How do I prepare my people for change?

Author: Elizabeth Henshilwood, Client Director

May 2010

“They must often change, who would be constant in happiness or wisdom” ~Confucius

I have been spending the last week talking to clients about their key challenges. The resounding answer has been “change”. How do we make change happen? How do we manage it effectively? How do we get our employees to change without decreasing efficiency? What is the emotional journey that my people will go through when I make this change?

There is little wonder that with the most closely fought general election in decades only days away, whether in the private, public or third sector, individuals are turning their attention to the impact on them, their work and their private lives.

Whilst still unsure of the colour preference of our incoming Prime Minister, what we can be sure of is that we are either still in, or in the aftermath of the worst recession since that of the 1920s and that our government has over £848 billion of debt. It is clear that things have to and will change.

In the public sector, budgets will be slashed; there will be a drive on efficiency and on doing more for less and that could result in re-structure, re-deployment or reduction of head-count. It will be similar in the private sector, not so much the slashing of budgets, but organisations will need to be very cost conscious to have any chance of success in a world dominated by the “new economies” of China and India. Organisations will also need to innovate to develop new products and technologies so that as a nation we are not so reliant on our services and IP.

So, if we know that change is afoot, how can you as a business leader, people manager or HR professional ensure that your people are ready?

At Crelos we have years of experience in instigating and embedding behavioural change in the workforce, amongst individuals, teams and organisations. Our top tips for preparing people for change are:

  • Recognise that it is essential to prepare for Change
    Preparation is key, but it is often the missing piece in the process and may result in resistance and ultimate failure to adopt the change. It is essential to give individuals time to prepare for the change emotionally, psychologically and even physically.

  • Communicate the Vision and Benefits of the Change
    Ensure that employees understand why the change is required, what the end result of the change will look like and what the benefits of the change are. Paint a picture of the “better world” after the change.

  • Ensure Participation and Involvement
    It is important that each individual understands the role that they will play in the change and beyond. If possible involve them in the planning stage so that they feel they are part of the change rather than having the “change done to them”.

  • Provide Support
    Recognise that some individuals will find the thought of change scary. Allow them time to discuss their fears and concerns with their manager, fellow colleague or mentor. If a key individual is finding it difficult to come to terms with the change, then a professional coach, counsellor or psychotherapist may be considered.

  • Accelerate the change by using Leadership Behaviours
    Through our years of working with people going through strategic change we know that change is better received, implemented more quickly and embedded more effectively when key individuals use specific leadership behaviours. At Crelos we use a leadership behaviour framework based on forty years of research by Harry Schroder, Professor of Organisational Psychology at Princeton University (Managerial Competence, The Key to Excellence by Harold M Schroder, 1989).

    When communicating the change the behaviours of “Influence”, “Building Confidence” and “Inspiring Communication” should be used.
    Using the behaviour of Influence to give the benefits and win-wins of the change will help gain buy in.

    To help build confidence that the change is necessary and is the right thing to do in the long term, even if difficult now, ensure that decisive, positive, optimistic language is used. However, don’t over do the bravado as this make look insincere.

    Finally, prepare all communications thoroughly to ensure that they are clear, concise and try to stick to the “Rule of Three”, based on the theory that people only remember three facts at any one time.


Best of luck preparing for what ever change you are facing and I hope you find these top tips useful.

Download and Share

Elizabeth Henshilwood Client Director for the Public Sector and Education

'The public sector is an exciting sector to work with. It brings a totally different set of challenges from the private sector. There is a lot we can do to help transfer the knowledge from private to public.'