Yes, organisational change is hard to do. Here's why you should still do it …

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Topics Inclusion

By Ming Long, Deputy Chair of Diversity Council Australia, Chair of AMP Capital Funds Management   

What was interesting from the DCA Change at Work Report, released this week, is the revelation that 75 per cent of organisations feel change at work could be more effective. People in these organisations face backlash, and resisters. And that’s because many execute programs without understanding the strategic imperative behind the need for change. 

In plain terms, the need is this: for too long, we have been hiring the same type of people, promoting the same type of people, and repeatedly fishing from the same pool of people, all the while expecting our organisations to be different and competitive.  

What the Change at Work report makes clear to me is that we need to be more invested in the strategic rationale behind any shift. As businesses, we must see our customers reflected in our employees and our leadership, and leaders need to have the character traits that serve our customers best: humility, empathy, selflessness, a moral compass, and courage. Some of those traits are hard to find because they require battle scars and different life experiences to learn them. But those traits must be present. They must be stronger than self-interest, greed and the good old status quo.

We must also remember this takes time – a long time.

My experience is in the financial services sector, and I’ll use that to illustrate just what kind of time frames we’re looking at: when Dr Ken Henry indicated at the Banking Royal Commission that cultural change could take 10 years, the reaction was one of shock.

Yet many of you who work in such large organisations would quietly understand that change of this nature is extraordinarily difficult, because it demands a heart and soul change in every employee, and patience to embed and entrench that change.

In addition to the Change at Work report, I hope many people read the Banking Royal Commission Report and the CBA APRA report. Together, they present a wake-up call not just for the financial services industry, but for all organisations in our country. We must have change. There is no option if we want our organisations to be prosperous and globally competitive. We cannot continue what we have been doing in the past and expect a different outcome.

So whether it’s diversity and inclusion, or process, or workplace design. Embrace what needs to be done, and invest in it for the long term.

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