Ensuring successful change adaptation when it’s needed the most

Leading through mergers, CEO transition, and business transformation

It isn’t unusual in times of significant change – like a merger, a new CEO hire, or member program changes – for leaders to want to wait until ALL details are baked before sharing news with employees. So, how do you know when there is enough information to share with employees and begin engaging them in the journey, preparing for the change ahead?

As leaders, we often adjust to change as we spend months in preparation phases. It can be easy to assume the most positive intent with change, yet employees initial response to news may be frustration, resistance, and sometimes even silence. I wanted to share major changes that our clients are facing with some tips for successful employee adoption and transition:

CU mergers: Stop saying our organizations are just the same, they’re not

While our mission is ‘people helping people,’ there aren’t two credit unions that serve members in the exact same way – and workplace culture attributes are always unique.

During merger communication to members, we often convey how both organizations are aligned or similar. In contrast, employees want acknowledgement that the credit union they chose to work for is a special, one-of-a-kind cooperative community like no other. Employees want to see that their credit union’s uniqueness is celebrated when they come together as one credit union.

Strategic action items:

  • Address the why behind the merger for employees. Oftentimes this might include a mention of growth opportunities, efficiencies or to reach more members in the community. One caution – be thoughtful about addressing ‘more opportunity’ internally, as it may be months or years before the combined organization can deliver on new roles.
  • Honor and recognize the strengths and cultural attributes each credit union brings to the table. Acknowledge what makes each CU unique and celebrate the differences. It’s human nature to want to find similarities with others, but neglecting to respect cultural uniqueness can create change adverse teams. Consider culture sensitivity training for managers to help with effective communication across diverse teams, creating a greater sense of belonging for all, and lessening the chance of alienating employees.
  • During due diligence, be thoughtful about when cultural elements like purpose or core values are consolidated or changed. We always recommend leveraging an unbiased, third-party partner to engage employees in the process. The benefit is two-fold; it shows employees that their input matters while demonstrating a commitment to creating a new culture reflecting both organizations. A huge bonus to this approach is that it creates opportunities for cross-collaboration!

New CEO hire: Wait 100 days – listen, ask questions, and then listen some more!

In a new role, we’re excited to make things even better and ‘fix’ things that seem glaringly obvious and simple. A desire to be a hero or make quick change can alienate your team, inadvertently dismiss progress they’ve made to-date, and result in solutions that aren’t fully embraced and executed on.

Strategic action items:

  • Be open with employees that you’re committed to learning the ins and outs, and no major changes will occur for 100 days. Be visible and accessible during this time in town hall meetings, team meetings and open-door sessions – and just listen. When you’re ready to share your insights with employees, always incorporate their feedback in messages of change or improvement.
  • Let employee voices be heard through facilitated listening sessions with a trusted partner. Employees know your culture best, are keen to quickly identify business opportunities and improvements, and crave opportunities to engage. This is a great opportunity to demonstrate that you care and value their feedback!

Transforming systems, processes, programs: How to ensure change will be embraced with open arms (and minds!)

The best leaders want to fix pain points within systems, process, and programs. Yet, even when employees have voiced their frustration, they’re often hesitant to believe the change will make things better.

Just the idea of a system or process change requires employees to think and do their job differently – and honestly, with the pace of change at work (and in the world) we all must admit we are battling change fatigue!

In times of transformation, it’s important to lead with a compelling case for the change.

Strategic action items:

  • Create an understanding of why things are happening and how it benefits the employee – ‘what’s in it for me?’ This is especially true for system changes that take a lot of staff hours to complete! Help employees embrace the change to get ROI and efficiency back on track quickly.
  • Identify groups that will be most impacted/resistant to change and address fears or workload concerns and tailor messaging to meet specific team or role needs.
  • Engage influential employees and leaders who others trust and follow. Bring them in early and often so they can help champion the change. This process takes time, but the outcomes are worth it!
  • Celebrate successes and small milestones along the journey – not simply at completion. Recognition is a secret weapon during change and transition!


Change often feels uncertain, unstable, stressful, and even a little risky for most. By using strategies that engage employees early and often in change, you can better understand employee perspectives, highlight change benefits, and proactively address concerns. And even when you don’t have all the answers, be candid about what you don’t know because misinformation erodes trust – share as much as possible, even if all the details aren’t fully baked!

Chary Krout

Chary Krout

For over 25 years, Chary has dedicated her career to coming alongside credit union employees and leaders, helping them solve problems, and creating better workplaces for everyone.  Chary believes in ... Web: https://www.cultivateresults.com Details