Human Resources

Leading Successful Change: Process and Practical Implementation

Further information

This section outlines each step within the UWA organisational change model and ensures implementation of change is in a timely and professional manner.

The UWA model comprises two broad phases of organisational change:

  1. Review and Preparation;
  2. Change Strategy and Implementation;

Under each phase the individual steps are outlined, followed by practical suggestions to assist Heads/Managers with the implementation of the change plan while ensuring fair and respectful treatment of all stakeholders.

Phase 1: Review and Preparation

Step 1: Identify the Need for Change

Work area identifies a possible need for organisational change and consults with Employee Relations and Management Services (ERMS) or your Human Resources Business Partner (HRBP)

Review the need for change

The following questions are useful in determining the need for change:

  • Why is the status quo undesirable/untenable?
  • What will/will not happen if we stay the same?
  • What are the drivers for change?
  • What benefits might be derived from the change?
  • Who is likely to be affected, and how?
  • What are the main outcomes that need to be achieved?
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Consider the University and Faculty/Business Unit Operational Priorities Plans (OPP) and how the proposed changes reflect the University’s Strategic Plan and Vision as well as aligning with UWA’s core values. Identify the issues that will need to be addressed and communicated to staff, such as changes to staffing structures or work area functions. Consider all options, with particular attention to anticipated consequences (positive and negative) and appropriate strategies.

Consult with ERMS or HRBP to establish the need for change

Contact the relevant ERMS Officer or HRBP to assist in determining if there is a definite need for change. It may be that formal organisational change is not required and other strategies may be appropriate to address specific workplace issues. If a need for change has been established, and a proposal has been written, ERMS or your HRBP will then contact the relevant Union. To facilitate consultation, Heads of Schools/Sections should provide ERMS or your HRBP with the following information:

  • Reason for making the change;
  • Aim of the proposed change;
  • Extent and nature of proposed change;
  • Proposed timeframes ; and
  • Measures to avert or mitigate adverse effects of proposed change.

ERMS or the HRBP will advise on any other considerations to support or make clear in the initial change proposal.

At this stage staff are generally unaware of the change and confidentiality within the management team is very important. Should there be rumours circulating about the change plan it is best that managers address this by communicating clearly what information they have to minimise rumours and anxiety for staff. Managers should acknowledge when they don’t have the answers, and only communicate to staff what they have been authorised to (see Appendix ‘Managing the People Side of Change: Communication Breakdown’).

Step 2: Determine the Significant Effects

Work area determines and documents whether proposed organisational change will have significant effects on employees.

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Significant effects can include (as outlined in UWA Enterprise Agreements):

  • Termination of employment;
  • Major changes in the composition, operation or size of the workforce or in the skills required;
  • The elimination or diminution of job opportunities, promotion opportunities or job tenure;
  • The alteration of hours of work; and o The need for retraining or transfer of employees to other work or locations and the restructuring of jobs.
Communicate with employees

Once it is clear a formal change process is required, all staff within the work area (including those on leave) should be notified as soon as possible and invited to provide input, even if not directly affected by the changes. Staff can also be asked at this point what they want to change and what is and isn’t working for them. At this stage consultation(s) can still be informal, and the extent and nature of these discussions will vary from case to case. It is important to clearly explain the stages in the process and identify the next steps.

After this initial informal meeting has taken place, keep a record of discussions noting the drivers for change and expected outcomes and any questions that staff have raised (The University of Adelaide, 2009.)

Some staff may experience anxiety at this stage. As above, it is important to communicate clearly and give staff one-on-one time if required. Other responses to the change process may be denial eg “It’s not going to happen” or anger “How dare they do this!”. Managers may highlight the business case for the change, allow time for the change to sink in, and acknowledge staff emotions. For additional strategies see Appendix, ‘Managing the People Side of Change: Employee Resistance’ and ‘Five Stages of Emotional Response to Change’ and Bridges Transition Theory ‘Endings’ and ‘Endings Zone Checklist’.

