How To Get Employees On Board In Times of Change

By Malin H. Teles


All organizations go through changes at one point or another. Being these structural, cultural, changes in routines, or a combination of these, such as when a merger of two companies happens. Managing this is not an easy task and requires, apart from specific knowledge about the area subject to change, profound knowledge in change communications.

People are naturally resistant to change, and many times intuitively see it as something negative, even though it may be something positive for them. We are creatures of habit and tend to see change as a threat.

So, how can we successfully manage this process? Clear communications are an absolute necessity, as well as a well thought out plan:


  • Plan well. This might seem obvious but still needs to be said – a well thought out plan, both for the process itself and the communication regarding it, is fundamental for successful change management. Timing is key. In other words, carefully considering when to announce alterations and when to implement it in relation to other circumstances for the organisation, can be helpful in avoiding unnecessary tension. Of course, it is not always possible to make these sorts of choices. But when possible, it is a good idea to not accumulate many different changes, or the announcement of them, but to try to spread them over time. Also, when it is to be implemented, aim to execute in several of steps. This allows for those who will be affected to gradually get used to the new situation.


  • Communicate the on beforehand. Some managers have the (wrong) idea that by taking employees by surprise and announcing news in the last minute, they eliminate any possibility for them to protest and put up a fight. This is a bad and utterly counterproductive strategy. Change is something people need time to get used to. Therefore, always try to prepare employees for it by communicating them well before a change will actually take place.


  • Invite employees into the discussion. One effective way to diminish resistance towards change, is allowing people to participate in the process. In other words, to as great an extent as possible, invite the employees who will be affected by the change to participate in the discussion at an early stage. Of course, it needs to be made very clear what is negotiable and not in order not to give false hope or the impression that they can influence decisions that, in reality, are non-negotiable.


  • Be clear and transparent. During the discussion as well as the implementation, always strive to communicate in a clear and transparent manner. By keeping the team well-informed, you can prevent the spreading of rumours or unfounded discontent regarding the changes. Moreover, it is a good idea to communicate a form of calendar of events. That is, provide the employees with milestones in form of dates when the different steps of the change are planned to occur. Before and during the implementation process, it is also important that everyone knows with whom they can clear any doubts and where to find information.


  • Provide the employees with what they need. For a change process to be successful and cause as little friction as possible, it is necessary that the co-workers not only get the information they need but also adequate training. For example, if a change involves a new system, new software, new routines or the use of new equipment, many (especially employees who have been in the organization for a long time) might resist the change for the simple reason that they feel insecure and unable in relation to the new routines or the new way of working. Don’t wait for them to ask for help or guidance – this might never happen. Instead, assume that training and help is needed and offer it to everyone involved. Apart from training it might also be necessary to allow for more time for employees to execute the same amount of work in the beginning after having implemented a new system, equipment or routine.


  • Go from private to public, not the other way around. A common mistake that managers make, is announcing changes regarding employees’ responsibilities or work routines in public before announcing them in private. That is, they announce the change regarding a specific employee or group of employees in front of the whole team before having spoken about the change with that employee or group of employees in private. This is a cardinal mistake which leaves the employee in a very uncomfortable situation and it can have a very bad effect on the relation and trust between the employee and the responsible manager. Therefore, whenever changes in responsibilities, work routines or other issues that impact a specific employee or group of employees are about to happen, always inform the person involved in private first, before informing the rest of the team. Also, once this has been done, let the person know on beforehand when it will be announced to the rest of the team.


All in all, change is difficult for everybody. Managers and employees alike. However, by planning well and being as transparent and open as possible, it is possible to get through the process with a positive result. And, most importantly, with your employees on board.


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