For Welfare Decisions
Vol. 6, No. 6                                                                                                                     April 2002

Can Encouraging Employee Commitment and Buy-In Change an Organization’s Culture

Change is in the air. In the next year, there will be at least 20 new state governors. The President has proposed several major changes to TANF. The changes in the last five years to welfare and workforce programs can provide a road map to organizations in successfully managing change. Successful change implementation begins with acquiring employees’ buy-in and commitment to the change process. Setting up new procedures, and informing employees that the way they work has now changed, is relatively easy. The most formidable barrier to change is adjusting the organizational culture so that employees truly adapt to a changing work environment.

This Resources for Welfare Decisions identifies useful resources and publications that speak to fostering employee commitment and buy-in while undergoing a change initiative. This Resource also describes some reform initiatives that required major change in the organizational culture. For more information on Organizational Culture Change, visit the WIN web page on Organizational Culture Change at For more information on Agency Restructuring, see WIN’s Agency Organization and Reorganization web page at

Publications and Electronic Resources

Buck, Maria. Charting New Territory: Early Implementation of the Workforce Investment Act. Public/Private Ventures, January 2002. Available at

Gabris, Gerald and Douglas Ihrke. How Well Intentioned Reforms Can Lead to Unanticipated Failures: Some Lessons from Local and Federal Government. American Society for Public Administrators, 2001 National Conference, March 2001. Conference papers are available for $6.00. To order, contact Deloris Toye at 202/585-4319 or

Houston, David J. Public Service Motivation: A Multivariate Test. University of Tennessee, at Knoxville, 1999.  Available at

Killian, Jerri. Comparing Non-Profit and Local Government Organizational Climates: Implications to Employee Commitment. American Society for Public Administrators, 2001 National Conference, March 2001. Contact Dr. Jerri Killian, Wright State University, Department of Urban Affairs, 937/775-3867 or Conference papers are available for $6.00. To order, contact Deloris Toye at 202/585-4319 or

KPMG Consulting. Organizational Survival Series. Four part series (including overview) about organizational development. Link will take you to the main page where the parts are housed as separate PDF files, April 2001. Available at

Kramer, Fredrica. Seeing TANF from the Inside Out—Reconsidering the Program’s Role in the Wake of Welfare Reform. Research Forum on Children, Families and the New Federalism, The Forum, Vol.

3, No. 2, July 2000.  Available at http://www.

Lurie, Irene. Changing Welfare Offices. Brookings Institution, WR & B Brief #9, October 2001.  Available at

M@n@gement Journal:
Ranft, Victor and Annette Ranft. Rightsizing the Multi-Divisional Firm: Individual Responses to Change Across Divisions. 1999.  Available at
Feldheim, Mary Ann and Kuotsai Tom Liou. Downsizing Trust. 1999.  Available at
Kilpatrick, Anne Osborne. When in Doubt, Don’t: Alternatives to Downsizing. 1999.  Available at
Marks, Ellen. Changing the Culture of the Welfare Office. Macro International, August 1999.  Available at
Midwest Welfare Peer Assistance Network, Institute for Research on Poverty, University of Wisconsin-Madison:
The New Face of Welfare: Evolving Purposes, Emerging Institutional Cultures. October 2000.  Available at
The New Face of Welfare: Making Change Happen. October 2000.  Available at
Aligning TANF & Food Stamps: A Clash of Program Cultures. September 1999.  Available at

One-Stop Competencies Workgroup. Recommended Front-Line Staff Competencies for One-Stop Centers in California. Report to the State Job Training Coordinating Council, 1996. Available at

Plein, L. Christopher. Welfare Reform in a Hard Place: The West Virginia Experience. The Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, Report No. 13, November 2001.  Available at

Rangarajan, Anu. Keeping Welfare Recipients Employed: A Guide for States Designing Job Retention Services. Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., June 1998.  Available at or contact: 609/275-2350 or 609/275-2334.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. A Guide to Developing Public-Private Partnerships In Child Support Enforcement. Administration of Children and Families, 1996.  Available at

U.S. Department of Labor. Recruitment Through Interagency Collaboration. Employment and Training Administration, Ideas That Work Newsletter, Issue 3, December 1998.  Available at

Winn, Ellen. Understanding How Change Occurs: Implementation Research in the TANF Era. Research Forum on Children, Families and the New Federalism, The Forum, Vol. 2, No. 3,

November 1999.  Available at http://www.