Step 3: Develop the Change Proposal

Work area develops the initial change proposal

Develop the proposal

Ensure the following are included:

  • The background and reasons for the proposed change;
  • The nature and extent of the change;
  • The objectives;
  • The possible significant effects on employees;
  • The new direction, structure and staffing arrangements;
  • How the change will be implemented, including consultation and communication methods;
  • Suggested timeframes and methods for employee consultation; and
  • The expected timeframes and the resources to be used.

The proposal should present a compelling case for the need and reasons for the change to ensure staff support. When developing the change strategy, milestones and reviews should be included to measure improvements and outcomes. An important consideration at this point is that if the proposed change is likely to result in redundancies, it is best to speak individually with potentially affected employees before holding a wider meeting.

In order to form an effective leadership team managers should start to create what John Kotter calls “a guiding coalition” in his ‘Eight-Step Model for Leading Change’ (Kotter, 1995). (See Appendix, ‘Kotter’s Eight-Step Model for Leading Change: Step Two’.) Once the leadership team has been established they can start to develop the change vision and develop strategies for achieving that vision (see Appendix, ‘Kotter’s Eight-Step Model for Leading Change: Step Three’). To deal with emotional responses, continue to apply Bridges ‘EndingsZone Checklist

Phase 2: Change Strategy and Implementation

Step 4: First Meeting with Employee/s

Work area holds first formal meeting with employee/s likely to be affected and presents the initial change proposal. No definite decisions are made and all ideas and considerations are respected.

The first formal meeting will be held as soon as possible after confirming the need for change. Staff are entitled to have an employee representative present, if desired. This may include a union representative.

Provide employees with a copy of the initial change proposal and clearly explain the extent and nature of the change, as well as the reasons, outcome, timeframe and any other components.

Where positions have been potentially identified as surplus, it is important for management to explain to employees that it is the role that is redundant not the person. Emphasise that this an opportunity to listen to the proposal and to come back with any suggestions, concerns and recommendations. These discussions are often challenging.

After this meeting employees should be given adequate time to respond to the proposal either verbally or in writing, and to offer feedback. The feedback timeframe should be determined at this stage and will be confirmed soon after. Staff are encouraged to seek additional support through the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) during this change process.

This step maps to Kotter’s Step Four: Communicate the Vision. Managers may get buy-in and build alignment and engagement from their staff through the use of stories. Actively listen to staff and reflect understanding of their concerns. (See Appendix, ‘Kotter’s Eight-Step Model for Leading Change: Step Four’). Staff may need reassurance, and work through any resistance with empathy. In addition to possible feelings of denial or anger, staff may experience the emotional response of bargaining, eg. “let’s make a deal” or depression which can lead to perceived loss of control over work and increased absenteeism. See Appendix, ‘Five Stages of Emotional Response to Change’). Also apply the ‘4 P’s of Transition Communications’ and Bridges ‘Endings Zone Checklist

Step 5: Second Meeting with Employee/s

Work area holds second formal meeting with employee/s taking feedback on the initial change proposal into consideration. The second meeting will generally be within 10 days of the first meeting.

The second formal meeting provides a formal opportunity for employees to offer their input, and all comments should be recorded and addressed during the meeting or afterwards in writing. Employees need to be assured that all feedback will be considered and that the final strategy will be decided upon promptly. Giving due consideration to employee feedback demonstrates procedural fairness and allows for a well-informed final decision.

Where employee concerns cannot be satisfactorily addressed during the second meeting, further meetings may be needed. A tentative date should be set for a third meeting at which stage a final decision should be reached. Note that individual meetings should also occur particularly with staff whose positions have been identified as possibly redundant.

At this stage some staff may move into the ‘Acceptance’ stage. Managers need to be aware that the emotional responses from staff may be varied (eg denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance) and that clear communication is essential. Managers may assist staff by updating the team regularly, providing opportunities for private face-to-face dialogue and acknowledging the negatives of the change in addition to explaining the benefits.  (See Appendix, ‘Managing the People Side of Change: Communication breakdown’ and Bridges ‘Neutral Zone’ and apply ‘Neutral Zone Checklist'.).

Step 6: Make a Decision

Work area makes a definite decision on whether or not to implement the organisational change after all feedback has been considered.
After the second formal meeting, a final decision on the proposed changes can be made. The initial change proposal may be revised, developed or amended in light of staff input/feedback. Complex change may require several revisions before the optimal outcome is determined.  Once a final decision is reached, notify employees of the outcome in writing and if necessary, hold a third formal meeting.

