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Companies often make communications for a merger a low priority compared to the seemingly more pressing operational issues. Not a great plan, as research into mergers has shown that effective communication for the merger and acquisition (M&A) journey is key to the ultimate success of the merger.[1] Importantly, merger communication can only be truly effective, if it can properly explain and engage all stakeholders with the “why”. In getting the M&A process right, it is very often about the WHAT, HOW and WHEN – in this second part of our M&A series, we talk about the importance of communicating the WHY.

All merger communications need to be based on a set of core messages arising from three things: the reason or rationale for the M&A, the employee value proposition (EVP), and the associated change story. The rationale is an explanation of why the merger is taking place and what value will emerge as a result. The EVP describes why the M&A will provide a range of opportunities for employees – note careful language needs to be used here, as in some restructure situations, jobs will be lost. Lastly, the change story needs to describe what must be done to ensure that the M&A delivers value, and why the merger departs from “business as usual.”[2]

The core messages around these three areas must also be specifically tailored for each group of stakeholders; external – customers, shareholders/investors, business partners/suppliers; and the very important internal group, the employees. It is within this area of communicating to stakeholders, that Change2020 can assist with developing the right set of strong core messages that outline the value proposition that works for each group.

Change2020, has a number of senior consultants who are experts in this space – one such expert is Ms Tracey Wright who has extensive experience in M&As, in particular establishing a corporate communications function areas for a merger of three large corporations. Tracey outlines the importance of getting the “why” out in all merger communications.

“Explaining the reason why the merger is happening must be the very first step in the communication process. Communications should have targeted messaging, explaining why it is good for the customers, the employees and why it is good for the business.”

Tracey Wright

People are generally attached to their employer’s brand and have invested time, effort and loyalty in the business.  It’s really important to show empathy and to ensure you understand the sensitivities around mergers and/or acquisitions for those experiencing it.  For employees, M&As bring uncertainty, they can be confronting and an emotional time.  To help minimise this, it’s vital to consult thoroughly with stakeholders, asking for their opinions, acknowledging their perspective and experience and taking them on the journey.

The next step is then to be very transparent in the following communications, as to what is going to change and how people are likely to be impacted. Special attention also needs to be made to communications to illustrate that the leaders are aware of how people will be affected. Employees need to know that they have been considered.”

Change2020 works with communications teams to create the core messages and assist CEO and leadership teams to develop and clearly articulate the vision and value of the M&A, and importantly the “why”.  As a part of this process, Change2020 also supports leaders and their senior teams with the tools and resilience needed to take their people through the M&A process. Change can generate uncertainty, fear, and disengagement. So, during the turbulent times of the merger process, leaders need to focus on providing clarity, rather than confusion.



June 30 fast approaches, and with rallying financial markets and vaccine rollout, financial analysts anticipate that Mergers and Acquisitions (M&As) will continue their upward trajectory for the next financial year and beyond.

With M&A continued growth projected, we bring you a 3-part series with tips and advice on the challenges and opportunities for organisations who are about to embark, have embarked or who have merged and are wondering, “what now?”. Change2020 has comprehensive experience in providing support and expertise in transitioning businesses and employees through the M&A process.

In our first M&A discussion, we focus on an issue that often presents many challenges, and it is all about the organisation’s most important asset, its people. With M&As, the human factor plays a huge role and organisations need to plan for this area. They need to consider how they will navigate through employment contracts, negotiate and manage union representatives and make sure there are no potential breaches of labour laws or exposures to industrial risk and merge the two cultures to create a sustainable organisation moving forward.

A leading HBR article in this space, The Big Idea: The New M&A Playbook states, “study after study puts the failure rate of mergers and acquisitions somewhere between 70% and 90%”. KPMG research also shows that only a third of mergers, acquisitions and takeovers add value. In fact, 70% “reduce shareholder worth or, at best, are neutral”.[1]

So, these are worrisome stats, and beg the question why do things so often go wrong?

KPMG proposes that an inadequate focus on value creation and “a gaping inability to keep key personnel and get the two corporate cultures to work in unison” are the cause of many M&A failures. They also state that during the process, it’s easy to treat a prospective transaction as a purely mechanical and scientific process. Often the critical people aspect of an M&A, which is rarely straightforward, gets overlooked as a key issue. [2]

We recognise that when dealing with complex industrial and human relations surrounding mergers and acquisitions, organisations need to be aware of specific issues and have access to specialist knowledge of the industrial relations space. Our M&A industrial and workplace relations expert, Brad Bevan, in conjunction with the M&A advisory team work closely with clients to anticipate and manage potential issues. Brad also has extensive experience dealing with C-suite and board level industrial relations issues. He has a special knack of solving difficult industrial negotiations and avoiding things escalating to litigation.

