Implementing change in the workplace

The Secret Recipe for Motivating Your Staff to Implement Change in The Workplace

Are you looking to make some significant changes in your school or organisation? Whether it’s to implement a new strategy or focus on a new initiative or program, you need to get your staff on board for change in the workplace to happen. 

Successful changes in the workplace can be achieved when the people responsible for implementing and supporting the necessary processes accept the responsibility of doing so. 

Within any organisation, the staff is a critical stakeholder group that must see the value of the change and also desire its introduction. Without staff buy-in, the process of change can be that much more challenging. 

When we examine change strategy in the literature, there are plenty of models to ensure that the rollout of our vision lands well. But I still see a missing element – a focus on the wellbeing of our staff: unhappy, unwell, or highly stressed staff cannot take to our ideas like we wish they would. Why? Because they are simply so burnt out, they can’t even comprehend many of our amazing ideas!

This article will explore:

  • The foundations for any organisational change 
  • The role of the leadership team in affecting change
  • A recipe for change in your setting – the essential ingredients 
  • How to approach and manage any missing ingredients

The foundation for any school’s change journey: staff wellbeing

Before diving into the components that drive successful change in the workplace, we must first start with the basics. 

Let’s start first by considering those who are on the ground enacting our vision as leaders – our staff. How are they doing? 

Are they happy, healthy, and resilient, or are they pulling their hair out trying to even make it till the end of the day? Do they have the energy and enthusiasm to come to a staff meeting to hear about our new ideas and initiatives? Putting staff and their health and wellbeing first is the foundation of any good change strategy. 

Without focusing on the wellbeing of our staff first, our grand plans simply end up imploding. Focusing on staff wellbeing involves supporting staff to feel their best across the domains of wellbeing. 

When staff stress levels are well managed, they are more receptive and willing to take on new ideas and better able to form strong collaborative relationships with their peers – the backbone to any long-term success.

We need to support those who drive the change: our leadership team

To create change in the workplace, school leaders must have the capacity to lead change. Effective leadership requires the executive team to have the qualities, skills, and traits required to unite and guide their staff. Whatever educational leadership approach you take, be it distributed, servant, or transformational – your executive team must have the skills and capability to know the way, show the way, and go the way! Access to adequate training, professional development, and feedback is a great way to ensure the leadership team is aligned in their leadership approach.

A recipe for change in the workplace

Alongside an effective and aligned leadership approach and a focus on the ongoing health and wellbeing of the staff, any good change strategy requires a host of ingredients to maximise the chances of success. With a missing ingredient, our plan for improved workplace culture or performance has the potential to derail. In order to experience long term success, we need to add a few key ingredients to the mixing pot:

  • A shared vision for where you are going
  • The skills and knowledge to implement the change or initiative 
  • The motivation to keep going, even in the face of challenge
  • Resources (staffing, materials, procedures, frameworks, etc.)
  • An action plan for direction and focus on where you are headed

The Lippitt-Knoster Model for Managing Complex Change theory of organisational change highlights how our setting can experience some side effects or challenges in the organisation with one or more of these ingredients missing. With a missing element, we risk threatening the wellbeing of our staff which, as we know, impacts their tolerance to stay on track towards any concrete improvement. 

Lippitt-Knoster Model

The next section of this article will detail the importance of each ingredient and the possible implications if it’s missing from the recipe.

No Vision? Your staff end up confused.

Creating a shared vision means creating a goal everyone can relate to, believes in, and agrees to carry forward together. Your vision is the sum of why you turn up to work and what guiding values, principles, and desired outcomes drive your staff or team.

To create a shared vision with your staff, you must consider what values the team agrees on as drivers and establish the rituals or practices that demonstrate that you live and breathe these values. A true vision is complete when you can envision what the outcomes will be for everyone if you collectively adopt your agreed-upon values and practices.

The problem: If you lack vision, your staff end up confused. What happens here is that you end up giving in to the environmental pressures that are the strongest in your setting while taking what appears to be the easiest route and never re-orienting towards your north star – it comes at the cost of overall effectiveness and outcomes.

The solution:

  1. Create a shared vision as a team, school, or organisation.
  2. Identify your overarching values and go on to outline what you will do regularly to embody these values.
  3. Predict the outcomes of your hard work.

I.e., we value relationships; therefore, we will regularly plan social events and team building. The outcome of this will be stronger bonds between staff and boosted morale.

Staff lack skills and knowledge? They’ll likely be anxious.

Our staff needs to be equipped with the right skills to manage their roles. In a school, this might be student management or instructional practice like writing. There is absolutely no point in having a school focus on writing if your teachers don’t know how to teach it effectively!

The problem: Without the right skills, the staff becomes anxious. If your staff lacks the skills needed to meet certain expectations or goals, they will feel a lot of pressure about doing it right. This pressure leads staff to feel insecure and inadequate. These feelings impact their confidence and wellbeing at work, and performance can drop.

The solution: Either hire or acquire the skill sets or invest in training your staff in targeted areas aligned with strategic vision.

Low motivation? You’ll only see gradual change.

Highly motivated employees are easy to spot. They exceed their objectives, have a positive attitude, generate strong ideas, support their colleagues and go above and beyond. 

The problem: When your staff lacks the motivation to get anything done, they are on a slow road to somewhere but may lose their inclination to follow through or be too distracted to ever make it anywhere!

The solution: Find a way to make the vision feel more personal to those who will carry it out. Empower your people to be something more than they are. This can begin with a vision, include incentives, recognition, and feedback. Staff like to feel valued and seen so, include more opportunities to engage with them and build loyalty.

Limited resources? Your staff will be frustrated.

In order to affect change, we need staff on the ground and the tools to perform our job and deliver the vision. Staff need to be guided by procedures and processes that they had a hand in creating and designing.

The problem: No staff, materials, or guiding documentation, procedures, and/or processes to get the job done leaves staff feeling frustrated. When there is a high staff turnover or high staff absenteeism – this can leave the remaining staff feeling defeated. 

The solution: Get your resource management right. 

1. Attract and retain the right staff

2. Define your processes and practices (in schools, this might be student management flowcharts, relief and class split plans)

3. Ensure staff is equipped with the materials (and training to use them) for high-quality instructional/workplace practice.

No action plan? You will probably see false starts.

An action plan (or strategic plan) outlines the priority areas of your setting and highlights the aims and objectives linked to these priorities. The plan also outlines the actions to be implemented, the people responsible, required resources, and a review process. 

The problem: When no one knows what to do next, it can lead to false starts, and you will lose the buy-in and momentum of your staff.

The solution: Map out an action or strategic plan. Ensure your staff have some input to relevant areas and regularly review and discuss this plan. An action/strategic plan is not enough if staff have no idea what it includes and how this affects them.

Conclusion

As you’ve learned here, there are several ingredients needed to drive successful change in the workplace. When the goal is to implement new changes, it’s important to focus on supporting the very people responsible for implementing those changes – the staff. As leaders, we’re responsible for creating an environment that empowers our staff to feel they are integral to the big-picture vision. If we want to see successful outcomes, we must provide staff with the vision, tools, and resources needed to succeed. 

Through my School Wellbeing Consulting services, I coach leadership teams in implementing change successfully by examining school culture and the overall wellbeing of leadership and staff. My 6-step approach to improved staff wellbeing helps you uncover the challenges that could be impacting wellbeing at your school and gives you a clear path forward for addressing them.

If you’re interested in learning more about consulting for your school, be sure to book a discovery call so we can discuss your school’s needs.

Episode 3: Well-Led Schools – How to ACTUALLY Improve Your Staff’s Wellbeing and School Culture

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