It’s time to change change! Making the case for a human-centred approach

Lee Smith

31 May 2024
Employee Engagement
Employee Experience
EX design 

Change is the only constant in life, a universal truth that resonates profoundly in the world of business. However, despite the inevitability of change and the fact that the pace of change is accelerating rapidly (according to Gallup, 85% of senior executives expect to see an ‘explosive’ increase in change projects over the next five years), many organisations struggle to manage it effectively and the failure rate for large scale change and transformation programmes remains woefully high.
We believe one of the main reasons for this failure is that traditional change management approaches prioritise processes, systems, and structures, relegating the human element to the sidelines. In today’s world of work, this just doesn’t cut it.

Thankfully, we are starting to see a paradigm shift in the way organisations approach change management. A growing body of research and practice advocates for a more human-centred approach that places people at the very heart of the change process.

This approach recognises that employees are not passive recipients of change but active participants whose engagement and commitment are critical to the success of any organisational transformation. 

This shift is the focus of our latest EX Space Bitesize course, An Introduction to Human-Centred Change, which is now available to our EX Practitioner and EX Professional members.
But why should organisations embrace human-centred change and how do you make it happen? Let’s delve deeper into the rationale behind this transformative approach and explore some specific models and strategies that underpin it.
Engagement drives buy-in:

Central to the success of any change initiative is the active engagement and buy-in of employees at all levels of the organisation. Research has consistently shown that engaged employees are more productive, innovative, and resilient in the face of change. Models such William Bridges’ Transition Model highlight the importance of engaging communication, empathetic leadership and high levels of participation in change to mobilise support and commitment from employees.  Ultimately change should be done WITH rather than TO employees.
Resilience and adaptability:

In today’s unpredictable world, organisations must be agile and adaptable to survive and thrive. A human-centred approach to change management helps organisations build resilience by empowering employees to embrace change as an opportunity for growth and learning, rather than a threat to their stability and security. Approaches borrowed from the worlds of Agile, Lean and Design Thinking, which emphasise iteration, adaptation, collaboration, and experimentation, can be very effectively applied to change to increase the changes of success.
Enhancing organisational performance:

Ultimately, the goal of any change management initiative is to enhance organisational performance and help achieve strategic objectives. A human-centred approach to change management is not only morally and ethically justified, but also strategically sound. By investing in the wellbeing, resilience and adaptability of their employees, organisations can unlock their full potential and drive superior business results.
In conclusion, the case for a human-centred approach to change is compelling and multifaceted. By prioritising the needs, emotions, and experiences of employees, organisations can build trust, foster engagement, enhance resilience, and drive real, sustainable change. From models like Appreciative Inquiry and Design Thinking, to unleashing the power of social networks, a wealth of frameworks and approaches now exist to guide practitioners in their journey toward human-centred change.