Once these negotiations are complete, Change2020 continues to support organisations through the transition phase with advice on immediate practical needs, such as operational and workforce planning strategies, fostering stronger communication and employee engagement to sustain positive M&A outcomes achieved.

Parts 2 and 3 of this M&A series will look at other people issues relating to due diligence, compliance with post-deal clauses, intellectual property, key personnel and integrating the acquisition into existing business structures and culture.

We encourage you to consider these articles, as they examine the significant challenges that organisations can face on the M&A journey. What’s more, these issues can potentially become future major challenges unless they are effectively addressed right now in the present.



This is our final instalment of the Change2020 series around the Royal Commission into Aged Care and Budget 2021 impact on the aged care and disability sectors. Today we look at the 83,000+ extra workers needed for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). We examine what it means for the carer industry, and importantly what service provider leaders can do now to right size their workforce for the future.

The workforce challenge is affecting many sectors, and People & Culture leaders will need to think and act in new ways in this space:

  • What do we need to do to update our attraction and selection practices?
  • How are we creating a workplace where people want to work?
  • How are we working with our workforce to support them to be future fit?
  • How prepared are we for the changes?

We dive in to take a closer look at what the Federal Government is doing over the next two years to reduce red tape for providers and make it easier for workers to work across the three areas of care – aged care, disability and veteran.

The recent budget announcements highlight the opportunity for providers to look at how they can expand staff numbers to operate within the new industry compliance requirements. This spells opportunity for growth and potential change to providers’ operational models.

In addition to these critical questions and the opportunity to expand, you may also need to consider the impact of changes on the way you do business. Consider things like your organisational structure, how senior leadership roles will need to adapt, your frontline staff service delivery and their existing skillset, your infrastructure and shared services that support your frontline teams. We encourage the care industry to access the right advice and resources so you can expand and push through change while minimising disruption to your day-to-day operations.

A bit about the numbers

During this year’s Budget announcement, the government highlighted the extra $13.2 billion it injected into the NDIS. Also noteworthy for the care sector, was the $12.3 million earmarked to increase the NDIS workforce. An injection desperately needed as the number of NDIS program users currently sits at 450,000, with that number anticipated to increase to 530,000 in four years. To care for this increase of future NDIS recipients, a further 83,000 trained workers will be needed, taking the total disability sector workforce to almost 353,000.[i]

Building the NDIS carer workforce is challenging because NDIS providers are competing in the same space to attract workers as the aged care sector – an area that also needs an additional 57,000 workers to address future demand.[ii]

Government Program to Align All Carers into One Pool

To address the carer workforce shortfall, the government is trying to pool all workers in the care and support industry. The plan is to align employment requirements across the aged care, disability and veteran sectors – an important example of this unification push is for there to be a single code of conduct and an improved information-sharing system which will mean workers need to meet a unified set of high standards of behaviour and standards to which they can be held accountable, and that these apply across the entire care industry.[iii]

Government Laser Focus

Right now, the Federal Government has a laser focus on the care industry. With the Royal Commission’s findings and big budgetary support, the Federal and State governments want to see a “once-in-a-generation” change for the care industry and there is opportunity for care providers to jump on this change train.




Aged care was front and centre of the recent 2020-21 Budget, with the Federal Government announcing five key pillars and a budget of $17.7 billion to reform the delivery of aged care services in Australia. One pillar focuses on training and upskilling the aged care workforce, and the government has committed $652 million over four years to a range of workforce measures to achieve this.[1]

These are big numbers in anyone’s estimation, but it is unclear how forward looking they are. With this shake up of aged care, there has been recent media coverage as to what our future aged care leaders want to see when considering a career in this area – these are important discussions and beg the question, does the latest budget commitment address these considerations, in order to help ensure that there is a future workforce for the aged care sector?

With the expectations of our future aged care leaders in mind and the Budget focus on revamping the sector, we believe at Change2020 that this provides a great opportunity for aged care providers to start looking at their organisations through more of a forward looking lens. However, this is not an “industry specific” issue. Leaders and managers in all sectors need to be thinking about how to create and drive cultural shifts in their organisations; how to attract and retain people to their organisations; and how to ensure that they can establish a strong culture of care for their customers and their people.

