How to Make Change Stick by Sandie Bakowski


There is a huge battle for talent in the workplace today. Skilled employees are in short supply but at the same time organisations are focused on too narrow a definition of digital talent and not spending enough on upskilling existing workers.

Organisations spend vast sums of money on the physical aspects of change programmes and not enough on the people side of change. So is it any surprise that 70% of change programmes fail. Add on to that the huge amounts of money spent on L&D programmes that don’t actually achieve any change and you have a weird situation of not enough spend and wasted spend.


People aren’t the change, they are the answer. At Arc, we focus on changing how people feel and behave. We use six pulse points to talk about how we make change stick with employees.


This first step is working out where you are going.  You will be amazed how many change programmes aren’t clear on what the change is. So we ask ‘where are you going?’ It’s funny how much insight just asking that question brings.   Sense check your target change. Ensure that you have defined the target values and behaviours you need to provide a north star for the change.

It’s not just where you are going that determines your journey, you also need to know where you are starting from and this is where outside eyes can help. Run a discovery piece to really find out what values employees attach to your organisation and how much work you have to do. Story collection is a great way of doing this and will bring to the surfaces the values your organisation works to today. This helps you see how big the gap is between where you are now and where you want to get to.


Knowing the different employee groups that exist within your organisation really helps with change as you can target particular motivations and attitudes. Just as your marketing department uses personas to identify customers, you can also use employee personas to define the different employee audiences you have in the organisation. Understanding their motivations, language and attitudes along with the social norms your organisation is working to. This is often a light bulb moment for leaders, allowing them to switch to targeting change initiatives to meet their needs more successfully.


The next step is to look at what’s coming. Mapping on a timeline how each persona group will need to change over time. The output of which is outline learning journeys for each persona group.  There are different levels of learning in an organisation. Think of it as a big learning journey for the whole organisation and then targeted learning journeys for each group like HR, IT, Customer Service and so on. Looking at it this way allows more targeted and intelligent spend of L&D and training budgets. Often organisations fail to recognise the different needs and instead, roll out blanket training, which can be inefficient and wasteful.

Learning journeys also look at the emotions that go along with each stage. Mapping how people will feel and working with those highs and lows using different tactics for both. Highs you can do great things with to build pride in the organisation and increase employee engagement.  Lows are unavoidable, but you want to minimise the negative impact. Managed right, the design should stop those negative messages derailing engagement. Knowing when they are coming and planning for them in advance.


This is about telling one story. Get all the change in an organisation on the table with everyone in one room. Getting that big helicopter view of the change being inflicted on employees is quite an eye-opener. Usually, organisations have dozens of change programmes going on at once all buried in different silos, and none of them are talking to each other. Change has turned into its own siloed corporate machine.  To the employee, it ends up like 100 songs playing at once – a lot of noise!

Employee personas provide a new way to look at the change through an employee-centric lens. At this stage, a huge piece of brown paper comes in handy to work through all the change programmes over a 12 month period. This step allows an organisation to see:

  1. The combined amount of change asked of each employee group and if it’s realistic
  2. The language surrounding change and if that tells one story or confuses.
  3. The amount of uncoordinated noise that is being created

Now the organisation has the data it needs to declutter and create a stronger big story and little stories. Aligning work and language into a simple taxonomy that employees will listen and respond to.


Each organisation has its stories. The things employees whisper and the things they openly applaud. Stories are the modern-day version of a mission statement and provide the handbook on how to behave. In a world that is value-based, employees are left cold by dry corporate messages. The digital age means stories need to be rewritten to allow more fluid and agile ways of being. Organisations need stories that give permission to new digital behaviours.

Organisations should be using this employee-centric insight to find their stories story – the main stage, as well as the little stories needed within each persona group. This is all about the language, the change brand and the campaign that accompanies it. The behaviours leaders are taught and the messages that get sent to employees.  A consistent language set and a change kit bag to use. All told in meaningful and compelling ways. That’s a piece of work worth investing in, just as much as the tech.


Engaging experiences and collateral get people excited about change and help them learn new ways of being. Designing the right thoughtful and emotionally informed interventions to support employees through change will get them excited about it.

There are an enormous amount of different ways to connect with video, social media, and many more new channels. Not least of which is your internal influencer or super-connectors network. The people who have the likeability factor to bring people together. Engagement plans need to create two-way conversations. The more employees input to the conversation the more bought in they will be.  The best way to think of this stage is not as training but instead, see it as building a targeted campaign around your change.


The Business Transformation Network has posted this article in partnership with Making Change Happen blog and The Arc Group.


Sandie Bakowski is Co-Founder of The Arc Group. Sandie is a business psychologist, a certified co-active coach as well as a visionary and strategic specialist in behaviour change and employee engagement, she brings a +20-year track record of working on complex, high impact, £multi-million roll-out programmes. A creative storyteller who makes change happen.


Previous clients include Unilever, British Airways, Department for Education, Pearson, HSBC, the Cabinet Office, Capita IT, LogicaCMG, Reuters and the Foreign Commonwealth Office. Sandie takes pride in appreciating the cultures and forces at play to design insightful approaches that really fit and provide unprecedented business benefits. She brings positivity, enthusiasm and influence, and is willing to challenge the status quo to achieve the very best results.