In Change Management

Welcome to ‘A Chat About Change’, Lorraine. Thank you so much for joining me today. Could you start by telling us about your role and the major changes you’re currently involved in?

Sure, Ranjit. I’m the Director of Organisational Development, Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion at King’s College London. My role is centred on people and culture, addressing priorities like mental health, well-being, inclusion, belonging, and leadership development, all of which has seen massive change in the last few years particularly following COVID and how we respond to the new needs of our workforce and students.

That does cover a broad spectrum. What are the current changes that are keeping you busy?

Currently, we’re developing comprehensive engagement strategies for our entire institution. A key part of this was conducting a large-scale staff survey, which not only highlighted our key priorities but also allowed us to recognise our collective achievements. Our goal is to connect with every level of our organisation by building inclusivity and a shared understanding that unites us all.

We received outstanding feedback about the strong sense of pride our colleagues feel towards the institution, particularly regarding their work in local areas with their teams and the effectiveness of our local leadership and management. This feedback highlights the positives, which is crucial. Often, staff surveys can lead to a focus on areas needing improvement, but it’s equally important to recognise and uphold what we’re already doing well.

This approach is especially significant now, as it’s essential to not only emphasise change but also to value and build upon our existing strengths. Achieving such high engagement was also a big plus, especially considering the general fatigue people are experiencing from constant challenges.

A common perception is that louder, often negative voices dominate, but staff surveys and engagement strategies counter this by including every voice, ensuring inclusivity. This inclusiveness extends to those more difficult to reach colleagues in off-site roles, such as security, cleaning, and our front facing colleagues, who are integral to our operations at Kings. Despite initial concerns, possibly amplified by sector-wide strikes, this initiative has proven highly valuable, teaching us much and leading to the development of cohesive future strategies.

I’m glad you mentioned those difficult to reach stakeholders, especially those not typically in front of a computer or on shifts. What channels or mechanisms did you use to reach those more difficult to get to stakeholders. We talked about engaging with those difficult to reach stakeholders in a recent webinar .

We ensured inclusivity by ensuring that our survey tools where easily accessible to everyone, we provided a level of flexibility that allowed these colleagues to participate without disrupting their shifts or routine.

We set up private spaces equipped with iPads and computers, enabling staff to complete the survey confidentially and comfortably within their working hours. This approach significantly increased participation from these crucial team members. Close collaboration with managers and leaders ensured that shift schedules were considered, making our staff feel included and valued in providing their feedback.

The success of this initiative was largely due to our emphasis on collaborative working and creating a safe environment for feedback. We were careful to maintain privacy and prevent any perception of oversight by managers, ensuring that the feedback remained confidential and genuine. This careful planning and execution paid off, leading to a higher rate of participation and a deeper understanding of the diverse challenges within our team.

Ok, so having identified what’s gone well and where there are real strengths and opportunities for change, what were next steps?

We have a dual approach: an organisational action plan focusing on our main priorities, and individual local action plans to ensure personal accountability.

Firstly, we established an organisational action plan focused on addressing our overarching priorities and objectives at the institutional level.

Secondly, we developed a series of local action plans, tailored to the unique needs and circumstances of each team. These plans are collaboratively executed, ensuring that every team contributes meaningfully to our collective goals.

A key component of our strategy following the staff survey was to emphasise local accountability. Our aim was to make it straightforward for individual departments to access their specific data, enabling them to create impactful action plans and take ownership of implementing these plans.

Sometimes, there’s a misconception that accountability is lacking or that implementing change at a local level is too challenging. This perception is a misunderstanding. Building confidence and recognising the unique opportunities that come with leading and managing teams are key. It’s about fostering an environment where experiences are valued, fairness is upheld, and opportunities are accessible at the local level. This responsibility doesn’t solely lie with HR or senior management; it’s most effective when immediate line managers understand and address the needs of their teams, setting clear objectives and encouraging networking.

