How Are 39% of Australian Employees Thriving During COVID?

The state of change in Australian workplaces.

Posted Sep 03, 2020

Michelle McQuaid
Source: Michelle McQuaid

Despite the often-cited belief in workplaces that the pace of change is burning people out, new research has found that, even in the midst of the significant disruption created by COVID-19 and the economic downturn, 39.1% of Australian employees feel that their teams and workplaces are consistently thriving when it comes to the changes they are experiencing. 

The study conducted by The Change Lab, The Australian HR Institute, and The David L. Cooperrider Center of 1,400 workers representative of the Australian workforce in August 2020, found it is the way leaders are approaching change and ensuring workers have the skills they need to navigate change, that is making the biggest difference in workplaces that are thriving, despite the incredible pace of change they have been experiencing recently.

With less than half of Australian workplaces (49.1%) viewing change as a positive, ongoing, and natural part of the way we work, what can workplaces do to help more of their people thrive through the ongoing disruption and uncertainty in the months ahead?

The report recommends:

  • Encouraging leaders to invite-and-inquire — Workers whose leaders took an invite-and-inquire change approach (where workers’ input to solutions was invited and they were encouraged to self-organize and find ways to make the best ideas happen), and leaders who took a tell-and-inquire change approach (where workers were told what was expected and then left alone to get on with it) were significantly more likely to report that the changes in their workplace were very successful or somewhat successful.  The most successful changes in workplaces appear to be led by leaders who create a working environment that gives workers the freedom to willingly take responsibility for finding ways to make the desired changes happen.
  • Upskilling workers to navigate change — Workers who reported higher levels of ability and motivation to help create positive changes in their workplaces were statistically more likely to report successful change outcomes in their workplaces and to have higher levels of engagement, performance, and wellbeing. Unfortunately, 36.3% of Australian workplaces are not providing their workers with the training, coaching, or tools to help workers improve their ability to navigate change successfully, which is limiting workers’ abilities.
  • Prioritizing psychological safety — Ability and motivation are necessary, but not sufficient for creating positive changes in workplaces. Thriving in the face of ongoing struggle and disruption not only requires skills and ongoing effort, but also psychologically safe spaces for workers to experiment, learn, and grow amidst the inherent chaos and order that change brings. Notably, 41.9% of workers felt that their teams were safe places to bring up problems and talk about mistakes. Statistically, these workers were significantly more likely to report that their workplaces and teams were consistently thriving or working well, despite struggles when it came to changes they had experienced.
  • Increasing coaching capacity — As might be expected, workers who reported having frequent coaching conversations with a leader and/or a professional coach were statistically more likely to have higher levels of changeability, change motivation, and psychological safety than other workers. What was surprising was that this was also true for the 28% of workers who reported feeling completely able to have coaching conversations with others at work.  Rather than simply teaching workers to have “hard,” “tough,” or “courageous” conversations, improving their ability to have coaching conversations may help them more successfully navigate change.

How are you equipping your workers to create positive change, even in the midst of struggle? 

To download the full report, visit www.thechangelabs.com.

If you're keen to up your change game with the latest knowledge and tools to create positive change in this disruptive and rapidly changing world we live in, you can learn more about the Certificate in Creating Positive Change here.