For longer term viability of their organisations, leaders need to take notice of what the next generation of Australia’s aged care leaders want to see changed in the sector. They want to see:

Better Pay and Perception of a Career

Retention and attraction of young people in the sector is a problem – addressing the professionalism of the workforce with better pay, training and resources and clear career pathways will assist. Also reaffirming it as a professional career would help improve public perception of aged care as a highly professional sector.[2]

More tailored care

Young professionals want to see the sector transition further towards more tailored care. They believe it is important that the sector “does away with the old-one-size-fits-all approach and makes sure people in aged care had meaningful lives”.

Guide Healthcare managing director Simon Kerrigan, aged 32, wants to see the sector transition further towards more tailored care.

“We actually need to create systematic change. But in the end, I think is really going to come down to making sure things are more human-centric … rather than just institutionalised.

“I think that will be a passion for younger people.”[3]

Strong Leadership

Leading Age Services Australia’s principal advisor for its “Next Gen” initiative Samantha Bowen, 34, said while there was a strong focus on clinical skills in the aged care sector, workers within it lacked leadership and interpersonal skills.

“[But] if we don’t have the support around the young professionals … then we are not going to ensure that we have that appropriate governance and leadership”, Ms Bowen said.

“This is vital for our sector’s future … helping young professionals see that they have a career, they have support, and there is access to networks that will help them get where they want to go.”[4]

What can the Aged Care Sector take away from this?

Providers can start creating their organisations to have better retention initiatives and become attractive workplaces for our future passionate aged care workforce. With the next generation of aged care workers emerging, plus serious government support, providers have the chance to look at their organisations existing culture and leadership strategies to help them thrive today, tomorrow and into the future.[5]

Importantly, these messages while currently coming ‘loud and clear’ from the Aged Care Sector, are not unique and leaders will need to ‘take note’ as the war for talent continues strongly across many markets.






Earlier this week at the Aged & Community Services Australia Virtual Summit, our CEO Kerryn Fewster spoke on the importance for business leaders and managers in the Aged Care Sector and beyond, to nurture and lead their people through change in uncertain times.  

Dr John Hewson, Economic and Financial Expert, in his keynote presentation for the Summit, reaffirmed that the times ahead presented many challenges for the sector with no clear pathway to achieve genuine reform – a very uncertain future.

“Clearly, we need a new Aged Care Act and just in the Royal Commission’s terms, that’s five years of sustained reform. The Budget has done a lot but there is still a long way to go.”

Successfully tackling an unknown and uncertain future was one of the key themes to emerge from Kerryn’s presentation; Kerryn spoke on the need for leaders to give people clarity rather than to strive for certainty – because in the absence of certainty, what people want above all else, is clarity.

People want to know the answers to the simple questions about their workplace, things like: what am I doing today, tomorrow, next week? Who do I talk to if I get stuck? What leaders can provide is clarity – and that helps alleviate anxiety. If people are informed, they feel more in control as change moves with them and not ahead of them.

So how do leaders give clarity? Kerryn reaffirmed that for leaders to give people clarity, they firstly need to be comfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity themselves – because not many do, with only 10% of leaders having a clear tolerance of ambiguity and uncertainty. Leaders should not automatically feel like that they have to provide certainty, because “uncertainty is not an indication of poor leadership; it underscores the need for leadership.”[1]

The good news is that leaders can “train” themselves to be comfortable with uncertainty with a range of choices, much the same way as you can train mindfulness techniques. Kerryn spoke to how leaders can do things like:

  • Choose to be open-minded;
  • Choose to get really curious, ask questions,; and
  • Choose to have a go and try something new, even if you might fail.

These choices are the initial step but for leaders to be able to make them, they need to start creating a culture that is receptive also to embracing uncertainty. So how do they do that? By leading by example and cultivating curiosity, experimenting and exploring; and importantly, getting comfortable with failure, by adopting a “what did I learn from that?” mindset.

Beyond leading by example, leaders also need to implement the infrastructure to create this cultural shift. They need to consider things like how to ensure that they have the right people and teams to support them lead the change, manage risk, to provide accountability, and that there is an appropriately big focus on communication to staff – because at the end of the day, one of the key tools to provide clarity, is communication. It is around these considerations where Change2020 can guide, inform and support businesses to start, implement and transition change. From ensuring that leaders are supported with the right leadership teams, to creating and implementing clear and effective change communication strategies, this is where Change2020 can provide specialised and tailored services.

