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Change Management: Understanding 5 Levers for Change

Posted by EmployeeChannel on 7.13.2017

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Information about change management best practices is widely available to anyone looking to facilitate organizational change. We can turn to companies that specialize in managing change or reference the staggering number of change management models, which range from simple to complex.

In HR, we are familiar with change management as it relates to organizational behavior. After all, at the core of our models are research and lessons learned from organizational behavioral psychologists and management consultants. We should also look outside HR to other industries and observe their learnings about people and their behaviors to see how they might apply to HR.

In marketing, billions of dollars are spent on changing consumer’s behavior every year. Why? By default, we tend to stick with what we are comfortable with and know. Change is hard -- regardless of whether it’s trying a new laundry detergent at home or adopting a new process at work.

Keith Weed, chief marketing and communications officer at Unilever, authored Five Levers for Change -- five principles that increase the likelihood of achieving sustained behavioral changes.  

As we try to facilitate change in our organizations, let’s examine these levers and identify how we can apply them to change employee behavior.

1. Make the change understood.

Are employees aware of what the change is and how it is relevant to them?


Communication is a key aspect of planning for change. In addition to incorporating different methods of communicating change, such as announcements on the intranet or posters in the break room, we need to question how effective each method is.

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Do you have analytics that tell you how many people have accessed the intranet and read your announcement? If so, great. How can you determine whether our message resonates with your employees?

A strong communication plan driven by analytics and a method for collecting feedback is a must-have when facilitating change in an organization.

2. Make the change easy.

Do employees know what they’re supposed to do with the change, and are they confident doing so?

Enabling change requires that we put ourselves in the shoes of our employees. Chances are, you may have some ideas where change may be met with resistance. 

Check in with your management team and key employees to identify areas of concern and make sure you have a plan to address it. You may not have the perfect solution, but by anticipating issues and proactively identifying solutions, you’ll pave the way for an easier adoption process by your employees.  

3. Make the change desirable.

How does the change fit with employees’ actual or aspirational self-image? How does it fit with their relationships within their teams or the organization?

Consider how individual employees in the organization may have different roles in the change. How might their outlooks and outcomes differ? Cast visions of success for various parts of the organization and communicate the most relevant, relatable version for them.

4. Make the change rewarding. 

Do employees know when they’re doing something ‘right?’ Do they get a reward?

A common recommendation for change management is creating ‘quick wins.’ In this case, setting the stage for quick wins allows employees to celebrate the outcome of change and helps drive acceptance and adoption.

5. Turn the change into a habit.

Once employees have made a change, how do we help them keep doing it?

One of the biggest challenges of change management involves making the change stick. We must be vigilant about identifying areas where employees might slide back into old behaviors.

Reviewing usage, conducting training, and ongoing promotion and communication from the HR team and leadership will help a new behavior continue long enough to become second nature for employees.

At the end of the day, consumer behavior experts have the same goal as change management experts -- influencing the behavior of people. Let’s incorporate their best practices and takeaways into designing effective change management and employee communications.

Topics: employee communication, change management

Human Resources Today