California community colleges: a study of administrators' support of classified staff during organizational change

Organizational change has become a frequent occurrence within institutions of higher education. Certainly, change initiatives are not new to community colleges. In light of the recent financial crisis, colleges and universities are facing hard budget decisions which impact student enrollment, faculty assignments, and facility improvements and maintenance. Concomitantly, changing student population, influx of private and corporate colleges, and rapidly increasing technology are also creating conditions for organizational changes within community colleges. The vast number of internal and external forces pushing higher education institutions into large organizational changes has created a difficult and stressful working environment for many employees. This study investigated the role of community college administration in creating a culture of support, communication, and trust among classified staff during times of organizational change. Survey data explored classified staff members and administrators' perceptions of support, communication, and trust, while interview data provided insight into classified staff members and administrators' perceptions of organizational change. The results of this qualitative study suggested that although there are areas for improvement, both College S and College N are providing support and communication, and maintaining trust with employees. Classified staff members perceived that leadership supported them, provided them with satisfactory communication, and were trustworthy. Administrators perceived that they supported their staff, provided communication, and were trusted by their employees, though there were some discrepancies between their espoused behaviors and their actions as perceived by staff. Both classified staff members and administrators felt that there was support, communication, and trust during organizational change, whether financially driven or not. Surprisingly, at least two other factors emerged from employees as influential to organizational change. Some employees expressed that administrators can strengthen trust and create an environment of successful and sustainable change by expanding their support efforts and increasing their communication through constant evaluation.