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Supporting change: How higher education organisations can help their business partners

| 3 Min Read

There is a widely stated, if deeply controversial, narrative regarding change in business that 70% of all change initiatives fail. While there is considerable argument over whether or not this statistic accurately represents reality, it cuts to a deeper truth that will be evident to anyone who has ever been involved in a change initiative; change is hard.

Change is also inevitable, especially in a modern business environment that demands agility and adaptability. Navigating through transitions within a business requires a strategic approach and individuals who are well-equipped with the skills and capabilities to support that strategy. In this post, we look at the ways that higher education institutions can play a pivotal role in supporting businesses and organisations through their change initiatives. 

Foundational Skills Development:

There are several key, foundational skills that are essential for managing and participating in organisational change, regardless of an employee’s level within an organisation. Effective communication, active listening, conflict resolution, research, analysis, critical thinking, and strategic planning all help to equip staff with the awareness and the capabilities to navigate change initiatives. Whenever partnering with industry to develop learning, whether it be a compliance program, enterprise-wide reskilling or executive education program, Higher Education partners should look for opportunities to embed these foundational skills within their programs, contextualising them within the learners’ role and laying the groundwork for successful change.

Aligning Learning Programs with Organisational Goals:

Higher education institutions can further support organisational change by aligning learning programs with the goals and challenges being faced by their partner organisations. While it may not be practical to create a specific program for every partner, Higher Education organisations have the advantage of working with numerous enterprise partners, allowing them to identify areas where multiple organisations are working towards similar goals or to overcome similar barriers to change. This insight allows Higher Education organisations to scale their learning development and create courses that address the needs of a range of partners or a sector at large. This approach builds upon the concept of working with industries to predict future skills needs, ensuring that learning programs are precisely targeted to support organisational objectives and making higher education a strategic partner in driving change within organisations.

Development for Executives:

Master the pace of change:
The modern business environment is one of constant change, with organisations needing to continually adapt in order to remain competitive in their fields. In this environment, even a familiarity with change models is not enough in isolation to guarantee the success of a change initiative. Rather, these established models should be supported with programs that develop leaders’ capacity to manage complexity, communicate effectively and act as enablers of change throughout the organisation. These skills. provide decision-makers with the tools and strategies not only to plan and execute change initiatives effectively, but also to overcome resistance and clearly communicate the goals and outcomes of a change initiative, helping to ensure its success. 

Create a structure for sharing and analysing information:
It is broadly agreed that in contemporary business, making the right decisions means making such decisions informed by the right data set(s). This is especially true when planning for and undertaking a change process, with outcomes needing to be consistently measured, adjusted and acted upon. Providing executives with appropriate data literacy and tools equips them with the capacity for sharing and analysing the important information and data that underpins informed decision-making throughout organisational change.


For Managers:

Build a dependable frontline:
Frontline managers play a critical role in the implementation of change initiatives. Higher education institutions can support these managers by offering training programs that enhance their project management skills and equip them with the ability to deliver, track, and monitor desired outcomes. With these skills, frontline managers have the tools they need to fulfil their roles and drive change at the operational level. 

Create space to lead and develop:
With change comes disruption, and the need to ensure that staff are able to meet the challenges of the new work environment. Getting this right doesn’t just mean equipping staff with new skills, it also means ensuring that those new skills are effectively utilised. Higher education partners can facilitate this by providing training in leadership, coaching and mentoring that managers can use to support and guide their teams throughout the change process.


For Staff:

Build a change culture:
For change to be successful, it requires action from every level of an organisation. Higher Education organisations can help to ensure that the workers across a business are prepared to engage in change, adding elements within existing training programs that support learners to develop the agility, resilience and communication skills they will need to effectively participate in and contribute to organisational change. Backed by training for managers and leaders that helps to foster a culture of innovation and adaptability, this will support the development of a culture within organisations that encourages innovation and supports meaningful change.

Higher education institutions have a significant role to play in supporting organisational change. By delivering foundational skills within targeted training for executives, managers, and staff, educators become valuable partners in driving successful change initiatives, laying the groundwork for adaptability, fostering innovation, and supporting change. As organisations continue to navigate through transitions, the collaboration between higher education and industry will remain an essential part of achieving lasting success in organisational change.