7 reasons why aged care needs change champions #changemanement

As the Ghostbuster song goes

“If there’s something strange in your neighborhood
Who you gonna call? XXXXX!
If there’s something weird and it don’t look good
Who you gonna call? XXXXX!”

Courtesy and acknowledgement to Ray Parker Jr

In times of uncertainty and chaos – who do we turn to?

Invariably we turn to friends, confidants or trusted colleagues to help us make sense of, reassure us, or provide support in uncertain or stressful times.

Knowing this represents a key opportunity in introducing aged care change.

Aged care presents its own change challenges

Aged care is delivered in a range of settings which each provide a unique set of challenges for implementing change.

The two dominant models are 1) a 24 hour roster (residential care) or 2) as a dispersed and autonomous team of workers (community care).  Each workplace is different and these differences need to be considered when planning, managing and communicating around change.

With a 24 hour workforce you have people who either

  • work flexible shifts and each time they work they have a different group of colleagues to adjust to and work with, or
  • Have a set group or team that they work with when they work, creating a sub team amongst the staff – the old night duty vs day shift dynamic,
  • different levels of staff who each have a different perspective and interests which could impact on their view of the change (nurses, allied health, support workers, hospitality)
  • communication is via handover, team meetings and support plans but it can be hit or miss if you involve everyone.

With a in-home care teams you have people who

  • work 90% of their time independently in the community,
  • limited ‘team’ time is scheduled in their working week, and
  • communication is often via hand-held technologies such as smart phones or support plans with some in-office time for briefings and catch-ups.

There are also differences in other dimensions of the organisations – its’ size, management structure and business focus to name just a couple. so as you begin your change journey it is useful to understand who and what you are working with in the makeup of your workforce.

These differences present real challenges for the introduction of change. They challenges primarily revolve around

  1. getting the message out,
  2. encouraging participation and
  3. embedding change practice.

It’s clear that in practice the change management team cannot be on the ground all the time and should be focussed on the key priorities of implementation.

Knowing all of this it makes great sense to support the change management team with a group of change champions to help them as their eyes, ears and to help you litmus test the change in the workplace.


Defining a role for our change champions

So what exactly are change champions?

They “are individuals within an organization that volunteer or are selected to facilitate change”

Change champions can also be known as change agents, ambassadors, champions of change, advocates, super users or change leaders – it doesn’t really matter what you call these gems in your organisation as long as you and they are clear on what role they play in managing the change.

It is necessary to be clear about the role of expectations on the change champions but that is slightly different to what title you use to identify these change champions.

Why we need change champions in aged care

As we stare down the barrel of sector change it can be daunting. This change impacts on every aspect of aged care business.

It sounds easy to talk about ‘consumer directed care’ and many might argue “we’ve been doing this for years” but we are being challenged to look critically on how we support and work with our customers.

is to build a team of change champions to support staff, management and the change management team.

How can a change champion help?

A change champion can assist in supporting the change management and executive management teams in a number of ways, all of which will add value to your change journey and the overall experience of your staff.

Outlined below are some of the key ways that adopting change champions can assist by…

1. Assist in alleviating the stress amongst staff as part of change process – the Australian Psychological Society 2015 stress  and wellbeing reported that workplace wellbeing  remains a source of stress for workers, while their 2013 report identified that friends (27%)  and family (28%) represented a likely source of help seeking behaviour for managing stress. Given this knowledge finding change champions who are well liked will provide staff with someone to talk if they find the changes stressful.


It is of not that in this same study only 2% of people saw their Employee Assistance Program as a likely avenue for help and 49% used none of the identified avenues for seeking help.


2. Identify hot spots or issues that need urgent action– it’s said that 70% of change initiative fail, although these claims are being increasingly challenged. Not withstanding this controversy it is clear that with any level of failure associated with a project identifying issues of concern early and effectively responding to them will help in achieving success.


3. Capture key feedback from staff on  the progress or hurdles of implementing the change – information is the life blood of any project. Having access to the views and insights of staff as you progress your change management journey can feed into the refinement and design of your approach. Gaining an insight into how staff ‘think, feel and believe in’ the change is important to developing tactics to positively change negative thoughts, feelings or believes that could be holding change back.

As  Jim Trinka and Les Wallace said

“Feedback is a gift. Ideas are the currency of our next success. Let
people see you value both feedback and ideas.”


4. Translate the change into ways their colleagues understand and can relate to – with any change management comes its own language, policies and procedures which are not always user-friendly and often shrouded in ‘management speak’. We are cautioned to not confuse process with communication and to give staff multiple ways to ask questions and provide their input.

In the aged care sector we have the added challenge to communication presented by  the fact that our workforce is incredibly diverse. In a 2015 report 24% of direct care workers in residential care and 26% in community care were identified as speaking another language other than English.  Any mechanism to provide options for communicating the change to such a diverse group of staff will help in


5. Identify and assist staff who are blocking change – irrespective of the size of your organisation, sharing the effort and work of implementing change will always prove useful. Change champions can act as your second level of foot soldiers who can seek out and identify hidden conflict or active ‘white anting’ of change. If you’ve chosen your change champion well they will be viewed as a trusted colleague who can either respond as per (2) or (5).


6. Assist in implementing change – one key success factor in embedding change has been said to effectively role model the change and here change champions can play a role. They can help staff by modeling and reinforcing new practice. Where change champions are working alongside each others it also provides and opportunity to engage in frequent, informal and one on one discussions to reinforce and dispel any concerns about the change. Some have referred to champions as ‘learning leaders’ because of this ability


7. Support the change management team – the old adage ‘the more the merrier’ rings true when implementing change in a complex, diverse and where multiple of interests and people are involved. By developing and supporting change champions you expand the reach and impact of the change management strategy you have planned.

“Change is the process by which the future invades our lives.”                        Alvin Toffler

caution-attention-803720_400 WEBProceed with caution

Finally remember that change champions are not the infallible they will stumble and fall and might not be all of the answer in influencing your staff to make the change. WIth proper selection, support and encouragement they can be key allies in change management.

Where to from here

If you got some useful tips from this article you might also like to read my article on How to excel at managing change for success and sign-up to my blog.

About the author – Helen Attrill, MBA

Hi, Just a bit about myself to help you understand what my driving mission is. I am committed to helping aged care and not for profit organisations ‘accept the challenge of industry change’™.

I have over 26 years as an industry and organisation leader in the aged care and not for profit sector and have led the successful implementation of significant sector, profession and organisational change. Armed with this background I can guide and assist you with your change management challenge.

To find out more about my background visit the Meet Helen page.

If you are still struggling with change and need some support or assistance please feel free to contact me by emailing me at helen@helenattrill.com