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Both are important during organisational change.
Communication is all about keeping information flowing in all directions through the organisation and throughout the entire change process for example, leaders telling employees what is happening and why, and employees telling leaders what is happening and why. For more information on communicating change click here.
By contrast, consultation is about asking employees for their ideas about how to plan and implement the change-for example, leaders may ask employees about how the organisation could be structured to achieve better client outcomes. Or leaders may ask employees about when a new ICT data system should come on line so that it has greatest chance of success.
Both communication and consultation involve asking questions. With communication, the questions are focused on checking understanding. With consultation, the questions are focused on ‘what do you think we should do?’
Consultation is the process of exchanging views and ideas between employees, Heads of Agencies/Senior management. Consultation stops short of bargaining so that the responsibility for decision-making still rests with the Head of Agency, and consultation does not require a Head of Agency to have employee consent before making a decision.
It is a genuine opportunity for engaging with employees to have input into the many examples of organisational change which may influence the outcome. For this to occur employees should be provided with relevant information and be provided with reasonable time to consider the proposal and to develop alternatives.
There are long term benefits in consulting with employees whenever change is envisaged. This can result in some great ideas being incorporated into the process as well as a more receptive take up of the change. Employee consultation has other benefits:
The extent of any consultation process should be based on the materiality or impact of the change and the number of employees likely to be impacted by the change. Employees and the relevant unions should be provided with relevant information about a change proposal, be given a reasonable opportunity to provide feedback and be provided with a response to any reasonable alternatives put forward.
While agencies should consider the feedback from employees in the consultation process, it does not over-ride the management prerogative to make management decisions. Neither does an agency need the consent of employees or their representatives to implement change.
Modern awards require consultation with employees on change. Section 7(h) of the State Service Act states that 'the State Service establishes workplace practices that encourage communication, consultation, cooperation and input from employees on matters that affect their work and workplace'. In addition, Part 4, Division 2 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2012 is also important when consulting with employees on matters relating to health or safety. Where the implementation of change is identified as a matter relating to health or safety, your agency’s relevant work health and safety consultation process should be followed.
|Stage 1||Formulation of ideas or proposals|
|Stage 2||Consultation on a proposal or implementation of government direction/s|
|Stage 3||Considering responses and providing feedback|
|Stage 4||Making a final decision and implementing it|
In this stage the new policy ideas are explored and policy positions are developed. There is no obligation on a Head of Agency to consult in this stage.
In this stage the policy proposal has been developed and a Head of Agency consults with employees either on the feasibility of the proposal as it impacts on employees; and/or the implementation of the proposal. Unions should be contacted at this stage and the direct level of their involvement determined, as well as a contact officer representing employees.
In this stage the information received is collated and considered, with feedback provided to employees about how the information received is being considered.
In this stage the decision-maker makes a final decision on the policy and/or its implementation, implements that decision and evaluates its effectiveness.
Stage 1 does not necessarily require consultation and where appropriate stages 2, 3 and 4 may occur simultaneously.
The following principles are recommended to apply to workplace consultation and change:
|Proportionality||The amount of time and resources spent on consultation is in proportion to the scale and perceived impact of the change. Typically change which has a greater impact on employees will require more time and resources.|
|Transparency and focus||The consultation process is open and transparent and records of consultation are made and are available to employees.|
|Inclusivity, accessibility and diversity||The consultation process is designed so that all employees have a fair and reasonable opportunity to be included in some way and are encouraged to participate.|
|Provision of information||Information is available to all employees participating in the consultation process so that they understand the issues. The information should be clear and succinct, with enough background information to ensure employees have the details they require.|
|Timing||The consultation process allows sufficient time for the feedback to be considered in the decision making process.|
|Responsiveness and feedback||The consultation process is transparent and it is clear how employee input will be considered in the decision making process. Feedback to employees is timely and is available to at least all employees who participated in the consultation process.|
|Evaluation||The adequacy of the consultation process is assessed prior to final decision making, to ensure it is adequate and appropriate.|
|Resources||Adequate resources are provided to support the consultation process, including adequate support to employees to participate in the consultation process.|
|Confidentiality||Appropriate level of information is provided to employees in the consultation process, without disclosing personal, confidential or commercial-in-confidence information.|
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