Cardinia Shire Council’s transition to an innovative workplace

Dec 16
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As the world advances, technology becomes a key enabler to supporting how we work and live, thus offering productivity gains. We are taken to a place of flexible working arrangements that operate independently of time and place. Cardinia Shire Council has achieved this by becoming the first activity based workplace (ABW) in Local Government Australia, a seismic shift in technology, physical environment and behavioural dimensions. Known for its forward thinking and innovative approach, Cardinia Shire Council stands out from the rest in so many ways.

More than 80 per cent of the Council’s employees in 2016 said they felt more resilient and adaptable when dealing with change as a direct outcome of the transformational change our organisation experienced just two years before, in moving from a traditional multi-site office environment to a newly purpose-built ABW civic centre.

Introducing the change

Our CEO, Garry McQuillan, had a vision for an organisation with a culture of distributed leadership; he was passionate about really letting people know they were all leaders regardless of their title. Having introduced this with some success in 2008, Garry wanted to continue to ‘stretch’ the organisation. As he said: “We have become a great organisation but now we need to strive for excellence”. In pursuit of this refined vision and the plan to co-locate staff from multi-site locations to one building, the organisation’s Senior Leadership Team learned of ABW through Macquarie Bank and Veldhoen & Company. A massive ‘stretch goal’ for Council but with great leadership and clear, consistent messages, we were confident we could adopt this ‘smarter way of working’.

Where to start? My advice would be with your organisation’s leaders. With clear vision and purpose, no matter how large or small your organisation, trust and understanding in your leadership teams is essential. Leaders set the tone for the organisation and, in my view, no matter how great the change may be, if trust in the leaders exists and can be maintained, the transition will be a lot more smooth sailing.

Creating change plans

At Cardinia Shire Council, with the support and guidance of Veldhoen & Company, we prepared for the change and applied the ADKAR change management model for our transition. With flexibility required along the way to work through bumps in the road, we were mindful of having a clear change plan to communicate high level information to our people. Keep in mind, plans are made to set a pathway, humans are made to think and feel and the two together alone do not lead to a smooth transition. Like any dynamic entity, regular attention and care is needed to achieve success.

We learnt quickly the importance of clear messaging via a governance structure. Our plan kept us on track but also gave us flexibility to have clear communication avenues to share information with the organisation. Even the late adopters of the change knew what to expect as we went. Not everyone agreed, but we focused on the first steps for applying the ADKAR model: creating awareness of the change and increasing desire for the new way of working through sharing ‘what’s in it for me’ topics.

Bringing people along

Communication can be complex at the best of times and in times of change it is most critical that the messages are clear and consistent. A change event causes even the most flexible person some level of anxiety, so the more sharing of key information and support you can provide, the greater the trust in the messenger relationship and the more empowered and confident people feel in being able to respond to the change.

People often ask me how much to share with their teams, my advice is as much as you can for the benefit of the change process. Enough to let people know where things are at, and if there is no new information, it’s best to communicate exactly that.

Celebrating success

Just as important is celebrating the milestones, achievements small and large, and giving recognition to those who have supported and contributed to the change. Let people and teams do it their way too, recognition is another story but can often be wasted if not delivered effectively and to the people who need it.

Share the journey, the high and low points along the way, and acknowledge the shift in people as individuals and as part of the whole organisation.

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Submitted by Bianca Baddock

Bianca Baddock is Organisation Development Advisor at Cardinia Shire Council.

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