Five minutes with…Alannah Rafferty

Associate Professor Alannah Rafferty

Associate Professor Alannah Rafferty wants to make the experience of organisational change a better one for everyday employees, so her research focuses on solutions which enhance organisations’ ability to implement that change and in return, improve employee wellbeing. We spent five minutes with Alannah, who’s also Director of Research with Griffith’s Department of Employment Relations and Human Resources, to learn a little more…

In what area/s does your current research interests lie?

My major research interests are focused on organisational change. In particular, I have two major [areas of] research at the current time:

  1. I am especially interested in employees’ change readiness attitudes at the moment. My major focus has been on understanding the structure of the global change readiness attitude and its antecedents and consequences. My research has identified that positiveemotions are a critical but ignored component of change readiness. If we want to develop employees’ global change readiness then there is a need to focus on building employees’ sense of joy and interest in response to change.
  2. A relatively new researchinterest concerns change attributions (ie, employees’ perceptions of managers’ reasons for implementing change). To date, research on organisationalchange has focused on the ‘what’, ‘when’, and ‘how’ of organisational change and has ignored whether the ‘why’ of change matters. My research suggests that the ‘why’ of change does matter and that if we are to fully understand change we must acknowledge, and therefore manage, employees’ perceptions of why change occurs.

Are there ongoing or emerging trends in your field/s of research?

One emerging trend in the organisational change area is an increasing recognition that employees’ beliefs and responses to change matter. It is increasingly recognised that we cannot effectively manage change unless we understand how employees respond to organisational changes. Previously, there has been an idea that managers’ and employees’ perspectives of change events were likely to be largely consistent. Increasingly, it is clear that this is not the case.

Has there been major developments or key findings that have directed the trajectory of your research?

Major developments in the field have been an increase in the theoretical and methodologicalsophistication of research conducted in the area. Researchers are increasingly aware that cross-sectional studies of organisational change events do not and cannot capture the core processesthat will determine the ultimate success of change implementation efforts. This shift reflects a growingunderstanding that change requires the examination of multiple contexts and levels of analysis, and needs to consider time, history, process, and action, and study receptivity, customisation, sequencing, pace, and different types of change (Pettigrew, Cameron, and Woodman, 2001).

What are you working on at the moment?

I am working on an ARC [Australian Research Council] Discovery application with Professor Karin Sanders (UNSW) on change attributions and their impact during change. I also am working on a number of papers focused on change readiness using survey data. I am collecting some experimentaldata on change attributions.

Finally, are there challenges in your field/s in trying to bridge the gap between research, practice and policy?

It is important to “bridge the gap” because change is increasingly common but is generally very poorly managed. For example, the 2013-2014 State of the Service Report from the Australian Public Sector indicates that employees report that there has been a decline in employee perceptions of how well change is managed in the APS. I hope to generate research to enhance organisations’ ability to manage change appropriately and therefore to enhance employee wellbeing and performance over time.