HRINZ Conference 2005 Working Through Values Working Through Values  

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Day Two – Thursday 15 September


A2 Corporate Values

Debbie Dawson    

Values Based Approach for Managing Change – a True Story

Debbie Dawson MHRINZ, Christchurch City Libraries/Council

From 28 February 2005 the Christchurch City Libraries network is providing an additional 36.5 hours of service each week and weekend to the citizens of Christchurch. A failed attempt in 1997 to integrate weekend hours into regular hours of work had left the organisation stumbling on with voluntary rosters and overtime costs to cover weekend hours. Increasing demand for extended weekend hours by customers in Christchurch, the 24/7 capital of New Zealand, and the need to curb staffing costs meant that we had to find a better way of managing this.

Using our organisational values as a basis, the project team decided to establish some principles to guide us through this change. Of the seven organisational values that guide our daily operation and practice, we used three constantly during this change project as an anchor to help us with the difficult decisions and to explain the need for change to our managers and staff. The three values that we used in this way were equity, reliability and accountability. Equity is very strong in library cultures and the organisation identifies itself as strongly egalitarian. This was a powerful driver to support the introduction of rosters that would spread the weekend shifts equitably among the staff. Referring to the value of reliability helped us emphasise the need to provide a consistent level of service across all our fourteen service points, and across all hours of opening by using our 'professional' staff at these times. Our value of accountability enabled us to highlight our responsibility to the citizens of Christchurch to spend our salaries budget in the most efficient way possible, rather than pay overtime and penal rates to provide what have become core hours of service in the eyes of our customers.

There were many difficult times during the project where we referred back to these guiding principles based on our organisational values. For instance there were many requests to make exceptions and develop special packages of hours and to accommodate variations. It was very helpful to test these requests against our values. Another principle that we were keen to promote and build into our operation was a sense of work/life balance. Our expectation now is that our staff will only work five days of the week, and where possible the remaining two days off are taken consecutively. A Collective Employment Agreement requires that changes to hours involving weekends can only be achieved by agreement with the employee. In the end almost all of our employees have chosen to sign up to the new hours, with a small number opting for voluntary redundancy.

Getting to 28 February 2005 was not easy for anyone in the organisation. For those on the project team there was hard thinking required to come up with the new structure and rosters knowing that the concepts would not be welcomed by a large group of employees. For the team leaders and managers it was difficult to sell the changes to their team, when the personal change required of their team felt punitive and impersonal. And of course for many of the staff, whose lives have been turned up side down by the changes of hours, it has felt very traumatic. In a predominantly female workforce with a strong history of accommodating personal circumstances this has felt like a huge shift. Using the values as a backdrop has enabled us to keep our people focused on the greater good – the need to provide for our customers, in the most accountable, reliable and fairest way.

Debbie Dawson has worked in human resources management for over 10 years, after a professional career in libraries. She has a particular interest in organisational culture and leadership development. In November 2001 Debbie's work in this area was acknowledged by winning the HRINZ Initiative of the Year Award 2001 in the category Influence and Change for the library's Leadership Development Programme.

During 2001 Debbie was also awarded the LIANZA (Library & Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa) Award of Merit – Management in recognition of excellent management in a range of restructuring and change processes. In May 2003 Debbie travelled to the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom to take up a scholarship awarded by LIANZA, to further her interests in leadership development. Christchurch City Libraries was also placed in the top twenty workplaces in the Unlimited Best Places to Work survey in 2003, coming fourth out of the five best medium–sized organisations.

Debbie has lead residential management training programmes during 1998 and 1999 for an Australian consultancy (AIMA), and has presented conference papers for LIANZA (2000, 2001 & 2002), the Project Management Institute (2000), the NZ Organisation Development Network (2000), HRINZ Christchurch & Dunedin branches (2002), University of South Australia, Adelaide (2002), Australian Library & Information Association, Gold Coast (2004), and Queensland University of Technology (2004).

Debbie is a professional (certificated) member of the Human Resources Institute of New Zealand.

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