Identify implementation issues. 

It is important to clearly identify the staffing consequences of the change, such as restructure or alterations to staff members’ employment conditions or duties. Work closely with ERMS or the HRBP. Position descriptions can be sent to Classifications at the earliest opportunity to be finalised by the end of the change process.

Once a decision has been made it is the manager’s role to remove obstacles to the change so that others can start to implement the change. Managers can empower others to act, and can create quick, short-term wins to help overcome resistance and build momentum. (See Appendix, ‘Kotter’s Eight-Step Model for Leading Change: Steps Five and Six’). People also need time and guidance to understand what is being asked of them. See Bridges ‘Neutral Zone’ and ‘Checklist’.

Step 7: Third Meeting with Employees (usually necessary)

Work area holds third formal meeting to inform employee/s of the decision and explain anticipated outcomes.

A third formal meeting is held to explain the final decision to employees.  This includes outlining the extent, effects and timeframe for change as well as how these will be implemented. After the meeting the information should be provided to all staff in a written format, and individual staff will need to be formally advised in writing if the changes have significant effects on them.

When the work area decides to implement organisational change there may be several outcomes, including:

  • Restructure
  • Re-training
  • Reclassification
  • Redeployment and/or
  • Redundancy

Employees are likely to have questions about the outcome of the change and its effect on their position. Heads/Managers can seek advice and support from the ERMS and meet affected staff individually. The purpose of these meetings is to support impacted employees and may include providing details on the UWA’s Mobility program. In addition, staff may need to be reminded of UWA’s Employee Assistance Program.

Managers may continue to use the strategies in Appendix ‘Five Stages of Emotional Response to Change’ to deal with staff emotions effectively as a wide range of emotions may be experienced at this time. Continue to apply Bridges A href="https://www.hr.uwa.edu.au/policies/policies/change/organisational/leading-organisational-change-at-uwa/appendix/leading-tranisitions-bridges-model">Neutral Zone and New Beginnings information and checklists.

Step 8: Embed the Changes

The final proposal should have clear timeframes and processes outlined with regards to the implementation of the final organisational change proposal. Monitor key milestones and progress points to ensure implementation proceeds smoothly.

Offer staff training and support.

It is important to provide staff with appropriate training and support, especially if they are reassigned to new positions or work settings which require new skills or knowledge. A Commencing Performance Development and Appraisal (CPDA) should be undertaken within two months of commencing in a new position to assist those undertaking new responsibilities.

Monitor outcomes.

As the plan proceeds, monitor it carefully. Is it working? Do you require further resources? Is the schedule on target? Undertake regular reviews of the new processes to ensure they have been effective in achieving the intended outcomes.

Evaluate your experience.

Don’t forget to review the overall experience of the change process. What have you learnt? What would you do differently next time? Is there feedback you could offer those who have assisted you? Are there any staff who can be acknowledged for their support in the change process.

In Kotter’s Step Seven, ‘Don’t Let Up’ he talks about continuing to move the change forward by keeping the urgency high, encouraging employee empowerment and greater focus on the strategic vision. Managers must encourage determination and persistence for ongoing change and keep raising the bar to avoid complacency as resistance can re-emerge later in the process.

In Step Eight, ‘Embed the change into organisational culture’ Kotter suggests articulating the connections between the new behaviours and organisational success, ongoing communication about how the change is working and highlighting tangible results. (See Appendix, ‘Kotter’s Eight-Step Model for Leading Change: Steps Seven and Eight’).

Managers can work with staff to ensure they move into the Acceptance phase if they haven’t already done so (see Appendix, ‘Five Stages of Emotional Response to Change’ and Bridges “New Beginnings Checklist’). Recognise that change is ongoing and refer to Bridges checklist on ‘Managing a World of Non-stop Change’.

Human Resources Support

ERMS and the HRBP provide work areas with advice and support on the organisational change process. It is essential that Heads/Managers contact them prior to undertaking organisational change.  ERMS and the HRBP provide assistance and guidance to both management and staff throughout the process, ensuring compliance with policies, procedures and Staff Collective Agreements.

