Managing Successful Change Efforts in the Public Sector: An Employee’s Readiness for Change Perspective

Date01 September 2019
Published date01 September 2019
Subject MatterArticles
Review of Public Personnel Administration
2019, Vol. 39(3) 398 –421
© The Author(s) 2017
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/0734371X17729869
Managing Successful Change
Efforts in the Public Sector:
An Employee’s Readiness for
Change Perspective
Imran Hameed1, Abdul Karim Khan2,
Meghna Sabharwal3, Ghulam Ali Arain4,
and Irfan Hameed5
This study brings together public and private sector research on change management
to highlight the important role of public servants as recipients of change, which is
underemphasized in the public management literature. In doing so, we identify and
operationalize factors of managing successful change—involved communication
and change recipients’ beliefs. The effect of involved communication on developing
employees’ readiness for change is explored. Data were collected from public sector
research and development organizations in Pakistan. The results of the structural
equation modeling support the positive role of involved communication in developing
employees’ readiness for change. Employees’ organizational identification and change
recipients’ beliefs also exhibit a significant mediating role in the above-stated relationship.
This study significantly contributes to the existing literature of change management in
the public sector by focusing on employees as key players in an organization’s change
process. Practical implications and future research directions are also discussed.
involved communication, change recipients’ beliefs, readiness for change, organizational
1The University of Lahore, Pakistan
2United Arab Emirates University, Al Ain, UAE
3The University of Texas at Dallas, Richardson, USA
4Effat University, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
5Iqra University, Karachi, Pakistan
Corresponding Author:
Abdul Karim Khan, Assistant Professor, College of Business and Economics, Office # 2051, UAE
University, Al-Ain, UAE.
729869ROPXXX10.1177/0734371X17729869Review of Public Personnel AdministrationHameed et al.
Hameed et al. 399
Change in public sector organizations is on the rise in the contemporary world. This
change is driven by the fluctuating financial markets (Hendriks & Tops, 2003), legisla-
tion, information technology (Dunleavy, Margetts, Bastow, & Tinkler, 2006), safety
standards (Thomas, 2006), and central government decisions (Kuipers et al., 2014).
During the last three decades, these changes have been instituted by many govern-
ments around the globe through public administration reforms to enhance the effi-
ciency and effectiveness of public services (García-Morales, Jiménez-Barrionuevo, &
Gutiérrez-Gutiérrez, 2012). Most of these reforms are inspired by new public manage-
ment (NPM) with the goal of making public organizations more flexible and adaptive
(García-Morales et al., 2012) similar to their private sector counterparts.
One of the major factors leading to failure of public sector change initiatives is
related to the behavioral resistance by the civil servants (Kuipers et al., 2014).
Resistance to change is a typical problem that public sector organizations have to deal
with due to job security and other legal protections being enjoyed by the employees,
who are often the recipients of change (Devos & Bouckenooghe, 2006). Existing pub-
lic management literature offers very limited suggestions to overcome resistance to
change behavior. Thus, the main objective of this study is to explore factors that
account for readiness for change behavior—the opposite of resistance behavior. To
answer this question, we build upon the factors identified by Armenakis, Harris, and
Feild (1999) which we explain in the “Literature Review” section.
While answering our main question, another objective of the current study is to
investigate the underlying mechanisms through which employees can move toward a
readiness for change mode. The current literature has proposed several mechanisms of
dealing with resistance such as public service motivation (Campbell & Im, 2015),
organizational commitment (Meyer, Stanley, Herscovitch, & Topolnytsky, 2002), and
organizational identification (Hameed, Roques, & Ali Arain, 2013). A careful analysis
of the public organization literature reveals that the concept of public servants’ identi-
fication with an organization and change beliefs has been given very little attention,
whereas more focus has been given in contemporary management research during the
last decade (e.g., Ashforth, Harrison, & Corley, 2008; Hameed et al., 2013).
This current study contributes to the body of public sector change research in three
ways. First, it integrates the literature on public and private sector organizations and
offers a new framework for readiness for change behavior among public sector
employees. Second, this study operationalizes factors for managing organizational
change in actual field research by providing empirical evidence of the proposed rela-
tionships between these factors and employees’ readiness for change. Third, it enriches
the literature by integrating the concept of organizational identification and change
beliefs as mediating mechanisms between readiness for change-enhancing interven-
tions and actual readiness for change.
Literature Review
Changes in the business world during the last decade—primarily due to the economic
downturn, technological advancements, employee shortages, and downsizing—have

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