An important factor in managing organisational change is how it is communicated. Information about change moves through an organisation in uncontrolled ways. The perception of being “kept in the dark” can lead to uncertainty and distrust, even more so in hierarchical structures where employees begin to ask “who knows what?”
Government owned organisation, Australia Post faced significant changes; the business strategy was changing in response to shifts in the market – the volume of letters being delivered was decreasing and the number of parcel deliveries from online shopping was increasing. E-commerce partnerships with businesses emerged as a new frontier.
“Technology has fundamentally changed how we connect in every way,” Lauren Trethowan, Head of Culture at Australia Post said.
“More than ever, people are shopping and transacting online, expect more convenient delivery services and want access to other services to make their busy lives easier.
“This all means our customers’ expectations are evolving – and Australia Post needs to evolve too, in order to meet their changing needs.”
In mid-2015, Australia Post experimented with a new approach to disseminating the new organisational values and strategy with The Grapevine, a two-day initiative aimed at discussing changes from digital disruption and what it meant for employees.
The Grapevine program was held at 14 major locations across Australia, each session bringing 100-120 “influential employees” to talk about the changes brought by digital disruption and what it meant for them.
“We know that those who influence our culture work at all levels of the company, from those in our frontline and operational facilities through to senior management. At The Grapevine participants have the opportunity to participate in a two-way conversation with colleagues from right across the company, they share stories, and discuss what the strategy practically means for them in their role”.
The environment for the program was informal and relaxed by design, giving employees the chance to talk directly with senior management.
“We paid careful attention to how the space was designed (language, location, lighting, colour, process) to maximize learning and change the way we have conversations. We were also very conscious of removing hierarchy, so we removed role titles from name tags.”
Employees also heard from their customers, which Ms Trethowan said helped build a sense of purpose and meaning to their everyday activities.
“It was great to hear customer stories rather than just talk about the customer as a number or NPS score” she said.
“It was really effective in reminding our employees that a parcel is not just a parcel—it’s a birthday present or that dress you’ve been saving for all month.
“Leaders spoke openly about what the organisational values mean to them and which values they live confidently and which values fade for them under pressure. This provided permission for employees to then share their own personal stories linked up to the values.
“The Grapevine program is an ongoing network. It was not a one-way experience, employees fostered connections with each other and now have contacts right across the business that they can draw on.”
The Grapevine program now serves as a network of contacts for Grapevine Alumni. A survey of participants showed a 13 per cent increase in employee engagement and engagement in teams with a Grapevine Alumni member also showed overall improvements in engagement.
DID YOU KNOW?
Inclusion is one of four Healthy Workplace Principles that help foster healthy relationships at work. Being included means having a sense of importance and value to others and provides a sense of belonging and desire to contribute.
It contextualises workers’ tasks and encourages them to act on behalf of the organisation. (Healthy Workplace Principles)