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The Value of Taking a People-Centred Change Management Approach

Last Updated on August 11, 2023

Every organization goes through change – it is inevitable. In fact, change should be a regular part of every organization’s operations to remain successful and competitive. When we begin to think about instituting change or commencing change initiatives, it is essential to practice effective change management. At the heart of change management is balancing the technical and human sides of change. It involves acknowledging individual, organizational, and cultural factors that will influence your change efforts. When these factors aren’t considered and there is a lack of balance, projects and initiatives will fail to achieve their outcomes.

In addition, when we think of change, we often only think of the systems, tools, processes, and structures we are updating and forget about the people side of change. The people side of change involves engaging, training, communicating, and offering support to employees to ensure that people want to and can change. I view these as the hard and soft parts of organizational change.

What is a People-centred change management approach?

A people-centred approach to change management involves accounting for the ways people are required to change to use the hard aspects (i.e. systems, tools, processes, etc.) that are being put in place. Considerations must be made at all levels of the organization. A few areas that can be assessed and considered on your change journey include:

1. Behaviours

People are required to change their actions to exemplify the future state fully. Existing behaviours represent the status quo and threaten full adoption and usage. While the onus of changing behaviours is on employees, the organization also has a role in changing the environment to ensure that there is a reinforcement of behaviours required to sustain the change.

2. Motivations, Goals, and Desires

Each person has different motivations, goals, and desires in the workplace. When it comes to accepting and adopting the change, some individuals may be more motivated intrinsically while others are motivated extrinsically. As change is implemented, it is essential to explain how the change will benefit each employee or group. This refers to “What’s In It For Me” (WIIFM). Leaders and managers can use this as a form of resistance management.

3. Mindsets, Attitudes, and Beliefs

Each individual’s varying beliefs and perspectives make the work environment engaging. These various perspectives benefit innovation and organizational growth but can also impact how people accept change. When people join an organization or begin their roles, they become accustomed to how things are done. As such, introducing a change initiative can be seen as a threat instead of an opportunity. People-centred change management focuses on changing the mental attitudes and beliefs that can block or stagnate change by exciting, involving, and supporting employees in the need for change.  

4. Knowledge and Skills

Many change projects will require employees to gain new knowledge and skills or put aside certain aspects of their jobs as their role changes. Employees must be supported with adequate training to feel equipped to undertake their new roles. Employees will also need clarity around new expectations (e.g., goal setting, new job descriptions and metrics) to know what they need to do to sustain the change and do their best.

In Summary

The key piece of a people-centred approach is ensuring that each individual has the necessary tools, knowledge, and support to feel ready for and desire change. Leaders will continuously need to emphasize communication to share both the benefits and challenges associated with the change as well as keep their people engaged throughout the process by fostering a sense of ownership. People appreciate knowing what decisions are being made and why. When we take a people-centred approach, people will feel more satisfied in their roles and with the change process, feel supported as the organization goes through its transition, and will want to stay with the organization long term.

Want to bring change to life in your organization?

If you are looking to bring a new change to life in your organization, we can help you to:

  • Support employees through uncomfortable shifts in the status quo and periods of transformation.
  • Understand change impact and readiness of employees, minimize risks and resistances
  • Create internal systems that are strong yet flexible allowing for long-term impact and adoption.
  • Create a change management plan that views change holistically and maintain the routine in the running of your business during change.

Makeda Henry (MA Industrial Organizational Psychology, Prosci® Certified Change Practitioner) is an Organizational Development Consultant at Realize Strategies. An expert in improving organization performance and employee experience, she applies her background in research and data to help client organizations achieve their full potential and foster positive workplace cultures.