Happy businesswoman shaking hands with worker while visiting factory

Why union leadership is key to achieving organizational transformation

EY US recently held a workshop to understand how best to support successful transformations with union leadership in the future.

The process of change within a government agency is often multi-faceted and intricate. Unions can be a major enabling factor within a transformation if their influence is leveraged effectively to increase change readiness and adoption. However, the relationships between unions and organizational leadership may be fraught for reasons that, on the surface, have nothing to do with the transformation effort underway but can significantly impact the likelihood of success. Potential common misunderstandings may come from a variety of sources including, but not limited to, a culture of mistrust within an organization, ongoing efforts to determine the best options for confirming safe and productive workplaces for all, the duty of care inherent within unions, and concerns about employee job security. As federal, state, local and education agencies and their unions embark on substantial change initiatives, we must consider how organizations can most ideally navigate intricate bureaucratic processes, while still cultivating a trusting atmosphere, and striving toward achieving fair representation for their workforce. At EY US, we understand these challenges and structure our approach considering both our deep knowledge of what positions government change efforts to achieve anticipated outcomes, as well as the critical role that unions play. We strongly advocate for collaborative effort as the linchpin of successful transformation.

To begin to understand how best to support successful transformations with union representation in the future, we held a workshop of 40 subject matter resources and practitioners at EY US with experience working with unions from a wide variety of industries. Our overall objective was to develop a seminal perspective on leading successful transformations with unions present.


This perspective is intended to serve two primary functions:


  1. A tip of the spear — to empower our clients with unions to say ‘yes’ to transformation efforts.
  2. A north star — to provide guidance for engagements so they may maximize the management/union relationship — while “not” preventing union leaders from protecting their members — and ultimately lead a successful transformation effort among all involved.

We paired our workshop findings with current union trends, and our understanding of common roadblocks for transformations in organizations with unions involved, to highlight a path forward that EY US can offer that is also augmented by our latest Humans@Center research. The increased public conversation underway around unions highlights the imperative to integrate unions’ needs and support expectations as management considers undertaking transformation efforts. Transformations may fail or fall short of expectations because of a lack of change management planning and execution that holistically considers unions as key players in these efforts. If all parties work together from the beginning to design and adopt the change, the transformation effort can be positioned for greater success.

Download the full report for current trends and the key drivers for a successful transformation with unions.


Transformation is most definitely a journey, not a discrete destination — especially when it comes to balancing the needs and desires of unions and leadership when change initiatives are on the horizon. By balancing these needs and desires of organizational and union leadership and implementing leading practices around each of the drivers shared in the report, we believe that leaders can best harness the insights and perspectives of their people to put their respective organizations on the path to transformation success.

Related articles

How the public sector can prepare for AI in the workforce

AI in the workforce presents a tremendous opportunity for organizations to employ talent in ways they never have before.

05 Oct 2023 Sean Jackson + 1

How civil service transformation benefits public employees

Having a civil service that is highly motivated and empowered is more important than ever. Learn more.

27 Apr 2023 Erica Ford

Boldly reinventing the public sector workforce

Accelerating digital government through empathetic human-centered transformation. Read more about boldly reinventing the public sector workforce.

03 Apr 2023 Erica Ford