Why people are critical in the change process

When entering a period of organisational change, leaders need to remember that people are their most vital asset. Patrick Gallen explains how organisations can best engage with employees to transition successfully.

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “you can never enter the same river twice”, meaning somewhere between 535BC and 475BC, we knew that change would be a challenge we would grapple with throughout human existence. So, why do organisations still find it so difficult to change?

There are several reasons but, generally, people find it difficult to leave behind old comforts, nurtured over the years and move towards something new, often unknown and not entirely predictable.

We have learned many lessons since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. Perhaps one of the greatest lessons has been that we must always be prepared for rapid change. For almost two years, it has been difficult to forecast the business landscape month-to-month in the way we might have been able to in 2019 and before.

Another lesson organisations worldwide have learned since the beginning of the pandemic has been  that people are an organisation’s greatest asset. This is not just a headline for the careers page but a fact. Without the dedicated people who make up an organisation, you cannot meet company objectives or deliver excellent client service. People turn ideas into reality and strategy into action.

So, when entering a period of organisational change, it is essential to put people at the centre of this change. To take your people on a journey with you, they must be willing to travel the distance. You must engage them, communicate your vision with them, and excite them about wanting to reach that destination.

How can you do this?


Communicate early and often. If people are not connected to the ‘what’ and ‘why’ in the change process, it is difficult to convince them of the desired outcome. Updating staff on the status of the change and how it fits into your overall plan makes it much more likely that they will be accepting of, and excited about, it.

Mobilise your change team

Find the key influencers within your organisation, those who have earned their colleagues’ trust and respect. Getting these people behind your programme for change allows you to spread the word more quickly and effectively. You can use them as a sounding board to understand how change is perceived throughout the organisation.


Employees may have lots of comments, questions, and worries throughout the change process. You must listen to this feedback openly, validate it, and address it honestly. Even if you can’t address their concerns right away, ensure that you listen to them and let them know you will address them when you can.

Managing organisational change can be daunting, but that isn’t a reason to avoid it. When executed correctly, change will inject energy and progress into your organisation and help you and all of your people reach new heights.

Patrick Gallen is Partner of People & Change Consulting in Grant Thornton Northern Ireland.


This article was first published in Accountancy Ireland. You can read the original article here.