For the aged care sector, with the recent release of the Royal Commission Report and Federal Budget, it is facing unprecedented change, upheaval and uncertainty. But this sector is just one industry area facing ambiguity and uncertainty in a world still caught in the grips of a global pandemic. In these uncertain times, leaders can successfully lead their business through change, by focusing on giving clarity to their most important asset, their people.

[1] Andy Stanley: The Next Generation Leader

COVID Conflict Can Be Calmed

COVID-19 has been referred to as a “time machine to the future.” [1] Many businesses recognise that that the pandemic has provided the opportunity for them to review their current strategy and look at different possibilities.  No matter what the scale of the review, businesses and organisations are likely to encounter conflicts as they head towards their future.

Change2020 has seen how COVID-19 has produced heightened anxiety and stress levels for both employers and employees as they navigate an unfamiliar present and an uncertain future. All these factors create the conditions for conflict and strife in the workplace. We outline below some examples of the types of conflict that we have seen, why this conflict has arisen; and advice from our experts on how it can be addressed.

Organisations over the past 18 months have already experienced many examples of conflict. In the early stages of 2020 when remote working suddenly became mainstream as opposed to discretionary, some leaders struggled with remote management which suddenly required a very different skill set than the face-to-face approach that they were used to. Also in many situations, leaders were forced to make the transition quickly with limited training. For many workers, they did not have a suitable home office and/or during lockdown periods had overwhelming family commitments to contend and compete with. This applied to leaders and team members alike, who faced these struggles at the same time with varying degrees of effectiveness. [2]

Now, as many organisations start to return their employees to work in central offices, other issues can arise providing potential conflict with managers and staff both returning to a slightly different workplace. Beyond just being able to return to work, once back at work, there are also changed roles and work functions, plus in many cases the removal of jobs/areas which also have the potential to generate conflict. The “water cooler” talk of the past will slowly return, often resulting in mixed messaging, or biased views of change within the organisation, and creating cracks in the culture of the “new workplace”. 

At Change2020, we believe now more than ever we need to support organisations and the individuals that make up those businesses, to navigate the conflicts that might arise as we move towards this “new workplace”. Our People Risk experts come ready to focus in on managing the human face of industrial and workplace relations, change management, conflict resolution and mediation to support and ‘steady the ship’ during uncertain times allowing leaders to focus ahead.

 Ms Shiv Martin, our conflict and mediation expert, shares her insights on the three conflict and mediation skillsets that she utilises to assist organisations to navigate conflict in the workplace:

“We are managing an increasing level of high conflict behaviour and unreasonable demands, while adjusting to new work environments and managing our own personal challenges. In this climate, mediators and dispute resolution experts have an immense role to play. Our ability to drive fair processes, explore underlying interests and communicate with empathy is key to surviving conflict resolution across the public and private industry sector. Now more than ever the following three areas of dispute resolution practice play an essential role”:

Shiv Martin
  1. A Fair Process Guarantee

Even if you cannot give someone the outcome that they want, you can guarantee a fair and accessible process. A good mediator does not dictate the terms of an agreement, but they fiercely control the process with independence, impartiality, and an uncompromising commitment to fairness.  By establishing a fair process mindset, this ensures individuals understand and are understood before any decisions are made. In this way, while an individual may not get what they wanted, they feel they have been heard and treated fairly – a crucial component to ensuring trust in the process, and ultimately the outcome.

  • Identifying underlying interests

Taking time to consider why someone is seeking a particular outcome and identifying their underlying interests is the key to an effective negotiation process. Mediators conduct comprehensive exploration processes specifically for this purpose alone. Interest-based conversations that involve canvassing all options, before proposing outcomes, and separating people and relationship issues from the problem at hand, is second nature for most mediators. These skills must also be used as a means of ensuring outcomes that add value and are more likely to be accepted by stakeholders. Often when workload increases, organisations resort to formal, legalistic and template correspondence. However, in doing this we lose the great value we can gain from collaborative, interest-based negotiations.

  • Understanding High Conflict Behaviour

Just knowing that difficult and unreasonable behaviour often comes out of fear and vulnerability assists to manage high conflict behaviour. Understanding why some individuals behave in an irrational way and developing strategies to calm and engage with them in a collaborative way is another essential component of conflict resolution.

