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Changing workplace culture to improve productivity

A major restructuring of an organisation can throw up many issues that can affect morale, trust and productivity.

But sometimes it's not just the spectres of redundancy, job insecurity or revised terms and conditions that have an impact.

Managing change can also be about a shift in the nature of an organisation's work both in terms of values and skills, because of larger changes in culture and society at large.

In such instances, facing the challenge can involve a process of self-examination about how an organisation might find a better fit for the most effective operation.

It's about seizing the opportunity to do some in-depth reflective learning about your organisation, identify where it should be going and taking it there.

The opportunity to improve through change

This was the focus in a recent Acas case study discussed in the Acas Workplace trends of 2016.

In pdf icon How to change a workplace culture: a case study in power of reflective learning [176kb], the example of the Wiltshire Fire & Rescue Service, which has recently had to deal with considerable cultural and organisational changes, is instructive.

One of the key issues was addressing a transformation in the core area of its work, a move away from fire fighting towards fire prevention.

Doing so meant adopting values that could incorporate its historic and much-cherished role, while also moving on from outdated modes of operation and embracing its new functions and the way it is perceived in the community.

On top of this, the service had to overhaul old disciplinary and grievance procedures, address skills gaps, boost managerial skills and confidence, and update accepted standards of behaviour and conduct.

Support from Acas

Acas was ideally positioned to help them carry out the journey of change, a journey that is still ongoing. But the process involved more than tapping Acas' expertise in training and development on these issues and building on the long-term relationship between the two organisations.

As the lead Acas advisor involved pointed out, 'The journey that Wiltshire Fire & Rescue Service is embarking on reflects the journey that Acas has been on in the last few decades.

'They have had to change the public perception that firefighters purely fight fire. Acas largely focuses on preventing conflict in the same way that firefighters largely work on preventing fires.

'It's a shift in focus and how you see yourselves. The key is to be prepared to keep learning and be as innovative as you can.'

Acas publications and services

Acas has in-depth information and advice on Building Productivity in the UK, including links to its report of the same name, comment from leading voices on the topic, and all the relevant case studies.

Acas has also developed a new productivity tool that can help organisations assess where they can do more to get the best from their staff. See the Acas Productivity Tool for more details.

Managing in difficult times gives help and support for organisations struggling to cope with a changing social and economic landscape.

Acas experts are on hand to come to your workplace and work with you on all aspects of employment relations to create a happier, more satisfied, more productive and more engaged workforce. See Workshops, projects and business solutions or call the customer services team on 0300 123 1150.

Practical training is also available on essential Skills for supervisors and Staff retention, including courses on 'The route to successful employee engagement' and 'Toxic workplace cultures - how to avoid them', as well as related topics such as Redundancy, Contracts and terms and conditions, TUPE and Managing change.

For free, impartial advice and guidance visit Acas Helpline Online.

Visit the Acas Training Courses, Workshops and Projects area for more information.


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