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Managing People Through Change Initiatives


All companies go through change. Whether a small nuance or a drastic overhaul, one of the biggest challenges in any type of transformation is managing people through the change.

Common mistakes during change initiatives

1) Misalignment

Don’t expect a successful transformation if some of the leadership is skeptical. It is important that all executives and leaders understand what the change is, why the change is occurring, and be supportive of this change. If you want to be successful in implementing this change, you should make sure that people are seeing that in your executives.

2) Miscommunication

Communicate early and often. Senior leaders have had time to think, strategize, and digest the change. When they approach employees, the key decisions have been made. Often, they fail to give employees enough time to do the same. In fact, a 2016 McKinsey Global Survey found that failure to involve front-line employees and their managers was a main reason why transformations failed.

It is important to note that when you start to share the change with your people, the responses will be variable: from curious and interested, to wary and skeptical, all the way to unhappy and downright negative. Regardless of the reaction, it is critical to clearly communicate what the change is and why it is occurring.

3) Reinforcement/lack of followup

Once leaders have outlined the plan, it is important to followup with your employees. Answer their questions to show your support during this change. Ask individuals to contribute thoughts and ideas to help them feel ownership and boost their confidence about the directive. Most importantly, follow through. If employees have some ideas, thoughts, or concerns, make sure to address them in a timely manner.

What drives success in change initiatives

To help drive success with your change initiatives, follow this CHANGE framework.


Lack of communication can lead to unsuccessful change initiatives. Hence, clearly communicate the WHAT and WHY of change (i.e. what is the change and why it is being implemented). Because your employees will display a mix of reactions, it may be important to tailor your message to your audience – you want to make sure that the WHAT and WHY resonates with the employees.

Hone in on critical behavior and skills that accelerate the shift

By having a deep understanding of your employees, you will understand their skill set and understand how you can get them to support the directive. For example, is your team filled with go-getters? If so, find ways to reward them for their effort.

Assess strengths and weaknesses

Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of your team is important to drive change initiatives. By understanding your team, managers may realize that they need extra resources or they may need to tweak a process to ensure adoption.

Nurture a culture of open collaboration

Trust is very important in employee relationships. Managers need to make their direct reports feel like they can openly talk about how they feel about the change, what is working, and what isn’t working. Managers can help facilitate trust by being transparent – give updates on the change initiative and actively listen to the employee.

Get some executive and mini-angel sponsorships

Every change needs a spokesperson – someone that can give clear direction. This can be in the form of an executive leader, talent leader, or by mini-angels in the organization. Mini-angels can be senior managers, mid-level managers, or front line employees that feel strongly about this change and that can rally everyone together and buy into that change.

Evaluating the process and adjusting the strategy as needed

It is always critical to evaluate the progress of the change initiative and adapt as needed. Hence, it is important to followup with your employees – this can be done with pulse-surveys, 1-on-1s, or just casual conversations. Regardless of the method, it is important to address the concerns of the employees to help build the trust and support them through the transformation.

Want to hear more? Make sure to check out the full podcast episode with Carla Rojas on how to manage employees through change initiatives.

What do you think? Do you have any other tips that drive success of change initiatives? Let us know!

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