As a dispute-resolution practitioner, I have witnessed and appreciate the importance of these three key areas.   Add to this the ‘new normal’ of Pandemic world, we are experiencing unprecedented change in our personal and professional lives – a period where we are struggling to cope with a climate of uncertainty and heightened emotional, financial and psychological distress.”

This article with thanks to contributions by Ms Shiv Martin. Change2020 Associate, Mediator, Facilitator and expert in helping government and community organisations in navigating conflict and building stronger relationships.



The Harvard Business Review (HBR) have recently released an analysis promoting the need to reinvent the “change management playbook” in a post Covid-19 world. [1]  We agree that in a world where change is happening so rapidly, and with increasing complexity, that some old tried and tested methods of change management are no longer having the same impact. Of course, we don’t need to ‘throw the baby out with the bathwater’; but we do need to think differently to respond to different times; we need to recognise that more than ever the very human fear of, and resistance to, change is where the change management attention is required. As humans we are wired to resist change – our brains crave certainty and predictability, two concepts that do not sit with change. We are also conditioned to move away from threats and the unfamiliar, and so it is a very typical human trait to avoid the unknown and the uncertain.

Now is the time to test and learn

Leaders can help transition their people from this state of unknowing with more information in more diverse ways, using different channels. Employees need to be able to ask questions, to be included and involved. They also need to feel confident that it is ok to try and fail and to try again. Leaders must create an environment where there are plenty of learning opportunities so that new ways to adapt existing skills can be found. Currently many companies are reinstating their previously stood down workforce in phases. This staggered approach allows for testing and learning. We agree with HBR’s premise that now is the time to take advantage of a changing workplace and test new change tools and processes.[2] And leaders should:

Lean more into the art of change management than the science, making determinations in the moment about which steps and tools are needed and which aren’t likely to add value that surpasses the lost value of delays.[3]

Where no certainty, try for clarity

Although, leaders may not be able to provide certainty, they can focus on clarity. They can provide people clarity over what they are doing (even if it is just for today or this week), so people can gain some control in a world that is changing at an unprecedented rate. And everything is changing – the language, the way we work and where we work and with whom – this is all evolving as we work out how to move forward in our complex, post 2020 world. Let people have as much control as you can, even if it is just small part of a process, project or operational activity. People need to feel that they have some control of the contribution that they are making to the organisation’s purpose and also to the change process to get there. [4]

Be open and clear that you don’t have all the answers, but when you do…

Be open and clear – as leaders, you need to convey that you don’t have all the answers, but you are trying to get more information to share and when you do, it will be shared; until then, you can build trust by providing insights and updates where possible and establishing open two-way communication process to gather feedback. Remember that emotions play an enormous role in how people act during times of high stress, anxiety and uncertainty. We cannot state strongly enough that a considered change and communication approach plays one of the most significant roles in assisting people’s journey through change.[5] Communication about even minor details of how the change will impact your people will be appreciated and lessen their “unknowingness”. Similarly, to providing people with an opportunity to be included as a part of the change, a well thought out change and communications path can give your people a sense of more control and awareness of what lies ahead.

Progress not perfection

There is no place for perfection, we need to have a bias for action and if the action does not result in the outcome we want, we need to go back and try again, but stalling until it is ‘just right’ has never and will never work. HBR reaffirm that now is not the time to stall. Of course, effective change management cannot happen overnight but “there are ways to accelerate change in an increasingly fast-paced and uncertain world.”[6] Organisations that show agility and are able to anticipate change, identify opportunities, plus quickly deploy teams are likely to prosper in the new norm.

The change environment is more ambiguous than ever, it feels chaotic, messy and the ‘grey-area’ is here to stay. Leaders need to remember the variety of human emotions that their people will be experiencing in these times of ambiguity. Understanding how you and your people tolerate and respond to ambiguity will help you all to better understand how to move through it; you cannot control it, but you can learn to find the opportunity in it. Leaders need to find a way to tolerate the ambiguity and build adaptability!







Change Management

As change management practitioners, we are on occasion, still on the receiving end of statements from business leaders that go something like: “We don’t need change management – we communicate regularly with our people and they know about the changes we are making.” Or “We have a project team, they can communicate the changes.”

Fortunately, organisations are gaining greater understanding of the value of change management and how it is an essential component for delivering successful project outcomes.

