Navigating the change process: The experience of, and ways forward for, facility managers in the residential aged care industry

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The residential aged care industry in Australia has been undergoing change on multiple fronts since the introduction of the Aged Care Act 1997. Some of the sources of this change have been new regulatory systems such as accreditation and certification, concerns about financial viability, problems with recruitment and retention of staff, new models of care and increasing acuity of care provided. Facility Managers of aged care homes are at the forefront of managing these changes. In spite of their central position within the industry, there has been almost no research on the general role and functions of Facility Managers and even less that focuses on their role in the management of change. Using a constructivist methodology, this study set out to address this lack of research and to develop a range of practical proposals concerning the management of change in the sector. The research questions the study sought to answer were: 1. How is the role of managing change perceived and understood within the overall role of Facility Managers? 2. How is the role of managing change approached by Facility Managers? 3. How do Facility Managers learn to manage change? 4. Do Facility Managers need to be supported in their efforts to manage change and, if so, how should that support be provided, and by whom? Data for the project came from one-to-one interviews with two groups: a randomly chosen cross-section of Facility Managers and a purposive sample of senior stakeholders within the sector. Thematic analysis was used to draw out patterns and themes in the interview transcripts, and to develop interpretations and connections to the literature. The study found that there is not a clear understanding of how the management of change fits into the role of Facility Managers, and that the management of change is an issue that is in the background of management thinking and practice in the sector. The change management aspects of the Facility Manager's role have been largely ignored or taken for granted. This can lead to stress on the individual manager as well as reducing the effectiveness of the change process. There are many ways that Facility Managers can be better supported in the management of change, and the study presents a number of proposals to help achieve this. These focus on general principles and competencies underlying the management of change, an analytical model of change management, and management development practices supporting the management of change.
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