In This Section

Managing the Employee Side of Change Efforts

50-70% of change initiatives fail.

This statistic, compliments of Harvard Business Review, is startling.  We invest, we plan, we have high hopes!  Yet half of our efforts to bring changes about in our organizations don’t meet our expectations – or utterly fail.  We miss deadlines.  We don’t like our end result.  Or we give up and pull the change because it is just too painful or difficult.

Is this true in your organization? What can be done?  Beyond the tasks and deliverables associated with the change plan, let’s focus on those who execute on that plan.  Our employees.  They can’t do it alone.  They need their manager.  How do we best support them, while accomplishing the goals of the organization through change efforts? 

Let’s look at some techniques for actively managing others during change.

Leadership Toolkit

Last month’s article, “Change: It’s Futile to Resist and Yet We Do”, addressed how our human brain naturally resists change and the impact of neuroscience on an individual’s ability to deal with change positively and proactively.  We also offered tips on how to personally thrive during change, based on Dr. Britt Andreatta’s research and writing. 

In her book Wired to Resist, she also offers leadership suggestions to move employees forward successfully on the change journey.  Based on neuroscience, the 3-pronged toolkit considers factors that influence an employee’s motivation and efforts during change.

Navigation Tools

These are the steps a manager takes to create the big picture and help an employee understand the why of the change.  It includes creating enough of a map towards the change that the employee can see what success looks like as they accomplish along the path; and building in enough “practice” for new habits to replace the old. Throughout the change journey, employees should be able to count on their manager to be focused on the change and keep individuals “in the know”.  Communication is critical.

Motivation Tools

Remember, our brain is shouting to us that change is bad.  As managers, address the biology and resulting emotion that comes with change.  Help your employee see the purpose of the change; shift them from simply seeing the change as a goal to viewing the change as solving a problem; recognize effort and progress and provide meaningful rewards.

Connection Tools

We are wired for social connections, therefore a manager’s focus on building camaraderie and encouraging collaborative efforts between employees is critical – especially during change efforts.  Additionally, focus on your own role in the process of connection.  Grow your empathy skills, create psychological safety and exude patience!

Be clear on your process for change

Prepare for the journey. Do you have your leadership toolkit ready?  Can you clearly explain the why of the change? Have you mapped out the journey, perhaps even creating a visual representation of the path? Do you have a plan for regular communication?  Do you have a plan for building the team for doing focused, hard work – and to do it together?

Ready your employees. Share what you know of the change.  Assess motivation and energy for the change. Shift work and priorities as needed.

Guide them through the change.  Expect to see signs of the resistance you know our brains are wired for. Communicate, communicate, communicate.  Encourage participation in as many aspects of the change as possible. Celebrate along the way to help acknowledge progress. Continue to field the questions that will most definitely come.  Show the finish line approaching!

Deal with the unexpected.  Anticipate what you can but be prepared for the inevitable.  Remove obstacles, keep focused on the goal and help the team remain flexible.

Managing during change is not easy.  It necessitates a dual focus – on moving the project plan forward, while actively supporting your employees. 

Cathy Belmont is Director of Training Operations for ATW Training Solutions in Urbandale.  She can be reached at

ATW has a variety of solutions to help you and your organization thrive during change.  Most recently we’ve added Dr. Britt Andreatta’s The Change Quest Model curriculum.  Contact us to explore the options for employee, manager and senior leader training.



  Download Full Whitepaper