Correlation between good change management and positive outcomes

Our experience demonstrates that when companies implement sound change management, positive business outcomes ensue. More and more companies are appreciating the correlation between effective change management and its impact on the three critical success factors: meeting objectives, staying on schedule, and staying on budget. [1] And as experts in organisational change management, we understand that these factors are more successful when the people side of change is prioritised.

Failure to identify and manage the change impacts associated with projects is risky; disengaged people are less productive people; it costs money! Leaders need to ensure employees adopt, embrace (and continue to embrace) the change – they need to make sure that employees will actually use the new policy/system/service and continue to do so. Lack of adoption by employees results in the inability to realise intended project benefits; it costs money! We know that investment in change management reduces project costs and risks; the investment is worth it.  

Our experience is also supported by compelling statistics from the Best Practices in Change Management – 2018 Study.[2]

Of the participants that had excellent change management programs in place, 93% met or exceeded objectives. 77% of those with good change management programs met or exceeded objectives, and 43% of those with fair change management programs met or exceeded objectives. Only 15%—or about 1 in 6—of those with poor change management programs met or exceeded objectives.

These statistics when simplified further, show that a project supported by very effective change management is six times more likely to meet objectives than a poorly change managed project. Fair change management still triples the chances of a project meeting objectives.

Change management and project management: working “hand-in-glove”

Change management and project management work ‘hand-in-glove’ but they are different disciplines. Both deal with change but perhaps at its simplest: change management is about the design and implementation of strategies to support and inspire people to embrace and embed the change; whereas project management is the application of processes, knowledge and experience to deliver a series of activities in a constrained time and budget; these project activities actually create the change.

Change management can be considered from two different perspectives:

  • Project Change Management; and
  • Organisational Change Management.

Project Change Management relies on the application of tools and techniques to identify change impacts and ultimately deliver a Change Management Plan which will complement the Project Plan. The deliverables are timebound and monitored in accordance with agreed milestones.

Organisational Change Management can extend over a period of years as the business moves from one state of being to another; the change may be structural, operational, cultural or strategic, or all of the aforementioned. This type of change management is often fluid and involves a number of initiatives and interventions which build on each other.

Timeframes, budgets and deliverables are often applied to the individual initiatives and the realised benefits can take a period of time before they become evident. The two forms of Change Management can be confused and for many used to being driven to deliver specific outcomes, the less structured nature of the organisational change discipline does not help dispel the criticism which can be levelled at it.

At the end of the day, it’s all about the people

At the heart of any change strategy is people – successful strategies are those that plan for the impact on the company’s most important asset, their people. Peter Senge, leading author on organisational development and systems thinking says, “People don’t resist change, they resist being changed.” [3]

Effective change management looks at the needs of each and every individual at all levels of an organisation. While sceptics may relegate this to the HR area, for sustainable change to occur there has to be real behavioural change, at the individual level and across the whole organisation:

Just like raising a child, implementing successful change takes a village. Decades of research show just how important leadership, management and frontline associates are in times of change. Organizational change capability results not from a few expert specialists, but from within and throughout the organization.[4]

Change management is not ‘the soft, fluffy stuff’

Change management reduces risk; your people must understand the change, embrace the change and embed the change. No project, initiative, plan or idea can be delivered without people. Changing people’s behaviours and way of working is both an art and a science; in reality, it is the hard stuff.

Our experience tells us that a clear reason for the change, committed and available leaders, high levels of engagement (not just one-way communication) and timely education and development to embed the change results in project success where benefits are realised, and employees feel a part of the change process.  

Overlook change management at your peril.





New Era for Aged Care

The Final Report of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety (the Report) tabled on 1 March 2021, outlined 148 recommendations to address our aged care system – a system that is failing to meet Australian’s expectations of quality and well-governed aged care. Encouragingly the recommendations focus on what can be done to meet those expectations and how the future aged care system can be so much better.

Royal Commissioners, the Honourable Tony Pagone QC and Lynelle Briggs AO stated:

Many of the people and institutions in the aged care sector want to deliver the best possible care to older people, but are overwhelmed, underfunded or out of their depth. We have not set out the problems with the current system gratuitously. We see this as a necessary part of explaining how the future aged care system can and should be so much better.