Another challenge that many organisations, including ours, face in the era of hybrid working is the reduced frequency of face-to-face interactions. This new working model has lessened our opportunities to build relationships, understand one another, and develop a sense of belonging. This aspect is particularly critical for our Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) initiatives. It is crucial to maintain those vital conversations and uphold a culture of kindness and care. These values are essential not just for operational success but for nurturing our human connections within the organisation. Kings College London has a workforce of 10,000 people. It’s important that local managers and leaders play their part. It’s not up to a change team. It’s not up to HR because they can’t get around to everyone and they cannot get into those conversations in the same way than when there is that local relationship.

Definitely. The need for managers to support change is more important than ever, isn’t it? Shifting gears a bit, I’m curious about your personal journey. How did you find yourself in this line of work, particularly in the area of change management?

Reflecting on my career journey, I realise now that sometimes you’re effecting change without even recognising it. My journey began about 21 years ago in the realm of equality, diversity, and inclusion. Back then, my focus was on interpreting data to inform the activities and initiatives we needed for staff and students in higher education. Looking back, I see those efforts were actually about driving meaningful change, essentially cultivating a different culture within the institution.

Working in this space, you learn a lot. You get to collaborate with a diverse range of people, understand various challenges, and build trust. It’s about making a real difference and thinking critically about the impact from the receiver’s end, not just from your own perspective.

I’ve learned that change doesn’t always require big, sweeping actions. It’s often about the smaller, symbolic steps that gradually build trust and awareness. For instance, at Kings, we transformed our well-being month into a festival, a move that symbolises our commitment to well-being. This kind of initiative helps people trust and engage more, building awareness about its importance.

One key insight I’ve gained is the profound impact of even a small change across a large workforce. If you do something that makes 1% difference across 10,000 people that’s enormous, isn’t it?

Change is fundamentally about empathy, conversation and compassionate leadership. Compassionate leadership, often misconstrued as weakness, is actually a strength. It’s about understanding the community’s needs and sometimes, it means saying no, but always after listening and understanding the challenges.

Finally, what advice would you give to change managers facing tough times?

I’d say first and foremost, acknowledge that it’s a difficult period, and it’s completely okay to feel overwhelmed. It’s crucial not to blame yourself if things aren’t progressing as quickly as you’d like. Remember, aligning with the pace of your organisation is key. Moving too fast can lead to mistakes.

Building and maintaining personal resilience is essential. Keep your support network close, and don’t hesitate to reach out for conversations when you feel uncertain about your abilities. Coaching yourself is a valuable skill. Reflect on your past achievements and how you’ve overcome similar feelings before. This reflection can help navigate through moments of self-doubt.

Your inner voice is your most influential guide. It’s important to manage what you say to yourself. If you start the day doubting your capabilities, it sets a negative tone. Instead, affirm to yourself that you’ve faced challenges before and have the skills to tackle them again. Sometimes, all it takes is a moment to step back, have a cup of tea, and then approach your tasks with renewed energy.

Speaking to a trusted colleague or mentor can provide the reassurance and perspective you need.

It’s important to stay grounded in your beliefs and goals. Consistency is crucial. Once you’ve decided on a course of action, stay committed to it, and keep pushing forward. This approach will help you stay on track and effectively navigate through the challenges.

I’m so glad you brought that up about paying attention to that inner voice – I emphasise that a lot too and talked about that in the first webinar of a five-part series top five skills change managers need today. Thank you, Lorraine, for sharing your insights and experiences with us today.

It’s so valuable to have the opportunity to talk with an experienced change professional like yourself. Conversations like this are not just about sharing knowledge; they’re about building a community of practice that supports, inspires and educates each other.

It’s a privilege for me and others to hear about your journey and accomplishments as they can serve as a source of inspiration and motivation for others in the field. Knowing that someone has navigated similar paths and overcome obstacles can be incredibly encouraging, especially during tough times. If Lorraine’s journey has inspired you, share your thoughts and comments on our company LinkedIn page or if you would like to share your story to our community of practice please get in touch.

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