stakeholders and constant effective communication should at the very least support the endeavor of change.


About the author

Ruvani de Silva has over 30 years of extensive experience in Residential Aged Care. As an accomplished senior executive, she has successfully led operational and clinical services in both private and listed corporate companies.  She is currently General Manager of the Health Metrics Advisory Team.

For assistance or advice on change management for your organisation, contact the Health Metrics Advisory Team on 1300 810 119.




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