Discovery Learning International (DLI) is now part of Multi-Health Systems Inc. (MHS). All DLI products and services are being integrated into MHS Systems.
Learn more by clicking here.

June 22, 2016

Manage organizational change better by understanding your employees


fast-moving Organizational change

Change is unavoidable – from routine adjustments like revised benefit policies, to structural transformations that shake up the whole company. Organizational change can cause anxiety and resistance among employees if company leaders fail to manage these transitions well.

Understanding how people respond to change is critical to managing it.

According to DLI research, individuals have preferred styles in dealing with change.

  • Conservers tend to enjoy predictability and prefer solutions that are tested and proven. They pay attention to details versus looking at the big picture and excel at executing and implementing projects. They are cautious when it comes to change.
  • Originators have no problem taking risks and challenging assumptions. They prefer quick and expansive change and are skilled at looking at the big picture. Because they focus less on details, they may miss potential pitfalls and be less effective implementing change.
  • Pragmatists make up nearly 50 percent of all employees. They can see both sides of a situation and are flexible in dealing with change.

The best way to assess your employees’ preferred change style is to have them do evaluations. However, you can get a sense of your organization’s likely change preferences based on demographics and other factors.

Understanding how different people respond to change based on their personal style can help you implement new strategies and other changes more effectively.


Do the research

  • Assess your employee demographics. Do you have a mixture of Baby Boomers and Millennials? How many people are in their 40s? How many people are over the age of 60 or nearing retirement?
  • Determine the ratio of males to females company-wide and in teams who will be affected by change.

DLI’s research has shown that employees aged 20-29 and those over 60 are the most cautious when it comes to organizational change. In other words, those entering the workforce and nearing retirement tend to be conservers.

Because Millennials are filling up the work force, they will have a huge impact on change management strategies, so it pays to understand their point of view.

In contrast, only 9 percent of employees aged 40-49 were conservers. This group also had the highest percentage of originators at 28 percent. Typically, employees at this age have reached some level of seniority and may feel more confident in their careers. They also may be more closely involved in directing change initiatives.

How about gender?

DLI’s research revealed that 30 percent of women identified themselves as conservers, while only 21 percent of men did. Similarly, 29 percent of men identified themselves as originators, while only 24 percent of women did.

With your organization’s demographics in mind, you can develop a plan to better manage change.


Create a change management plan

First, design change leadership teams with a mix of conservers, who excel at planning, implementing and executing projects, and originators who are advocates for change and can help get buy-in from others.

Conservers may have more questions and concerns up front about why change is occurring. Allocate time and resources to answer the questions and concerns your team will have throughout the process. Once conservers understand a change, they’re more likely to embrace it.

Pick project leaders based on what skills are most needed for your company’s change process – originators are better at dealing with quick, drastic changes. Conservers are better at making changes based upon what is already in place and building upon that.

Educate employees about different change styles and the strengths of each, so they understand and appreciate the different approaches they and their colleagues will take to dealing with change.

Just as people’s personalities shift over time, their change styles will shift, too. Similarly, your organization should be poised to take advantage of employees’ particular strengths.


Create a Change Management Plan, Study the demographics of your company. Analyze the numbers to help determine employee change styles, Create a change strategy that takes advantage of employee styles:

To find out more, see DLI’s whitepaper, “Trends in Change Leadership: An Analysis of 180,000 Managers over 20 Years.”