Published March 2024

In the high-stakes landscape of government operations, ministers and public servants are constantly seeking innovative solutions to modernise their operations and better serve their communities. Our custom made Brief Connect and Board Connect apps achieve just this, replacing paper-based processes with secure and efficient digital tools to transform ways of working.

However, the successful implementation of digital tools in government settings requires more than just a state-of-the-art technical solution- it demands strategies that enable and support the people who will be using it. Governmental staff face high workloads, dealing with sensitive and challenging situations every day, all under public security. Whilst many would relish the opportunity for a system that helps them speed up decision making and overcome resource constraints, change fatigue from adapting to policy shifts or mistrust due to previous slow or undelivered improvements can hinder buy-in.

Through change management, we can transform scepticism into commitment and resistance into enthusiasm. Let’s explore why change management is crucial for government digitisation projects and common pitfalls to avoid:

Why change management matters:

  • Communicating the need for change: Government employees need to understand not only the features of the app but also its purpose and how it aligns with their goals. Proactive communication strategies facilitate this alignment, clearly articulating the vision and advantages such as streamlined workflows and secure access. Highlighting the system as a long-term solution to be utilised by all political parties is key.
  • Mitigation of Resistance: Resistance to change is natural, especially in time poor environments with established ways of working. Change management strategies help identify potential sources of resistance early on and implement initiatives to mitigate them, paving the way for smoother adoption.
  • Training and Support: A new application requires new skills and adapting to new processes. Many government employees needed to shift to using digital tools such as Microsoft Teams during the COVID-19 pandemic but there wasn’t time to comprehensively train staff on best practice. With that experience still fresh in mind don’t expect people to run before they’ve been taught to walk! Comprehensive training and ongoing support help close the capability gap. For Brief & Board Connect projects, start with training on Microsoft 365 apps such as Teams, Word and Outlook as these integrate with the applications.
  • Empowering Feedback: The success of digital initiatives hinges on active involvement and support from diverse stakeholders. Change management feedback mechanisms foster an inclusive culture by soliciting input, fostering collaboration, and acknowledging contributions from support staff to ministers. Feedback provides valuable insights, enabling project teams to make informed decisions and iterate on their approach to maximise ROI.

Common change management pitfalls and how governments can avoid them:

  • Focusing on what & how. Building desire requires a change management strategy that matches the personal motivators of impacted teams to the change, clearly articulating what’s in it for them. Simply, we must answer “why” before focusing on “how” to ensure users are ready for upskill opportunities. Leveraging various communication channels and tailoring messages to resonate with different audiences achieves this, fostering meaningful dialogue and stakeholder buy-in.
  • Bottom-up engagement. Resistance is often driven by scepticism, fear of the unknown and a view the change is unimportant to leaders. Whilst sometimes it may feel less daunting to start with operational teams implementing change without visible leader sponsorship can lead to frustration, unclear direction and competing priorities. Government leaders, such as ministers, must champion the digital initiative, communicate its strategic significance, and lead by example in embracing change. By demonstrating unwavering commitment and accountability, leaders inspire confidence and accelerate change momentum. Equip leaders to be advocates by targeting them early in the journey, providing information, coaching and opportunities for questions. Capture and share their feedback and support, making it visible across government departments.
  • One-size fits all approach to training. We know people are unique in areas such as levels of current capability, learning style preferences and more. However, too often training is generic and doesn’t account for these differences. A persona-based training strategy combats this by defining the learning journey of each user role and the resulting required training materials to build confidence and competence. Further, providing face-to-face training and /or Q&A sessions for those with the lowest tech literacy or most influential to project success can more easily overcome barriers to learning and thus adoption of your new digital solution.
  • Unclear measures of success. Feedback is valuable only if it is actionable, prioritised, and provided by those with valuable insights. Whilst projects often set out with a goal in mind, they often don’t prioritise their objectives, considering the key results or measures required to determine if their goals were achieved. That’s because it’s impossible to achieve without a clear listening strategy and defined measures of success. Overcome this by articulating a vision, measurable metrics, feedback cadence and audience at the beginning of the project. Metrics could include adoption rates, task completion times, error rates, cost savings, and user satisfaction scores, change in process.

5 change management activities government should do when introducing new technologies:

  1. Launch a Digital Transformation Communication Campaign: Initiate a comprehensive communication campaign across all government departments, utilising a mix of internal newsletters, intranet posts, and town hall meetings. The campaign should highlight specific examples of how digital tools have streamlined processes in other departments or governments, including testimonials from influential leaders or staff members. Remember, focus on why!
  2. Form a Leadership Sponsor Coalition: Create a sponsor coalition of leaders to back the digital transformation, with clear roles in decision-making, advocacy, and project guidance. This group will ensure strategic alignment, promote the initiative, and provide transparent communication on progress and challenges, uniting efforts towards adoption.
  3. Create Digital Literacy Workshops: Organise digital literacy workshops aimed at boosting tech proficiency within the government workforce. These workshops should start with basic digital skills for beginners and move into top tips and advanced topics for more tech-savvy employees. These should occur in advance of the launch of your new digital tool to reduce change overwhelm.
  4. Implement a Digital Dashboard for Real-Time Metrics: Introduce a digital dashboard or updatable infographic, accessible to all departments, providing real-time metrics on the progress and impact of the digital transformation. This dashboard should display key performance indicators (KPIs) such as adoption rates, process efficiency improvements, cost savings, and user satisfaction levels. Regularly review these metrics, ensuring that the goals are transparent and aligned with the overall objectives of the government.
  5. Develop a Reward and Recognition Plan: Initiate a reward and recognition plan to acknowledge employees’ contributions to digital transformation. Set clear criteria for achievements, such as innovative digital tool use or advocacy for new ways of working. Include both formal awards and tangible rewards like professional development, prizes or technology upgrades. This approach motivates engagement, promotes innovation, and provides recognition opportunities for staff who may be feeling underappreciated.

Like what you see?

At Engage Squared, we specialise in guiding large organisations through complex change initiatives, including the introduction of bespoke apps to governments. Our experienced team of consultants are here to support you every step of the way, from crafting a tailored change management strategy to measuring success post implementation.

Don’t leave the success of cabinet briefs, meetings, and decisions to chance. Reach out to us today to learn how we can help you take the first step towards a brighter, more digitally enabled future.

About the author

Emma Green is a Certified Change Consultant at Engage Squared. She believes people are at the heart of every change, therefore loves helping her clients create sustainable IT and organisational transformations. Emma is currently pet sitting her way around Australia so outside of work you will often find her on a new hiking trail or in a new coastal spot, making the most of the sun with her latest fur friend.

Sign up to our government specific newsletter and hear from us quarterly