Change management (part two): An outsider’s perspective

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Change and how it can be positive and empowering to those on the ground

Laura Handley, Business Development Lead, RedWizard

Workplace change can be unsettling, anxiety-provoking and downright negative! However, managed well, it can be positive and empowering—reaching hearts and minds.

In my last article, Change management (part one): An outsider’s perspective, I shared my personal experience when dealing with change in the workplace, and how it filled me with anxiety and dread. This week, I’m focusing on how organizations should be engaging and empowering individuals, helping them to become champions of change.

Work is already stressful enough

Many organizations are process driven so it’s no surprise there’s a lack of empathy when it comes to people and change. My experience of the “the unexpected mandatory (anxiety-provoking) meeting” is a perfect example!

Change management may sound dull but it carries a huge amount of responsibility—perhaps more than some realize. We’re talking about real people, with real emotions and some may be struggling with health and wellbeing issues you know nothing about. According to Mind,

“One in six workers experience common mental health problems, including anxiety and depression.”

Research shows that work is the top cause of stress in people’s lives. So, how can organizations improve the way they manage change, and ensure it doesn’t exacerbate the situation? How can they turn it into a positive experience?

Reach hearts and minds—connect on an emotional level—have empathy!

What people remember most in life are those things that impact them on a personal level. In other words, how an experience makes them FEEL. When one thinks back over their life, it’s the emotional experiences that take centre stage—having your first child, your wedding day, graduation, losing a loved one, driving a car for the first time, and so on.

During times of change in the workplace, you don’t want to leave people with a negative experience they can’t shake off.

A negative experience can be bad news for the individual, and the organization. People always share their experiences with others–work colleagues, family, friends, and maybe even social media!  That’s why it’s vital for an organization to approach change in the right way, taking a people first approach.

Getting it right by putting people first

Change management needs to be structured but flexible; specific but adaptable; detailed but concise—it’s enough to make your head spin! However, if you get the balance right, put people at the centre, you’ll end up with an environment built on trust.

So, what exactly does “putting people at the centre or heart” actually mean? It means taking time to listen, having empathy, involving people in the decision making from the very beginning. It’s not about following a process or ‘box ticking’. It’s about engaging and empowering people.

Every individual matters and every individual can be a champion of change.

Only by placing people at the centre can you begin to strengthen relationships, remove fear, and increase confidence and innovation. In the long-term, you’ll end up with a happy workforce and an organization with a great reputation for caring about their people.

Ten tips on how to improve change within your organization by putting people first

Remember the why

Always remind yourself why the change you’re making is necessary. What value does it add? If you understand the why, you’ll be able to communicate the change clearly to others.


Put yourself in the shoes of those impacted by the change. Talk to them, understand their feelings, thoughts, worries. Put them first and really listen.

Involve everyone from the get-go

Give people a voice and allow them to have a say before final decisions are made.

Be open, and transparent

Make sure the communications you send are not boring, process driven ‘business speak’. If you’re open, honest and transparent, you’ll gain the trust of all those involved.

Hold open discussions

Don’t just focus on the what, help people understand the why of change. With a greater understanding and space for discussions and feedback, you’ll connect with people on a more human level.

Keep your door open

Don’t send out communications with phrases like ‘we’ve an open-door policy’ and ‘our door is always open’—OPEN IT! Invite people in for discussions. Let them know they have a voice and can influence the outcome.

Provide useful information

Before sending out communications, ask yourself, “is it useful… relevant…accurate… up-to-date?” Provide a clear viewpoint. Keep asking yourself what you really want to communicate.

Remember, actions speak louder than words

Don’t just say it, actually make things happen, show you’ve listened by putting people’s suggestions into actions.

Celebrate small victories along the way

Celebrating small victories along the way will help your team stay motivated, and it will remind them of the overall goal.

Mistakes are good, it means you’re human!

Just ensure you’re taking note of where things went wrong. This will help you improve going forward.

Key takeaways

Does change have to be a negative experience in the workplace? No, certainly not!

Is it possible to engage and empower people during a difficult period of change? Of course!

If an organization is open, transparent, listens and provides meaningful communications, it’s already creating an environment that fosters positive change in the workplace.

There’s no way to sugar coat it, getting change right is difficult. But it can be beneficial for all those involved when organizations take a human approach.

Put people at the centre of everything you do, reach hearts and minds–show them THEY MATTER.

Get in touch

Does your organization consider the human aspect of change?

Is change managed successfully? Does it have tangible long- term benefits?

If you’d like to comment or share your experience, feel free to drop me an email. Or, join the conversation on #thePMOpuzzle

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