ERMS and HRBP staff can help with:

  • Staffing and structural decisions including early assessment of positions;
  • Change management requirements;
  • Reclassification of positions;
  • Staff retention; and
  • Redundancies, redeployment.

Provisions in the Staff Collective Agreements require consultation with Unions when organisational changes are proposed, and staff Union members are also entitled to seek advice or assistance from the relevant Union at any stage in the change management process. ERMS or HRBP will co-ordinate communication with the relevant Unions and will attend organisational change meetings as required.

OSDS can:

  • assist managers who are experiencing stumbling blocks with one-on-one advice and support, and group coaching where appropriate;
  • work in conjunction with HR Business Partners to enable leaders to manage their teams through the ‘inform, educate, commit’ phases of the change process; and
  • provide development programs to enhance leadership capabilities for leaders in areas undergoing organisational change enabling them to
    • develop strategic approaches to achieve sustainable cultural change;
    • manage resistance openly and effectively; and 
    • lead successful change and keep staff on board.

The Mobility program may also provide assistance to employees throughout an organisational change process in particular through career transition and redeployment.

Human Resources Support

ERMS and the HRBP provide work areas with advice and support on the organisational change process. It is essential that Heads/Managers contact them prior to undertaking organisational change.  ERMS and the HRBP provide assistance and guidance to both management and staff throughout the process, ensuring compliance with policies, procedures and Staff Collective Agreements. 

ERMS and HRBP staff can help with:

  • Staffing and structural decisions including early assessment of positions;
  • Change management requirements;
  • Reclassification of positions;
  • Staff retention; and
  • Redundancies, redeployment.

Provisions in the Staff Collective Agreements require consultation with Unions when organisational changes are proposed, and staff Union members are also entitled to seek advice or assistance from the relevant Union at any stage in the change management process. ERMS or HRBP will co-ordinate communication with the relevant Unions and will attend organisational change meetings as required.
 
OSDS can assist managers and work areas going through an organisational change program.

In particular, OSDS can:

  • assist managers who are experiencing stumbling blocks with one-on-one advice and support, and group coaching where appropriate;
  • work in conjunction with HR Business Partners to enable leaders to manage their teams through the ‘inform, educate, commit’ phases of the change process; and
  • provide development programs to enhance leadership capabilities for leaders in areas undergoing organisational change enabling them to:
    • develop strategic approaches to achieve sustainable cultural change;
    • manage resistance openly and effectively; and
    • lead successful change and keep staff on board.

The Mobility program may also provide assistance to employees throughout an organisational change process in particular through career transition and redeployment.

FAQs

Change process

  1. How long does a change process take?

    Under our policy and industrial instruments there will be a minimum of two meetings of staff and the provision of a change proposal and a change decision document. The minimum amount of time for a small change process may be around four weeks whilst a large change process may take up to three months.

  2. When can I expect to see what is proposed?

    A proposal must be provided to staff either at the first meeting or within 5 working days of the first meeting.

  3. What’s the difference between a formal and informal meeting?

    An informal meeting is a meeting which is having a general discussion about the future and what that might look like whereas a formal meeting is a meeting where a proposal or decision is being discussed.

Support for employees

  1. How does the Mobility program work?

    The Mobility Officer works with staff who are looking to change their career path or are looking at other options across campus. Under a change process the Mobility Officer provides career transitioning assistance and will also assist those staff who have chosen redeployment.

  2. What is an EAP?

    The EAP is the Employee Assistance Program provided by the University which supports staff who may be having issues in there working or personal life. There is an EAP provider both on campus and external and they provide a free confidential counselling service for employees. Contact details for the EAP are at https://www.safety.uwa.edu.au/health-wellbeing/health/eap

  3. Who is an employee representative?

    An employee representative is someone who represents the interests of an individual or group of employees. An employee representative may be a person nominated to provide support or a union representative and they can play an important role in assisting and advising on the change process.

  4. When can I find further information and support around the change process?

    A web page at https://www.hr.uwa.edu.au/policies/policies/change provides information on your choices and how the change process works.