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Poor organisational change management

For: Employers and managers Information seekers

Change is constant and can bring positive results for organisations and workers such as increased productivity, clarity of role and work satisfaction. Change can also be challenging and can affect morale and engagement if it isn’t managed well.

What is poor organisational change management?

Safe Work Australia's Model Code of Practice: Managing psychosocial hazards at work outlines examples of poor organisational change management which may include:

  • Insufficient consultation
  • Insufficient consideration of new hazards or performance impacts when planning for, and implementing, change
  • Insufficient support, information or training during change.
  • Not communicating key information to workers during periods of change.

In times of change, it’s important to consider your work health and safety management systems and integrate these into the change process to monitor and prevent risks to workers.

Workers are more likely to embrace change when it is supported by consultation and effective communication, and this can improve health and productivity.

Comcare has developed a self-assessment tool to help employers manage the risks associated with organisational change: Reducing the psychosocial risks of workplace change (PDF, 765.4 KB)

Machinery of Government changes

Comcare’s work health and safety jurisdiction is uniquely impacted by organisational change associated with Machinery of Government (MoG).

These are major decisions around restructuring – including creating or abolishing entities and moving and changing agency functions – and they can have health and safety consequences for workers.

Australian Public Service employers need to consider and effectively manage the health and safety risks associated with implementing MoG changes. Agencies must be aware of their WHS responsibilities – appropriately identifying hazards, particularly psychosocial hazards, carrying out risk assessments and implementing mitigation processes.

Section 47 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 requires employers to consult, so far as is reasonably practicable, with workers who are (or are likely to be) directly affected by a health and safety matter.

During MoG changes, consultation should focus on how the changes are going to be implemented, and there should be ongoing communication and consultation with workers throughout the transition to their new work arrangements.

Situations and environments impacting workers’ health and safety may include:

  • Taking on new roles and relationships
  • Merged organisational cultures
  • Changed workplace expectations
  • Increased workload
  • New approaches to work
  • Voluntary or involuntary redundancies.

Comcare has updated resources and guidance material available to help employers ensure their workplaces remain healthy and safe during this time, including the self-assessment tool (above) and this factsheet: People matters with Machinery of Government (PDF, 552.8 KB)

Impact of poor organisational change management

Poor change management can lead to psychological injures and other adverse health outcomes, as well as reduced productivity.

During change, it is important for organisations to focus on these key elements to help protect workers from psychological harm:

  • Consultation
  • Prevention
  • Early intervention
  • Recovery at and return to work
  • Leadership.

How to control the risks of organisational change

Safe Work Australia's Model Code of Practice: Managing psychosocial hazards at work outlines some examples of control measures you can implement to eliminate or minimise the risks of organisational change in the workplace.

It is important however that your risk management plan identifies and implements control measures  specific to your workplace, as far as is reasonably practicable.

Job/work design

  • Employers must consult workers who are, or are likely to be, affected by a work health and safety matter. You must agree consultation arrangements with your workers and should design them to suit your workplace. You must use agreed consultation arrangements when planning changes that raise work health and safety concerns.
  • Modify work plans to allow for a period of change (for example, adjusting performance targets while workers learn new roles).
  • Plan any changes to duties, tasks, objectives and reporting arrangements to ensure they are reasonable and fair (for example, ensure workers will not have too much to do).

Physical work environment

  • Provide practical support for changes in duties, tasks or objectives (for example, ensure workers have access to the tools and resources they need to perform a new task).
  • Provide mechanisms to guide workers and managers through the change process (for example, provide information or feedback sessions to address any concerns).

Managing and communicating organisational change

Provide authoritative information about upcoming changes and options being considered as soon as possible, keep workers up to date, and ensure workers understand the changes (for example, provide updates at team meetings or on notice boards).

  • Inform customers and suppliers about changes and any impacts this will have.
  • Provide workers with the reasons for changes.
  • Provide emotional support to help workers deal with challenges or frustrations resulting from change and uncertainty.

Safe work systems and procedures

  • Encourage workers to engage with the development of new position descriptions and work processes.
  • Encourage workers to engage with consultation and raise any issues, concerns or suggestions.
  • Respect individual differences and recognise workers will respond to change in a range of ways and will have different needs in consultation and engagement.

The worker

  • Employers must provide workers with any information, training, instruction and supervision necessary to safely complete their work (for example, train them on safely using new equipment).
  • Ensure the person communicating changes has the skills and authority to do so, and supervisors have the skills to support workers through periods of change.

Poor organisational change management has been identified as a hazard in the Model Code of Practice: Managing psychosocial hazards at work.

This guidance will help you meet your obligation under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 and the Work Health and Safety Regulations 2011.

Training on psychological health and safety

Training on mentally healthy workplaces

We provide training through our learning management system called Comcare LMS.

To access our training, you first need to create an account in Comcare LMS (see the steps to create an account). Then, select the training item that you are interested in and login with your email and password.

For more information about the training we offer, see Training and learning.

Page last reviewed: 18 August 2022

GPO Box 9905, Canberra, ACT 2601
1300 366 979 |

Date printed 17 Jun 2024