Prepare for change in your small or medium business
How to engage and support your employees through small and big changes.
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How this helps your business
Taking a little time to look back at how past changes were managed lets you learn from what went well and make sure you don't repeat mistakes.
Employers have an obligation to consult staff when they are considering changes that may affect employees' health and safety. Involving staff in planning from the get-go, and having open conversations about these plans will help everyone cope with change, and create a more positive workplace.
Key facts and stats
Change can be a significant risk factor to a worker's mental health and wellbeing if not managed well.
Black Dog institute, 2017
Step 1: Learn from the past
The questions below will help get you thinking about what you can learn from past changes. It's okay if not all the questions are relevant to your workplace – just use what works for you.
Think about past changes in your workplace
Ask other people that were involved to help answer the questions too, because different people might have had very different experiences, especially if they are in different roles or locations.
What was the change initiative?
Why did the change initiative come about in the first place?
What steps did you take to make the change?
Did you set clear objectives, timelines, action plans?
Who was the main person responsible for the change initiative?
Was there leadership support?
If there was leadership support, how did they show support / commitment across the organisation?
What was the leaders' role in the process ?
What resources or tools did you use to assist in implementing change?
How did you communicate the change across the business?
When did you involve employees in the change process? Start, middle or end of process?
How did you involve employees in the change process?
Did you think that employees would be affected by the change?
Did employees know where they could get support if they were affected by the change?
Were there any barriers or hurdles that got in the way?
If there were barriers or hurdles, how did you overcome them or respond to them?
Did you use any methods to monitor, review or evaluate the change process?
What suggestions or recommendations would you give others that wanted to implement the same change?
Did you collect any feedback along the way?
Overall, what worked well?
Overall, what didn’t work well?
What was the biggest challenge?
How could you do better next time?
Step 2: Identify an upcoming change
The list below has a range of big and small changes that a workplace can encounter. A change might seem small to you but still be significant to your employees.
Have a look through the list and identify one workplace change over the next 12 months that you might need to plan for.
Types of workplace change examples
Physical move such as moving into a new building or renovating office space
New management or team leaders
Change in culture
Change of routine
Staff movement such as resignations or promotions
Policy and procedure updates
Changes to decision-making processes
New technology or updated software
Litigation / legal proceedings
Mergers, acquisitions and restructures
Step 3: Plan your communication
Discussing the planned change with employees will make them feel included and reduce any stress they might have about new ways of working. Your employees might have good ideas for what the change will look like and the best way to do it.
Think about the upcoming change you identified in Step 2 and use the headings below to start putting some information together for your employees.
Explain the what, why and how of the new change
List any problems that are happening: the evidence that makes you want to change, and why not making a change is risky.
Compare yourself to others in your industry: review what others are doing; maybe that is the reason you want to change something.
Be specific about the outcome you want from this change: maybe it's to keep up to date, or to reduce workload. Show how it solves any problems that may be happening at the moment.
Outline the role of everyone in the change process: involve team leaders and managers in the process, acknowledge the impacts it will have on people, how you plan to overcome that impact.
Outline how you will keep everyone informed: be open and honest, tell employees you want them involved in the planning and decision-making processes, consider briefings or team meetings on a regular basis or conversations whenever you can
Step 4: Talk with your staff
Now that you've thought about your upcoming change and what information you want to share with your staff, its time to start communicating this information with them.
The link below from beyondblue has some handy tips especially about how to keep the communication channels open for staff. With these in mind, think about how what ways will work best to communicate the information with everyone (meetings, intranet, newsletter? How do you usually communicate with your employees).
Step 5: Make a plan
Planning a change before you begin is the best way to make it succeed.
Getting your staff involved in this step is a great way to make them feel part of the team and responsible for the outcome. Not only will it help with the uncertainty that often comes up when there are changes to the workplace, but input from your staff will most likely give you a better plan!
Below we have a simple action plan template you can complete for the change you identified in Step 1.
Step 6: Review and keep improving
Once you've made a new change, you should review it after a while to see whether it's working as well as you'd hoped, and make notes on where you could improve.
This helps you make better decisions and shows you are committed to improving the business.
The list below has some handy tips on how to do this.
It's important to ask your employees their opinion when implementing a new strategy. It also gets your workplace involved and onboard, passes on a sense of personal responsibility and collaboration, and allows for continued improvement.
Ask employees the right questions: are we doing things right, or are there better ways it can be done?
Have regular conversations with all employees and keep them engaged. If something didn't work, tell them that and get them involved in ways to improve things
Review regularly - set a date and stick to it
Look to see if your goal has been achieved. If not, why? Was it a lack of understanding?
Make a specific person responsible for monitoring and evaluating so they can keep track of how things are changing over time
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