How to get Employees On Board the Change Train

Train WEB

Change is rarely easy or welcomed in an organizational setting. However, there are ways to make change easier, go more smoothly, and be more effective. The reality is that there will always be hurdles in your tracks, challenges to overcome, and people who try to stop the change train no matter what the change may be. Change failure is high and placing the blame for this failure is, more times than not, given to one element. It doesn’t matter what change model you implement; the beginning of change is the best place to harness the steam of the change engine with one key source of power. 

The Key Source of Power

The key source of power for change is people. Regardless of what train car your people sit in, without them getting on board, the change train won’t even leave the station. This applies doubly for the naysayers or those who wouldn’t get on the train even if it was The Midnight Train to Georgia. The problem is that even just one of these trouble makers can derail the best laid plans and change management guru, John Kotter boldly suggests

, again, regardless of what seat on what car they occupy. So exactly how is that done? Glad you asked.

How to Get People On Board the Change Train

Communication: Conducting some non-scientific research and excluding any change models, I found close to 60 ideas on how to get people on board a change initiative. Communication is by far mentioned most often. Communication is both an art and a science and there are several key components to keep in mind.

  • Be transparent and tell the truth about the change.
  • Ensure your vison is clear and concise.
  • Be consistent, keep communication simple and timely.
  • Commutate often and vary delivery methods. Use metaphors, analogies, examples, and stories to clearly communicate your vision.
  • People are more likely to buy a ticket to change if they understand the reason why the change is necessary.
  • Keep people in the loop as change progresses, yes even the things that might not be going well.
  • Listen to feedback.
  • Acknowledge and address people’s concerns and fears.
  • Paint a clear picture of what can happen if there is no change.

Involve Them: While the CEO may be the one establishing the vison, the people on the front line are the ones experiencing the most pain and frustration as change unfolds. Getting people involved gives them a stake in the outcome. Here are some ideas:

  • Hold brainstorming sessions, town meetings, and form committees
  • Provide any necessary training for new skills and processes.
  • Appoint liaisons who bring concerns to the table, so everyone knows you are listening and feel their ideas have value. In turn, this will help head off disruptions and allow you to implement any necessary adjustments necessary to the success of the change. Yes! You need to be prepared to change the change.
  • Give people tasks to do that play to their strengths in moving the change along.
  • This type of involvement can help make change fun.

Practice Patience: Change does not happen overnight. Think how difficult it can be to change a habit. People’s emotions come to the forefront involving change and you cannot expect people to turn on a dime. This is particularly true when converging with another organization who was previously your competition. That idea takes some adjusting and that takes time.  

Handle Resistance: Change in organizations is inevitable and so is resistance to change and you must expect it and deal with it swiftly. The ideas in this article will help defer some resistance, but not all. It only takes one naysayer to derail even the most careful planning. Go back and read the section on The Key Source of Power and watch the video.

Be a Role Model: As the CEO, you and your executive team need to walk the talk. Scoffing at the changes or undermining the vison will shut the change train down and send it careering off its tracks. Taking this further, you need to be the one to demonstrate it’s OK to take risks and make it safe for others to take steps and try the new behaviors in implementing the change.

Change, especially significant change, can be dauting. However, taking the time to lay out our vison, plan how to achieve it, and then implement it in the right way will keep your change train chugging along the right track and arrive at the station on time.

Thank you for reading this blog. For help on initiating change Get Started Here

Graphic Credit:


Anderson, L.A. (2016, July). Getting Employees on Board with Your Change Initiatives. Being First.
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Dukes, E. (2017, E.). 4 Strategies for Getting Employees Excited About Change. Inc.
Gray, A. (2017, June). Getting People On Board with Change. Westchester County Business Jouranl (Retrieved from DeKalb County GA on line library).
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