How to Drive Change Management in Local Government

UK public sector organisations have a long way to go before achieving digital transformation. Implementation can be slow due to a lack of leadership, universal understanding or even budgetary issues. Front-end digital services have been implemented in many public authorities, helping to cut costs and cater to the needs of everyday citizens. Nonetheless, a lot of these systems are only at the data-entry level and don’t represent true integration.  

Digital and cultural transformation - two sides of the same coin - doesn’t happen without dedicated change management. The issue is that the technology is out there, but it’s taking time for leaders to capitalise upon it. So how can you work to drive change management in local government?

Driving Cultural Transformation

Integrating emerging technologies and dynamic front end services isn’t always a walk in the park. It takes time and a lot of effort. However, by investing in a dynamic internal culture to match and support those changes, we can mitigate a lot of the risks associated with digital transformation.

Digital transformation and cultural transformation are inherently linked. Technology change can’t be implemented without a change in people. But those changes can’t be carried out without leaders to drive them. Any organisation, be it public or private sector, is affected by its workforce - the engine of the system.

If this engine isn’t aligned to progress in the same direction, from admin staff or political execs, it’s likely to stall.

Cultural transformation is ultimately achievable across the board. However, it’s wise to acknowledge that any change may be affected by the 20:60:20 rule.

In short, the first 20% of employees will understand and support change while the next 60% may understand but are more likely to be hesitant or non-committal. The final 20% can be against the change. Bringing them on board may be hard, but it will be a key advantage moving forward.

There are several ways leaders within an organisation can incentivise the troops and bring about cultural transformation...

1. Communicate The Cultural Shift

The new cultural changes need to be properly defined early on and fully understood by everyone. This can only be done through effective communication and teaching. Colleagues and employees should understand the goals, risks involved and what it takes to get from A to B.

Communication can be undertaken in large groups, for specific teams and even one-to-one.

2. Create the Conditions for Change

The change in culture must be reflected in each part of the governmental organisation. This could mean providing incentives to staff which can help to promote change. It can even mean smaller things like office rearrangement - anything you can do to emphasise a shake-up.

It could mean alterations to the structures of teams and departments. Are your hierarchies working effectively? If not, is there any way of streamlining processes?

How to Ensure Employee Engagement

The 20:60:20 rule identifies two key areas you need to target. The first 20, who can become the evangelists of change and the latter 20, the naysayers. If you can incentivise both of these demographics, the rest will follow.

Implementing change management across local government requires an enterprise-wide communication and engagement plan.

Both small and large format meetings are required. These provide feedback to the larger change process and can also facilitate solutions to any concerns. You can utilise the following ideas to create a culture of mutual progression:

  • Drop-in sessions and workshops: These work well as informal question and answer meetings.
  • Test labs: These can be used to train and experiment in any new technology that comes with digital transformation.
  • Training and development programmes: Creating a roadmap that employees can follow to become fully-versed in both the digital and cultural changes being carried provides a framework for everyone.
  • Shared drives and project planning tools: These are smaller parts of an overall digital transformation, but can also improve collaboration and communication.

Furthermore, there are three ways in which employee engagement can be increased:

1. Involve the Team

Driving change management in local government can’t be solely achieved from a top-down perspective. To successfully implement cultural transformation, it needs to be top-down, bottom-up.

Essentially, don’t neglect to involve the entire team. Each employee will have their concerns that need to be met and ideas that could benefit the entire process.

By creating situations in which employees can act interactively with new ideas and processes, you’re providing the chance for hands-on learning. If you bring ideas that may seem lofty to some, down to an individual level where everyone can get involved, you’ll create an atmosphere of mutual learning and cultural appreciation.

Investing people in the process provides accountability, meaning people will want the new changes to be successful.

2. Onboarding Naysayers

Similar to the previous point, it should be the naysayers of these changes that are specifically targeted for involvement. Usually, these are the people that can see the issues that cultural transformation can present. Someone who was on board from the beginning may not have identified these issues, so listening to a wide range of opinions is crucial to successful implementation.

The prominent writer and business consultant, Ken Blanchard, said it well: “People often resent change when they have no involvement in how it should be implemented.

"So, contrary to popular belief, people do not resist change, they resist being controlled.” 

3. Management Buy-In

Similarly, local government services need to retain a high level of efficiency, meaning they’re always on time with deliverables to local communities. A big shift in business process may create objectors, who believe this kind of change will affect the rate and success of work. Establishing management buy-in is a good way of reassuring those with objections. 

For example, when Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council began their ‘Our Digital Council’ project, they experienced the challenge of management buy-in - which they solved through a well-structured change management methodology:

“Through a series of one-to-one discussions and briefings we were able to recruit two key champions who would stand-up and support us in the months and years ahead – the leader of the council and the chief executive.”

“Over a period of time they were persuaded of the arguments for a greater focus on digital delivery of services to those who wanted to access them in this way and that message gradually spread throughout the council.”

This helped to create an executive team of ‘champions’ which then influenced the entirety of the organisation.

Finally, know that cultural transformation doesn’t happen overnight. It can be promoted, supported and implemented but it’s difficult to determine if it’s ever ‘completed’. This shouldn’t be the thing management is looking for but rather, the focus should be placed on seeing the smaller changes - whether they're behavioural, technological or financial.

The more often these align with your goals, the more you can see you’re on the right track.

Change management in local government is dependent on an effective cultural transformation and vice versa. To discover more on cultural transformation, download our Cultural Transformation Roadmap.

Explore Our Roadmap to Effective Cultural Transformation

The roadmap covers crucial areas for understanding the benefits of cultural transformation, how it relates to digital transformation and the best practices when it comes to organisational culture and employee engagement.

Click the link below to discover the facts about cultural transformation today.

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