HomeEmployee ExperienceCultureHRD Roundtable Report: How to successfully implement change management in your organisation

HRD Roundtable Report: How to successfully implement change management in your organisation

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Change management is crucial for success, but change fatigue is a prevalent issue as employees resist new initiatives. Identifying fatigue early and involving employees in the change process can drive buy-in and commitment

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Change management is essential for any organisation’s success, but it can often be challenging to get employees to support new initiatives. Change fatigue, termed as apathy or resistance to change, particularly in the workplace, is a prevalent issue, as employees grow increasingly resistant to yet another round of upheaval. If leaders can identify the signs of fatigue early and involve employees in the change process, it can drive employee buy-in and commitment.

On March 28, 2023, HRD Connect hosted a group of senior HR and people leaders to discuss this topic in a virtual roundtable that was led by Kate Philpot, Senior Director, Global Sales and Service Enablement at Getty Images, supported by Bea Buan, Customer Success Manager at CoachHub. The group explored how leaders can communicate organisational benefits of upcoming change to increase employee engagement; how to coach leaders to be better change drivers; but also, how empowering employees at all levels can successfully inspire buy-in throughout the organisation.

Our panellists shared personal success stories, insights and practical ideas.

Looking at the behaviours associated with change fatigue

Moderator, Kate, kicked off the discussion with the first question: How many of you, and those in your organisation, see behaviours associated with change fatigue? One participant started by stating that change fatigue can manifest in various ways, such as changes in mood, reduced engagement, errors, impatience, and even absenteeism. The more change occurs, the easier it may be for people to disengage and wait it out until the next change comes.

Another speaker agreed, emphasising the importance of supporting employees’ hearts and minds during times of upheaval, in addition to the project management aspects.

“What we often forget is the ‘hearts and minds’ journey,” he stated.

Another participant added, “We’re seeing colleagues who are engaged with the process, they know what is required, they know where they need to be, but are they inspired by our change journey – our change vision?”.  He agreed that it’s important for leaders and their teams to address feelings and motivations in this area.

So, what’s been tried?

The group discussed that what is vital is making sure the organisation has senior leader sponsorship.

Leaders need to communicate messages in a way that includes everybody, so recognising that everybody has a unique perspective. Being able to have an authentic conversation with an individual, about their change journey displays compassionate leadership.

One participant even shared a personal success story:

What made a period of change successful at their company, was that first and foremost, they informed everybody early. Employees knew a consultant was coming in, even though it was not clear yet what would happen.

Secondly, the schedule was two years, which the participant said, was quite a long time for a reorganisation – “I’ve seen that done in just three or four months”. Giving as much time as you can to people is helpful.

Thirdly, exceptions were possible. When certain targets were communicated and they didn’t fit for a certain country, and those teams had good arguments, there was room to adapt for those regions.

Another participant from a well-known public company asked, what happens when you don’t have two years? Having only worked in publicly traded companies, this speaker raised that the pressure of quarterly reporting and needing to keep the share price up allows for very little long-term planning. This is because the moment the share goes down a little bit, all long-term plans get scrapped.

The group discussed that engaging the leadership team is important in quick change management. There needs to be clear and concise communication paired with a highly bought-in senior leadership team. One participant mentioned that prototyping or piloting can be useful and should be agreed upon by everyone, even if it’s not perfect – just get started. While another speaker said that standardising and providing templates where possible is vital when change is required to be implemented quickly and often.

What gets in the way of attending to individual responses to change? 

It’s ideal to meet everyone where they are during times of change, but for large organisations, this is often not feasible. Constraints, such as time and money don’t make it possible. Additionally, the abundance of choice and people involved in a change process can lead to analysis paralysis, making it overwhelming for leaders to engage with employees individually. However, coaching leaders can help them meet this fast-paced nature of change and help them get out and speak and engage with as many employees as they can.

Many leaders focus only on their KPIs first, one speaker raised, and can forget to consider how employees feel and understand the change happening around them. Helping leaders realise the importance of employees knowing the ’why’ behind the change and how it affects them, will not only help employees but can create better buy-in from staff. Leaders may need coaching to recognise that people require different approaches managers leading change management.

After much agreement, another participant shared a practical example:

His company has displayed two ways of thinking about change and communication within the organisation. The first involved cascading messages through managers only, even those who may not have been equipped to effectively communicate, as they were promoted based on their abilities rather than their management or coaching skills. The second way involved having a visible managing director who communicated with the entire business through weekly vlogs and initiatives such as ‘lunch and learn’ sessions. By combining these two approaches, the organisation has been able to ensure that employees at all levels feel connected to the top of the organisation, even while working remotely during the pandemic.

One participant brought up that although leaders are still the role models and sponsors of change, they can also look at other agents of change, finding individuals that are passionate about the change at hand, who can step into the unknown, be innovative and creative thinkers, and who aren’t daunted by the change journey.

Empowering those on the ground

The group further discussed how to find these agents of change – employees on the ground – who can inspire others to embrace their shifting environment and ease the pains of change:

  • Identify early adopters and change-oriented individuals in your team who are open to change and can lead by example.
  • Provide the bigger picture to employees to help them understand why changes are necessary and to avoid sudden shocks.
  • Look for thought leaders, even if they may initially be sceptical (read: pessimistic), as they can provide valuable, honest feedback and help address weaknesses in the change plan.
  • Don’t ignore the importance of positive energy, as it can have a ripple effect throughout the team.

How can HR managers measure the success of change management?

The group mentioned employee surveys, some quarterly or annually, reviewing retention – and breaking down any loss of talent over the change period by who their manager is, gender, and department – all can help paint a picture for senior leaders.

Ultimately, it was agreed upon that it wasn’t for HR managers to be fully responsible for driving out outcome of change. They were the enablers and drivers of change, but ultimately, they needed to take their report and ensure management was aware of the results – employee engagement and other key metrics. One participant “I terms of the responsibility for measuring impact, I think we can offer insight in terms of staff wellbeing, and their engagement with the organisation and change, but I’d be very nervous if we were then expected to drive out the impact of change.”

A summary by moderator, Kate Philpot

  • Change is a constant – it’s not going away, particularly for organisations at the mercy of the quarterly reports to the markets
  • Convert your pessimists to your change agenda and they’ll help you engage the rest
  • Motivation to change comes from the effective articulation of the ‘why’
  • Identify the key “chess pieces” (beyond the leadership team) who will support the change programme
  • Change fatigue happens when it’s done badly; praise/celebrate excellent execution when it occurs
  • It’s not HR’s responsibility to report on successes (or otherwise) but they can hold leaders accountable by asking the right questions about the impact of change

CoachHub’s Bea Baun’s takeaways:

  • Different regions should have their own communication strategy to be more inclusive
  • Public held companies change their plan more often than private ones
  • Coaching is sought after across organisations and most of the time, the main objective is to teach managers to have more a coaching approach to their leadership
  • It’s great to get buy-in from senior leadership, but creating a ripple effect from the bottom up is also a good strategy


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