How important is workplace cultural change and how do you go about driving it?

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1 Group Member Poll How important is workplace cultural change and how do you go about driving it? The HR professional s role is increasingly to take responsibility for the continual reshaping of the enterprise culture and to guide the organisation to develop more sophisticated levels of purposeful consciousness. Professor Dexter Dunphy With a growing emphasis on developing workplace culture to better reflect an organisation s values, many Australian companies are endeavouring to drive cultural change. In late March 2014, the Australian Human Resources Institute (AHRI) surveyed professionals from the AHRI LinkedIn group to understand the views of Australian human resources professionals on cultural change initiatives in their organisation. AHRI posed three questions to LinkedIn group members from Canberra, comprising over 500 HR professionals from a wide range of business sectors. The questions were as follows: 1. Have you ever undertaken a cultural change initiative? 2. Have you found valuable Australian information on this topic, and what do you deem to be the best sources? 3. What do you think is the key issue when looking at driving cultural change?

2 KEY SURVEY INSIGHTS Cultural change is vital Of those surveyed, 86 percent stated that their organisation has attempted some form of cultural change initiative. Responses vary from those whose job role requires a primary focus on change strategies, through to those who report that, while attempts have been made, more can be done as the effectiveness of the efforts has been hampered. Yes we have done quite a bit of cultural change work but it has not been either big budget or organisationally directed Director, CIT Human Resources Some HR leaders have themselves participated in cultural change programs,but they have not yet been responsible for implementing strategies in their own organisations R Have you ever undertaken a cultural change initiative? 86% Yes It is difficult to find clear and helpful information Some organisations were praised for the information they provide. However, there was a notable gap in Australia for reliable, in-depth information on cultural change and how to drive it in the workplace, with some respondents seeking it overseas in the UK and the US: Information is difficult to access and much of the information read seems to be superficial. Human Resources Manager, Grammar School R Have you found valuable Australian information? 25% Yes

3 The main reference sources that respondents highlighted were: People: John Kotter Edgar Schein Graeme Innes Dan Cohen Dexter Dunphy Institutions: The Change Management Institute Australian Human Resource Institute AHRI LinkedIn group PRISM Business Brain Mapping Human Synergistics LSI LEADING CHANGE One of the main sources referenced by respondents is ex-harvard Business School professor John Kotter, and his model Leading Change. Kotter s research over several decades led him to the conclusion that 70 percent of all major change efforts in organisations fail. He puts this down to the lack of a holistic approach. His classic model for change leadership addresses this, providing an eight-step process to effective, lasting change in any organisation. The steps are summarised below. 1. Establish a sense of urgency 5. Empower others to act on the vision 2. Form a powerful guiding coalition 6. Plan for short-term wins 3. Create a vision 7. Consolidate improvements and create more change 4. Communicate the vision 8. Institutionalise new approaches Note that, within Kotter s model, it is recommended that all of the eight steps must be completed to ensure effectiveness. However, with the nature of change always being highly contextual, even following all the steps is no guarantee of success and a combination of other tools is often needed.

4 Leadership and communication are the key issues facing Australian workplaces looking to drive change Respondents had regularly come up against major obstacles when attempting to implement programs of cultural change in their organisations. One of the key challenges was in getting the full support of leadership. The clear message from 38 percent of respondents was that, unless initiatives are backed from the top and driven through each department of the organisation, they will not work: It simply doesn t matter what you do with employees - if the managers do not accept and implement, then it will never work. Consultant Another major challenge was communication again partly due to leadership. A third of respondents suggest that communication flow from the top down was key, as when all employees fully understand the vision, mission, goals and strategic focus of the organisation then they are more likely to be open to change initiatives. These two main challenges are summed up well by one respondent who said: Open, honest and extensive communication and strong, visible support from the organisation s leadership team is crucial in driving cultural change across an organisation. Workplace Relations Officer It is suggested thatthere can be an automatic resistance to change that is imposed upon an individual, rather than it being a personal and conscious choice. Barriers are raised, which are difficult to overcome, because it involves addressing one of the strongest human emotions: fear. The question is: what is driving the fear and how can you get people to move past it? National Recruiting Manager Allowing enough time, planning for the long-term and exercising patience and persistence were identified as the keys to overcoming this barrier and achieving success with cultural change management. What do you think is the key issue when looking at driving cultural change? 38+R 33+R 19+R 10+R 38% Management Support 33% Communication 19% Goals & Planning 10% Time

5 SUMMARY: THE CHALLENGE OF DRIVING CULTURAL CHANGE Despite the element of fear and resistance clearly playing a role, many of the problems respondents identified in changing the culture of an organisation result more from a lack of support from the leadership team than anything else. Virtually all of the barriers to change identified above can be addressed by improving leadership skills understanding team members and dynamics better, overcoming fear and resistance, being consistent, communicating to all team members where the company is heading and why, and ensuring that all the right managers are in the right positions to drive the process through all levels over the course of time. And once the process has been started, it needs to continue; it must be monitored to see whether the desired changes continue to happen or whether people are simply reverting to previous behaviours: It s critical to keep your focus on what people are saying and doing to be able to measure whether the culture is changing in the way you need it to. Often people approach cultural change from a process perspective; it has nothing to do with process, but everything to do with behaviour. This is why it is so hard and why it requires people to take their time and appreciate that people s behaviours change in different ways at different times. National Recruiting Manager

6 DISCOVER MORE ABOUT WORKPLACE CULTURAL CHANGE AHRI s HR in Focus Conference in Canberra will explore cultural change in organisations in relation to the role of the HR professional in cultural change projects, recent theory, how to build a culture that thrives on change and more. These topics will be addressed in relation to both the private and public sector. Our special guest presenter at the conference is Dexter Dunphy, one of Australia s leading authors and consultants on organisational change and human resource management. He will be presenting a session entitled Cultural Transformation and the Role of the HR professional. Conference details: HR in Focus Wednesday 7 May 2014, 8.30am pm Hyatt Hotel Canberra For more information and to register: https://www.ahri.com.au/hrinfocusconference/ Registration closes 30 April Or for more information regarding this event, please

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