Despite system failures, the Report also highlighted that there are aged care providers deeply committed to the sector, and some great care experiences being provided to older Australians. A primary driver for the Report’s recommendations is to provide all stakeholders in the aged care sector, the opportunity to improve the consistency and frequency of great care experiences.

With 15+ years’ experience across leadership, change and culture, in this initial discussion, we signpost areas for leaders to consider in a sector facing unprecedented change.

So, what does this mean for leaders in the aged care industry?

In light of the Report’s recommendations, organisational leaders will need to consider the following:

  • a review of their organisation’s vision, culture and strategy;
  • developing a comprehensive understanding of what structures, practices and mindset need to change; and
  • how they can inspire and enable their people to achieve these changes.

Reviewing vision, culture and strategy

The Report’s recommendation for a new approach to quality and safety will be one of the drivers for significant cultural change for the sector. Leaders need to assess the prevailing culture of their organisation and determine whether current quality and safety attitudes, behaviours and performance measures align to and support the Report’s recommendations.

This type of assessment needs to look at not only the espoused behaviours but how the organisation actually approaches and resources quality and safety processes and systems for prevention, detection, as well as incident and complaint handling. This includes looking at things like the willingness of staff to call out behaviours that do not align with stated values and whether all levels of the organisation support this.

Understanding what structures and practices need to change

Leaders need to review current work practices, policies and procedures in light of the shift in policy and future legislation proposed by the Report. Leaders can gain insights by conducting reviews and assessing other industry stakeholders and competitors plus engaging with clients on current service delivery.

Beyond changes within the organisation, leaders may need to strategically consider external factors such as the organisation’s viability in an increasingly competitive market. PwC in Opportunities for a new aged care system have stated that within the industry, players need to consider the role of mergers, acquisitions and partnerships. They anticipate “accelerated provider consolidation will open up growth opportunities for well-capitalised providers and new market entrants” – and for others, the chance to exit.

Inspiring and enabling your people

The Report spent considerable time on the importance of raising skill levels, qualifications and supply of the aged care workforce. The full extent of this focus and impact on future legislation will not be fully known for some time. In the interim, aged care providers will continue to face intense competition when it comes to attracting and retaining talented carers and staff from an undersupplied and maldistributed workforce. To address this challenge, leaders will need to collaborate across the sector and commit to continued improvements in skill levels, qualifications and capability across all parts of the organisation, including leadership.

The Report also reaffirmed the importance of good leadership and culture to provide a necessary foundation for workforce development and growth.  The Commissioners recognised that while this is reinforced through strategies, policies, practices and behaviours, it really begins with “a genuine commitment to the core values and philosophies on which high quality and safe care are built.” Leaders need to prioritise building a culture where people are committed to and have clarity as to how they contribute to the delivery of exceptional service.

Leaders will also need to look at ways to develop a change-ready workforce with a focus on resilience in order to navigate an uncertain and ambiguous industry sector. In addition, leaders will also need to implement an effective communication strategy to drive awareness of the recommendations, why changes are required and what this means for the organisation and staff. Organisations also need full transparency communicated to their staff on how they intend to approach the recommendations, respond, build capability, and how their staff will be supported to make the changes.  

Our Changing Demographics – more of us are getting older

The Report confirms alarming projections of how Australia’s changing demographics will place heavy demands on the aged care sector in the short and long term. To support this projection, the Report states that the number of Australians aged 85 years and over is expected to triple from 515,700 in 2018–19 to more than 1.5 million by 2058. For aged care providers, the upward trajectory reaffirms the necessity for the industry to embrace growth strategies in order to meet future demand and stay viable in a competitive market.

The aged care sector faces considerable uncertainty and ambiguity while awaiting the government’s response to the Commission’s recommendations, in the short-term (May 2021 Budget) and over the longer term when the new Aged Care Act comes into force. In the interim, aged care providers need to start planning now to create a resilient, adaptable and change ready workplace.

At Change2020, we have specific experience in the aged care sector and appreciate the nuances and complexities of this area. We believe that leaders in the aged care industry can learn from industries which have navigated similar sector change, such as Child Care, Aviation, and, more recently, Energy. We can also help you understand ambiguity in an evolving landscape in addition to developing bespoke services across all facets of change.

This initial piece is designed specifically for leaders of aged care facilities to provide a short overview of strategies to consider in light of the Report’s recommendations. In the coming weeks we will publish and share with you a series of articles that will provide further analysis and deeper insights into the challenges, opportunities and what may come next, in a changing aged care landscape.