Resource Contacts

American Public Human Services Association, contact Susan Christie, 202/682-0100, or visit 

Caliber Associates, contact Jeanette M. Hercik, 703/385-3200, or visit

Center for the Study of Social Policy, contact Cheryl Rogers, 202/371-1565, or visit

Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation, 212/532-3200, or visit

Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., contact Anu Rangarajan, 609/799-3535, or visit

National Governors Association, Center for Best Practices, 202/624-7857, or visit

Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, Federalism Research Group, 518/443-5844, or visit

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of State Systems Policy, contact Mark Graboyes, 202/401-7237, or visit

Urban Institute, 202/833-7200, or visit

What States and Localities Are Doing

Five years ago the director of Colorado’s El Paso County Department of Human Services changed the fundamental orientation of the agency to be family centered. Through a process of developing tasks forces staffed by key community stakeholders and conducting focus groups with clients, the agency was able to get the community rallying around a unifying vision for the community and for the agency. This unifying vision resulted in the “Twelve Guiding Principles” around which agency staff centers their work. Agency staff developed a workbook that guides staff in translating these principles into work processes and operations, such as income disregards and relaxed pay penalties. The director was able to support staff as architects of change through cheerleading, encouragement and reminding staff that their primary focus is being strong, innovative and in control for people who are vulnerable. Although staff’s salaries are not based on performance, the board of commissioners openly appreciates their efforts and allows the department to reinvest the savings from initiatives back into programs. As a result of this change process, the agency has experienced a decline in the staff turnover rate. For more information, contact David Berns, Director of El Paso County Department of Human Services, Colorado Springs, CO, at 719/444-5532 or

Building on a long-standing team-based structure and a climate of innovation, Hampton, Virginia's Department of Social Services is implementing major new initiatives designed to create better outcomes for Hampton's VIEW families.  The Agency has rebuilt its internal structure around five strategic outcome areas: Family Independence, Performance & Learning, Positive Work Environment, Quality Service & Compliance, and Work Systems Reengineering. Each strategic outcome area is advanced by a group of agency workers led by a member of a new leadership group, the Performance Support Team. Hampton's workers have long worked in self-directed teams, promoting a self-sufficiency agenda for families.  The current initiative builds on the self-sufficiency agenda toward a whole range of new opportunities for family independence, including dramatically improved employment and education services, parenting and child literacy programs, life management skill-building, home and car ownership. The agency is currently designing and preparing to open the Hampton Opportunity Center, a new space where customers will be connected with the new services and resources. Simultaneous work systems reengineering and new staffing strategies have already improved customer service, accuracy and timeliness; these systems changes and the emphasis on positive work environment have decreased staff turnover significantly. Hampton's workers also helped overhaul and redesign their team-based compensation system in which workers are paid through negotiated performance contracts and are rewarded for collective accomplishment of agency goals. For more information, contact Walter Credle, Director of Hampton City Department of Social Services, 757/727-6188 or, or Tharon Greene, Performance Consultant, Hampton City Department of Social Services, 804/694-5211 or

The Prince William County Department of Social Services in Virginia shifted from a hierarchical structure to a self-directed team environment in response to TANF. Agency officials believed that the systems needed to be realigned with the changing outcomes. Cross-functional teams were established in order to reset processes. Frontline workers were given the freedom to make decisions in order to respond quickly to clients’ needs. There was some staff resistance to this major system overhaul. The agency overcame this resistance by including staff in the design and implementation of the work restructuring initiative. Initially, agency officials identified champion employees who were willing to take the leap and lead others through this change initiative. From there, a guiding coalition surfaced. Staff were trained on how a self-directed team structure would change the way they do work. Employees were also reoriented to focus on the big picture—serving clients as quickly and effectively as possible. Ultimately, employees were given the option to choose alternative employment if they were not willing to be change agents. Since restructuring, the agency usually ranks second or third in the statewide annual benchmarking exercise. For more information, contact Ricardo Perez, Director of Prince William County Department of Social Services, 703/792-7521 or

WIN Staff Contact: Tasha Harris, 202/587-1016,

The Welfare Information Network is supported by grants from the Annie E. Casey Foundation the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.


Looking for information on innovative practices in welfare reform?

See WIN’s revised Best Practice Page for links to promising program examples collected by WIN and other organizations.  Have links or programs you’d like to add?  E-mail information to