In 2018, the Australian Commonwealth Government implemented the most significant policy changes impacting its employment service programs in decades. Rather than assigning job seekers to a specified office for assistance — beneficiaries of Disability Employment Services would instead be granted freedom to choose their provider. Moving to a user-choice service model presented an enormous change, not just for the team at MAX Solutions (the business Maximus operates in Australia). Employment seekers and Australian governmental stakeholders at the national and state levels would also need to adjust their perspectives and expectations. While the team has decades of experience in serving vulnerable populations and getting results for Australians seeking help, the change from viewing government as the “customer” to the new commercial and communications relationship directly with the public essentially upended the business model. Essentially, rather than having beneficiaries assigned to an office for help, MAX solutions would need to market and connect directly with the newly empowered job seekers.
Faced with a need to overhaul everything from hiring to public relations to government relations, MAX Solutions opted to implement a comprehensive change project — calling the endeavor Project Connection to emphasize the centrality of customers to the new way of working. Spanning approximately 1,700 employees working from 250 offices across the Australian continent, the team set out to become a customer service-focused organization, realign corporate and client-facing roles, and transform to meet the mission.
The catalyst for this transformation was, in part, the result of external government policy changes designed to empower people with a disability to choose their service providers for assisted living, therapeutic supports, and employment — but compliance with the government’s requirements was the floor not the ceiling for us. — Deborah Homewood Managing Director, MAX Solutions
How we put Organizational Change Management efforts to work
MAX Solutions recognized early that a change of this scale and significance would require a long-term investment in fundamentally transforming the way they engage with the public. As a result, disability Employment Services was the first service line improved on a pilot basis before the team adopted an all-of business approach to ensure the change would benefit the greatest number of people. Project Connection was a social group action, a “movement” towards customer service, consistently encouraging all team members to actively participate in creating change. As a result, the organizational culture evolved and created a more customer-centric business by sustaining momentum and focus on the shared goal of excellence in customer service. The organizational change management project has proven to be a tremendous success. By creating a culture that made every team member an active partner in promoting effective change, we put the customer experience at the heart of program operations. In addition, through this movement, we have undertaken significant work with customers, team members, and employers to gain insights into their experience with our services. The return on that investment has been immense.
- Adopted a change management framework that set the program up to meet the challenges of COVID-19 from a position of adaptability and resilience
- Built a Customer-Centric brand identity that strengthens our market position and inspires trust in governmental stakeholders and the public.
- Created a customer service culture that defines and informs everything we do – from day-to-day operations, all internal and external communications, and everything in between.
- Established clear standards and performance metrics that support continuous operations improvements.
As an organization, we embraced the change as the right thing to do and the start of a significant change in how people receiving income support are treated. — Deborah Homewood Managing Director, MAX Solutions
The training evaluation (posttraining) showed that most beneficiaries believe that their behavior has or will change as a result of training. As a direct result, we observed:
- 76.5% of trainees report a strong belief that the training has changed their ability to self-reflect on customer interactions.
- 86% of staff report their concurrence that the training has improved their ability to handle conflict and address difficult situations.
» Inspire people by creating a compelling vision of the future. Change often creates stress, uncertainty, and unpredictability. Having a clear meaning or purpose behind the change will strengthen your chance of successfully implementing the change.
» Link the change story to the mission and vision of the organization. If you do not provide a path for employees to follow, they will make their own path. The best change stories provide an understanding of how this change relates to the organization’s overall vision.
» Keep people informed through regular and meaningful communications. A lack of communication can create mistrust, misunderstanding, missed opportunities, and low morale. Tie key messaging back to the narrative developed, reiterate the case for change and present a compelling future vision.
» Empower leaders and managers to lead through change by providing them with the guidance and tools to succeed. How leadership reacts to change will trickle down and impact managers, impacting employees and their engagement. Prepare leaders with the information and resources they need to feel confident leading through change.
» Find creative ways to involve employees in the change. Employee involvement is the difference between unhappy employees who resist change, and engaged employees trusted to give their input.