Ways to Transition Staff Smoothly During Periods of Change

Change and Transition

Change and Transition

Change is constant. As a leader and Change Agent, you are responsible to lead change efforts in your unit which includes leading staff members through the change in a way that produces a positive outcome. Staff members expect you to have all the answers, have a clear vision of where you're heading, have anticipated all the possible obstacles, know just what staff members need. Most likely, you don't. Most change efforts are filled with ambiguity. William Bridges, Ph.D., author  Managing Transitions (2003), and the updated second edition of Transitions, (2004), identifies a specific difference between change (a new policy, practice, structure) and transition (a psychological reorientation that people need to go through in order to adapt to the change). A good Change Management plan will include both. 


While the change may appear to have been implemented flawlessly, transition happens much slower. People undergo several phases as they transition: letting go of the past ways, a neutral zone where everything seems uncertain, and a new beginning with new ways. 


A key component for managing both change and transition is 'communication'. Everything needs to be communicated about a change: what is changing, what is not changing, who will be impacted, how we will be impacted, what we will have to give up. We need to communicate in multiple ways – email, memos, meetings, town halls, twitter, facebook, face-to-face, etc. We need to say it, then repeat it and then say it again, which leads me to an important understanding: not everyone is ready to hear the news at the same time. Therefore, it's important to convey your message in several different modes and many times. Say each message at least five times.

Phrases That Help

  • "I'm giving you today's truth. It may change tomorrow."
  • "This is what I know is changing. This is what is not changing."
  • "I'm giving you all the information I have. I don't know anything else."
  • "We're all going through the same change. It's important that we stick together."
  • "Keep communicating." 

In Summary:

1) An individual’s transition is as important as change management.
2) Communication is critical, say your message often, in different ways.


All-Staff Meeting

Introduce the change at an all-staff meeting, if possible. Everyone needs to hear the same message at the same time; this will help prevent initial rumors. If you cannot hold an all staff meeting, have an all-leadership meeting. (please refer to the Powerpoint presentation below as a tool to kick off a discussion on change management with your staff)


  1. A clear reason for the change: Why change? Why now?
  2. Explanation: what is changing, what is not changing?
  3. How will this impact staff and their work?
  4. Identify what you "know" vs what you "don't know" vs what is "ever-changing".
  5. Include time for their questions; if there is not enough time to answer all of the questions, answer the question in an email or online.

Unit Staff Meetings

The “change” should be a part of every agenda. What is new? What do we know today? What adjustments do we need to make? By being open and talking about the change, there will be less opportunity for rumors to grow.

Topics for meetings:

  1. Introduce Transition Management. Show the "Taking Charge of Change" video clip (3 min).
  2. Facilitate a discussion around "Endings." What is ending for the team? What is ending for the individual? Use the "Transition Activity". The activity will help each individual reflect on what's ending for them. Use this handout to facilitate an activity around this topic.
  3. Continue with the Transition Activity. Facilitate a discussion. Have staff members share things that have helped them cope with change in the past. Have staff members discuss what they can do to support one another.
  4. Discuss with staff what you as a leader can do to help cope with the transition.
  5. Remember, continue to talk about the change at every staff meeting. The good, the bad and the ugly.


Please click to download the above presentation, an overview of the William Bridges model on Change and Transition.

Change and Transition Teams

Strategic Change Management Leadership Team

  • Form a team comprised of those leaders integral to the change process. It may include the Director/Manager, project manager, outside project consultant, HR representative.
  • The purpose of this team is to lead the change management efforts; stay informed of changes to the project and support efforts of the Transition Monitoring Team.
  • Plan a Leadership retreat. At this retreat, define the project components and the timeline. Plan your transition management activities to coincide with the overall change management plan.
  • This team should meet once a month or as often as needed.

Transition Management Team

  • This team may include the Unit HR Manager or several managers, a representative from the organization's HR department and/or a designated project lead.
  • The purpose is to plan and implement support services that help guide staff members through the transition process.
  • This team should meet one-two times a month or as often as needed.
  • Their charge is to plan and facilitate any needs in communication, training and staffing before, during and after the change.
    • Communication includes all activities that keep staff informed of the process of the change project, provides an opportunity for staff members to ask questions, and informs staff what activities and services are being provided to support their transition. Examples of communication modes include: email, websites. meetings, bulletin boards, wall posters, social networks, etc.
    • Training may include new technical skills, updates, new processes for working, interviewing skills, resume writing, job searching, etc.
    • Staffing can change with a change project.  Your unit may need more staff, less staff, or staff with different skills. A well thought-out plan can relieve the anxiety for staff and boost their productivity levels while still employed in your unit. What can your organization do to help employ staff members who may be displaced by the new change effort? 

Transition Monitoring Team

  • The Transition Monitoring Team is a group that represents different constituencies within the organization and has the ear of leadership. 
  • Their purpose is to provide a forum for staff members to share their thoughts, ideas and reactions to the change process. It is the voice of staff. It is the voice of those who typically will be most affected by the change.
  • Their responsibilities include:
    • Facilitate communication to leadership.
      • Receive input from the staff at large regarding their concerns about the organization and to communicate these concerns to the leaders of the organization.
      • Report back to staff regularly on what is being done with the issues that have been raised.
    • Correct misinformation and counteract rumors.
    • Administer ad hoc groups on sub-issues needing attention.
    • Help communicate the vision for the future and the reasons motivating the change
  • In addition, it may include a facilitator who will communicate and act as a liaison to leadership.
  • This group meets one – two times a month (or as needed).
  • For more details on setting up a Transition Monitoring Team, click on the following Link to the attachment.

Change and Transition Teams



  • Managing Transitions – William Bridges
  • Leading Change - John Kotter
  • The Heart of Change Field Guide - Dan S. Cohen