Background There is growing acceptance that optimal service provision for individuals with severe and recurrent mental illness requires a complementary focus on medical recovery (i.e., symptom management and general functioning) and personal recovery (i.e., having a 'life worth living'). Despite significant research attention and policy-level support, the translation of this vision of healthcare into changed workplace practice continues to elude. Over the past decade, evidence-based training interventions that seek to enhance the knowledge, attitudes, and skills of staff working in the mental health field have been implemented as a primary redress strategy. However, a large body of multi-disciplinary research indicates disappointing rates of training transfer. There is an absence of empirical research that investigates the importance of worker-motivation in the uptake of desired workplace change initiatives. 'Autonomy' is acknowledged as important to human effectiveness and as a correlate of workplace variables like productivity, and wellbeing. To our knowledge, there have been no studies that investigate purposeful and structured use of values-based interventions to facilitate increased autonomy as a means of promoting enhanced implementation of workplace change. Methods This study involves 200 mental health workers across 22 worksites within five community-managed organisations in three Australian states. It involves cluster-randomisation of participants within organisation, by work site, to the experimental (values) condition, or the control (implementation). Both conditions receive two days of training focusing on an evidence-based framework of mental health service delivery. The experimental group receives a third day of values-focused intervention and 12 months of values-focused coaching. Well-validated self-report measures are used to explore variables related to values concordance, autonomy, and self-reported implementation success. Audits of work files and staff work samples are reviewed for each condition to determine the impact of implementation. Self-determination theory and theories of organisational change are used to interpret the data. Discussion The research adds to the current knowledge base related to worker motivation and uptake of workplace practice. It describes a structured protocol that aims to enhance worker autonomy for imposed workplace practices. The research will inform how best to measure and conceptualise transfer. These findings will apply particularly to contexts where individuals are not 'volunteers' in requisite change processes.