Topic: Leadership

People-Centered Change Management



Updated on: 

February 12, 2024

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There is 39% less anxiety when employees see change as positive. - 2024 Global Culture Report, O.C. Tanner Institute

We know change is inevitable, but it’s happening faster than ever. Organizations face increasing challenges, from hybrid work models and technological advancements to talent shortages, forcing them to continually adapt. However, according to research in our 2024 Global Culture Report, traditional approaches to change management are proving inadequate. To address this, organizations must transition to a people-centered approach that prioritizes culture, empowers leaders at all levels, and ensures transparency throughout the change process.

11 times increased odds of positive-change experiences at people-centered organizations. - 2024 Global Culture Report, O.C. Tanner Institute

Traditional Change Management vs. People-Centered Change Management

Recent statistics highlight the extent of change in the modern workplace. According to Gartner, the average employee experienced 10 planned enterprise changes in 2022, compared to only two in 2016. Yet, despite the prevalence of change, employees often harbor skepticism, anxiety, and fear—with only 15% feeling confident in their leaders' ability to navigate transitions effectively.

Traditional change management practices, characterized by their linear, top-down, and process-oriented nature, are no longer suitable for the dynamic work environments of today. These practices fail to engage employees and often underestimate their importance. Gartner finds that 34% of organizational change initiatives are considered successful, and 50% are outright failures.

The solution to this problem lies in making employees the focal point of change strategies. Research from the O.C. Tanner Institute shows that such a people-centric approach can significantly improve employee well-being, enhance workplace culture, and streamline change management processes. Employees at people-centric organizations are 12x more likely to say their experiences with change were well managed and 11x more likely to say their experiences with change were positive.

“Change cannot be put on people. The best way to instill change is to do it with them. Create it with them.”
—Lisa Bodell, CEO, FutureThink

Put Employees First During Times of Change

To implement a people-centered approach, organizations must prioritize communication and foster a healthy workplace culture. When people feel seen and valued, they can be more confident the organization is implementing change with them in mind. 

Employees at organizations with highly integrated recognition are significantly more likely to:

  • Feel they have adequate support to deal with change (9x)
  • Believe leaders have the tools they need to help employees with change (8x)
  • Trust the organization (10x)
  • Believe the organization cares about employees (9x)
  • Think change is managed well (9x)
  • Believe changes made are positive (8x)

In fact, 92% of employees at organizations with integrated recognition believe change in general to be positive. Having a healthy workplace environment with culture-building activities like integrated recognition is a critical foundation for people-centered change.

Empower Leaders to Manage Change

To address the traditional top-down change management process, organizations must engage leaders at all levels and equip them to facilitate change effectively. Currently, only 27% of leaders feel well-prepared to navigate change. Involving leaders in the change management process can alleviate this issue. Importantly, when leaders are equipped to help employees with change, the risk of burnout decreases by 73%.

Give Employees a Voice

Giving employees a voice in the change process significantly improves their perception of change. This can be achieved through surveys, focus groups, town halls, and one-on-one conversations. When employees have a say in organizational changes, they are more likely to believe the organization is people-centric, trust their leaders, feel a sense of community, and thrive at work. 


By focusing on culture, empowering all leaders, and giving employees a voice, organizations can make change a more positive experience.

1. Create a healthy culture for change
2. Empower all leaders to manage change
3. Develop a transparent communication strategy
4. Give employees a voice by seeking their feedback

Centering your employee experience in your change management plans is worth the time and effort. Organizations that prioritize their people and support their leaders during times of change experience more engaged and satisfied employees—and better business results in the long term.

Access all of our insights into change management trends in the 2024 Global Culture Report