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7 Steps to a Successful Change Initiative in a Human Services Organization

BlogChange managementHuman Services

There’s no getting around it, change is inevitable. It’s required to keep your organization running as effectively and efficiently as possible, but often Human Services seem to avoid it at all costs. How can you even to foster change when you’re up against staff and managers that have been doing their jobs the same way for years? How many change management workshops have you been to that talk about how important it is, but don’t give you the steps you need to actually complete said change? Whether you are dealing with a new incoming generation in your workforce or implementing a new technology solution into your organization, there is a path you must take to ensure that the change you’re trying to make actually happens and sticks. Here are the 7 steps that lead to successful organizational change in the Public Sector.

Step 1: Ensure the Need

As a manager or leader, you should have a vision of what this change could do for your organization. Figured it out? Ok, now share it! This vision needs to be compelling and present an image of the future that is appealing to your staff and easy to communicate. Managers need to communicate the coming changes as a need, not simply a want. Research has also indicated that when crafting a vision for change, it is important to include that the change will bring relief from stress or discomfort, and that the current situation is the cause for such dissatisfaction.

Step 2: Provide a Plan

Now that you have a vision, you need a course of action. Creating a roadmap for your organization to follow offers a direction, identifies obstacles, and proposes possible solutions to these obstacles. Specificity is key when creating a plan like this. You need to ensure that specific goals are measurable and that individuals are accountable for their contributions. By putting a plan in place, it eliminates inconsistencies and the risk of getting off track with your change initiative.

Step 3: Build Internal Support for Change and Overcome Resistance

You are not going to have a successful change initiative if you do not have everyone in the organization on board. Managers can use tactics like offering additional training, building loyalty (through events like organizational ceremonies), and introducing the change gradually with room for employee inputs, to gain the trust and support of stakeholders in the organization. Another important point is to not overestimate staff’s resistance to change. More often than not, once they get over the fact that the way they’re used to doing something is changing, most staff are actually look forward to a solution that offers a relief from their current problems, and you should capitalize on this and offer appropriate support to help them move past that first hurdle.

Step 4: Ensure Top-Management Support and Commitment

Building off the last point of gaining the frontline staff’s support, is to also ensure you have the managers and organization’s leaders on board for change. Assign someone to be a change agent or ‘idea champion’ to lead the initiative. An idea champion is someone who is highly respected in the organization, who maintains the momentum and commitment to change, often taking personal risks in the process. This helps to communicate the worth and need for change to your organization’s staff.

Step 5: Build External Support

In the Human Services and Public Sector, organizational change often depends on receiving a certain amount of support from political overseers and other key external stakeholders. By developing support from these stakeholders you will have more success initiating change as they can often impose statutory changes and control the flow of resources to organizations in the public sector.

Step 6: Provide Resources

Speaking of resources, you will need to do some reconfiguring of the ones you have. This is a very important step that will require a lot of forethought as Human Services have scarce resources to begin with. The success of your change initiative relies on this being done correctly. If resources are not redirected and repurposed correctly, it can lead to feeble implementation efforts, high levels of interpersonal stress, and even neglect of core organizational activities.

Step 7: Institutionalize Change

Undergoing a change initiative is useless if, say, 6 months after the fact, people revert to the old way of doing things. To ensure a lasting change, the new policies or innovations need to be incorporated into daily routines. Frontline staff need to learn and routinize the change initiative so that the old patterns of behavior do not creep back into your organization. Something that managers can do is be extremely strict with new policies and offer no wiggle room with how things are done – if even the smallest leniency is given, it could lead to the whole change initiative imploding.


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