Smart Working Culture Change – Changemakers at DCMS
Smart Working Changemakers Workshop at DCMS

Smart Working Culture Change – Changemakers at DCMS

(Updated 24/7/21) How do you embed the culture and behaviour change needed to make a success of Smart Working? The very successful Changemakers programme at the UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), is an example of how it can be done.

In this guest post, Bridget Workman, who was commissioned to run the programme at DCMS with her colleague Jill Pritchard, provides an introduction to the concept. Both Bridget and Jill are long-term members of the Smart Work Network.

A case study of the programme and the DCMS Smarter Working journey was presented by Kevin Hobson and Laura Carruthers of DCMS at our July 2021 meeting of the UK Smart Work Network.

What are Changemakers?

Changemakers are change ambassadors embedded in teams across an organisation who have been trained in Smart Working principles and practical change management techniques to support cultural and behavioural change.

As offices reopen and organisations rethink locations and ways of working, Changemakers can provide the hands-on people-focussed consultation and support that is key to making Smarter Working effective and beneficial. Their role is to support managers and team leaders by facilitating engagement, educating and helping solve practical problems.

Changemakers help the organisation and their colleagues adapt to different ways of working more quickly, and develop personal skills that will be valuable throughout their careers.

Why did DCMS decide to train people as Changemakers?

In 2019 DCMS commissioned The Changing Work Company to develop a training programme to educate and inspire a cohort of Changemakers. In early 2020 we ran the programme again for a second group, building on lessons learned.

DCMS was already in the process of adopting Smarter Working. They wanted to boost integration and collaboration in a new, larger amalgamated department that had taken on new functions in digital and cyber as well as adapting to its post-Brexit role.

It also wanted to encourage flexibility, and offer a better choice of activity-based work settings – including home and mobile working – to promote diversity and inclusion.

We believe that when people feel they have control over change it becomes less threatening.

The department is very conscious of the need to be an exemplar. A bottom-up, people-focused consultative approach to change management was ideal, especially as the organisation encompasses many and various teams with widely differing work needs for whom the change to Smarter Working would present differing opportunities and challenges.

The department decided that training Changemakers would be the best way to embed beneficial grassroots behaviour change that was tailored to the specific needs of the teams.

In the UK, all central government departments and agencies are required to be in compliance with British Standards PAS3000 Smart Working Code of Practice. In early 2021 DCMS was assessed for compliance with, and its Changemaker programme was recognised as a key contributor to achieving the coveted ‘Mature’ accreditation for Smart Working.

The philosophy and ethos of the training

We believe that when people feel they have control over change it becomes less threatening.

We’ve found that when people develop changes themselves, those changes are more likely to be beneficial and everyone will be more ready to adopt them

This means that to get the best buy-in and benefits, high level Smarter Working principles and policies led from the top of an organisation must be complemented by interpreting them in ways that are meaningful and effective for each team. So it is vital, we believe, that people are involved in generating and implementing their own solutions.

Learning-by-doing in the context of a real-life Smarter Working change programme is a highly effective way to learn the skills Changemakers need

The Changemakers play a vital practical role throughout the implementation period. They become the manager’s right-hand-person in implementing Smarter Working change at the local level.  In this way, they take the pressure off already hard-pressed managers and allow the manager to reflect on their own attitudes and approach to Smarter Working with their teams.

Changemakers also provide outreach for the Smarter Working change programme as ambassadors, cascading information, organising action and providing ‘eyes and ears’ feedback.

We believe that learning-by-doing in the context of a real-life Smarter Working change programme is a highly effective way to learn the skills Changemakers need.

And there’s a continuing value. A network of trained Changemakers in an organisation is a valuable resource whose change management skills can be used to support any future change initiative.

How were people selected and trained?

We recommend that organisations use an open process for selection. The role is not grade dependent. It is more important that Changemakers are ambitious, have the enthusiasm and desire to learn and develop their leadership qualities, are interested in people and want to make a difference. Often Changemakers are new recruits in an organisation, keen to integrate and be known in their teams.

In DCMS the selection process invited individual applications and nominations. The Changemaker trainees were asked to make a commitment to stay in post for at least six months to develop their skills and return value to the organisation. Applications and nominations exceeded available places by 2 to 1, so the role proved to be very popular. As a result, each departmental unit could select at least one applicant from within their own teams.

We worked with small groups using a six-module mixed-media interactive training programme that combined Smarter Working, change management theory and practices with inspiration from expert speakers and exemplar case studies. Changemakers progressively practised their learned skills as homework between modules, using a toolkit of templates and communications materials.  They reported high satisfaction scores and feeling well prepared for their role.

How has this been of value to DCMS?

In 2020 the third group of Changemakers were trained over a six-week period immediately before the onset of the Covid lockdown and the introduction of homeworking for everyone.

Although many people in DCMS worked flexibly and from home from time to time by choice before the pandemic, and the IT was well set up to support home-based working, the sudden introduction of 100% home-based working was a significant shock and change for everyone. The Changemakers were ideally placed to step in to support their teams adjusting to the new way of working.

Changemakers are now, in 2021, set to support the cultural changes needed by the department’s expansion away from a single London presence into dispersed locations across the country.

Over a period of four months we hosted on-line workshops bringing the Changemakers together to share their ideas and experiences. We saw how their role evolved from providing social ‘glue’ and ‘How-to’ advice, to gathering team feedback of their experiences, and becoming involved with the department’s People Policy by helping develop and facilitate Team Talks with all staff about the post-Covid future.

Changemakers are now, in 2021, set to support the cultural changes needed by the department’s expansion away from a single London presence into dispersed locations of offices, hubs and homes leading to wider inclusion and representation of people across the country.

What can we all learn?

  • Changemakers were a key factor in achieving Smarter Working ‘Mature’ accreditation, and doing the groundwork for successful longer-term culture change
  • Follow-up workshops are very valuable in building the network of Changemakers and reinforcing the role in practice after training
  • A real role in the organisation is essential so that skills can be put into practice straight away and managers become familiar with how to use this new resource
  • It’s important to select people who are pro-active and naturally inclined to take the initiative and find useful ways they can contribute
  • Ask for commitment of at least six months working in the department after training
  • Use senior sponsors to advocate for and support the Changemaker role to realise the value of the investment in training for both department and individuals

About the author:

Bridget Workman is the founder of The Changing Work Company which offers tailored training programmes and consultancy at the intersection of smart working and change management. As a civil servant and consultant she has over 20 years’ experience of leading and advising on workplace strategies and Smarter Working. She now works with public and private sector clients.

Bridget during her time with the Cabinet Office was one of the authors of the highly influential publication Working Beyond Walls, which inspired the government’s The Way We Work (TW3) and Smarter Working programmes. She is also one of the original members of the Smart Work Network, being a member since its founding in 2007.

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