Communication and change management
Implementing a peer workforce will inevitably mean change for your organisation. Managing change well requires strong leadership, good strategic planning and clear, focused communication that brings stakeholders along the journey. People implement change and effective change needs a motivated and appropriately skilled workforce.
Communication is at the core of effective change management, whether leading change, motivating and managing a team, delivering a service, dealing with difficult situations, or managing personal and professional relationships.
If communication is not effective, coordination breaks down, relationships suffer, mistakes happen and productivity can come to a halt. The following info sheet has some useful communication tips to assist you in navigating the change that will result when you implement your peer workforce. Access the ‘Change management and communication’ info sheet to learn more.
Educate your existing workforce
If you have not previously employed peer workers, it is important to prepare existing staff to work with them. Staff understanding of specific peer roles and their importance to the organisation is key to changing your organisation’s culture. The more staff embrace the ideas behind a peer workforce the more likely they will be to support its implementation and, in turn, make the transition successful.
It can be a good idea to offer peer-led training for staff and include input from non-peer managers experienced with peer work. Ideally the training should aim to promote a ‘well oiled’ multidisciplinary workforce, one that welcomes, accepts and values each other’s expertise, knowledge and roles. Training could include:
- definitions of peer work
- origins and development of peer work
- values of peer work
- the benefits and evidence base for peer work
- peer perspectives on boundaries
- viewing addiction, mental distress, services and interventions through a peer lens
- identifying and eliminating stigma and discrimination in the workplace
- if relevant, providing space to ‘unpack’ any difficulties staff may have with peer colleagues.
Conflict and concerns
The introduction of peer worker roles into an organisation creates the potential for conflict. It is important that all views are canvassed and that conflict is brought out into open and discussed respectfully. Some ideas to keep in mind:
- set ground rules for respectful discussion
- create an environment where everyone feels comfortable discussing their views, e.g. learning circles
- anticipate and be prepared to respond to questions
- provide a series of open and closed forums that allow staff to discuss their concerns without fear or favour
- invite consumer representatives and staff to participate in problem-solving issues and concerns raised
- involve multiple stakeholders in the orientation and training of employees.