managing change

Change management means different things to different people. But at its core is a journey from a current situation to a desired future state e.g. a change in culture or behaviours (‘the way things are done here’) perhaps prompted by a change of ownership, strategy, or technology. Employee engagement and involvement are critical in successfully managing change at work; according to PwC, nine out of ten of the key barriers to the success of change programmes are people related.

Change management is a process that works by identifying the current situation, what needs to change, what can change, and how the change will take place. The core principles of successful change management are thus:

  • understand the current situation and where you want to be
  • establish when, why and how you will know you’ve achieved the desired change
  • plan how to reach your goal in measurable stages
  • communicate with and seek involvement and support from people affected by the change as soon as possible

One of the most-used illustrations in change management is the change curve, based on Kübler-Ross’s ‘five stages of grief’, although there is no such thing as an average reaction to change, and not everyone goes through the same stages.For example, the need to change may already be recognised by employees (so they have no denial stage) and by involving people, rather than imposing change, there is a good chance of bypassing anger and depression. People who naturally embrace change may move quickly to the acceptance stage; others less keen or nervous about change may spend longer in the denial stage.

change: legal requirements and best-practice

The Fair Work Act 2009 requires employers to consult with employees. Employers must:

  • notify employees and their representatives who maybe affected by the proposed changes
  • discuss the changes with the affected employees and their representatives, and provide information in writing to them as soon as practicable after a definite decision has been made about the nature of the changes, the effects the changes are likely to have on employees, and measures to prevent or reduce the adverse effects of such changes on staff
  • give prompt consideration to matters raised by the employees and their representatives in relation to the changes.
  • organisations that employ people under an enterprise agreement are also required to include a consultation term in their agreement that must require the employer, or employers to which the agreement applies, to consult with employees about major workplace changes that are likely to have a significant effect on the employees, and allow for the representation of those employees for the purposes of that consultation (a person representing the employees could include an elected employee or a representative from a union)

Important note: There are additional consultation requirements for employers who intend to implement a change that results in the dismissal of 15 or more employees. For more information download the Best Practice Guide to Consultation & Cooperation in the Workplace from the Fair Work Ombudsman at

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