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? Whether implementing a new strategy or focusing on a new initiative or program, you need to get your staff on board for change in the workplace to happen. 

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 or strategic plans.

This article will explore:

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

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 begin 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 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 before they ever get off the ground. On the contrary, when staff wellbeing is 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 of any long-term success.

But, before you start printing off resources from Beyond Blue or booking in a wellbeing speaker to come in and speak to your staff about the importance of self-care, it is essential to consider the various elements that impact staff wellbeing beyond just their “personal wellbeing” and also factoring in their “workplace wellbeing.” 

When it comes to change management, it’s unlikely that your staff’s lack of self-care or application of coping strategies is what will prevent them from jumping on board. What will likely require the most attention is their “workplace wellbeing” and a focus on key stressors and risks in the workplace. 

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

One of the change models and theories I reference when working with schools inside the Well-Led Schools Partnership Program is The Lippitt-Knoster Model for Managing Complex Change. This model clearly highlights how our schools can experience side effects or challenges when one or more of these ingredients are missing. With a missing element, we risk threatening our progress and potentially impacting the wellbeing of our staff, which, as we know, affects their tolerance to stay on track toward any concrete improvement. 

Lippitt-Knoster Model for Complex Change

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 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 this compromises overall effectiveness and outcomes.

The solution: Co-create a vision with your staff regarding a key strategic area. Outline the roles and responsibilities of staff at all levels to achieve this vision. Visually display your vision, ensuring you regularly refer to it, keep it alive and use it to keep all staff headed to the desired endpoint. 

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

Our staff need to be equipped with the right skills to manage their roles. In a school, this might be student management or instructional practice.  Many schools make the mistake of introducing a new approach, strategy or initiative, expecting their staff to know how to achieve its purpose without initial and ongoing skill and knowledge development. 

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. Consequently, 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 ONGOING training for your staff in targeted areas aligned with a particular strategic vision.

Low motivation? You’ll only see gradual change.

Highly motivated staff are easy to spot. They exceed their objectives, have a positive attitude, generate strong ideas, support their colleagues, and go above and beyond what is expected of them.

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 and do more than the average. This can begin with a vision, but it is also important to include incentives, recognition, and feedback along the way. Staff like to feel valued and seen, so include more opportunities to engage with them and build trust and loyalty. Working first to identify staff strengths is a wonderful way to motivate staff.

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: A lack of staff, materials, or guiding documentation, procedures, and/or processes to get the job done can leave staff feeling frustrated. High staff turnover or absenteeism can result in the remaining staff feeling defeated. 

The solution: Get your resource management right. 

Define your processes and practices (in schools, this might include student management flowcharts, procedures, policies, roles and responsibilities and induction processes). Ensure staff are 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 for a key strategic area or change outlines the priority areas of your project or plans and highlights the aims and objectives linked to these priorities. The plan also outlines the actions to be implemented, the people responsible, the timings, 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 plan for a key area of change. 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 it affects them.

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 school leaders at all levels 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 leadership 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 equipped with the skills they need to make a difference and apply the necessary skills to ensure successful change.  

Conclusion

As you’ve learned here, several ingredients are 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 people 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. 

In our 12-month  Well-Led Schools Partnership, we support schools in managing a successful change in culture with a focus on staff wellbeing.  Following our proven 6-Step approach, we provide resources and guidance for scanning your school to understand your staff’s wellbeing needs, establishing a culture of wellbeing beginning with a co-created vision alongside staff,  defining the joint responsibilities of all school members, upskilling and training leaders and staff in effective ways to impact wellbeing and culture and building a wellbeing action plan.

With this framework, you are guaranteed to earn staff buy-in by empowering them to be part of the change process. 

Visit our Well-Led Schools Partnership page to learn more!

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