Insights on Managing Change – Interview with Charles Caldwell

Insights on Managing Change – Interview with Charles Caldwell

After seeing Charles present at the HR Summit in Hong Kong, I had the pleasure of sitting with him to discuss ‘the illusion of permanence’ and why change is often a stumbling block for organisations and individuals. As the Director of Human Resources for the Hong Kong English Schools Foundation, Charles has worked with teaching and non teaching staff, of different nationalities, to ensure they have felt supported and successfully been able to manage and implement change in a relation to a vast array of matters.

Charles referenced what scientists are calling the End of History Illusion which explores the concept of perception. In basic terms scientist have found that how someone perceives themselves today, is how they expect to perceive themselves in the future, even though they know from experience that we, society and the environment all change with time. This concept is what influences us to be set in our ways and resistant to change.

Such perceptions or beliefs don’t augur well for organisations which wish to bring about change.

The key message from my discussion with Charles is that organisations can implement big changes if steps to achieve change are made incrementally.

My notes on the discussion are provided below and you can listen to the interview here.


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  • Organisations should aim to make incremental changes as opposed to massive changes. Smaller changes are more successful whereas huge changes tend to fail.
  • Charles uses the analogy of technology to explain the incremental changes. LinkedIn and other social media sites are constantly making small changes. If you look at these sites from 10 years ago you can see that they have changed so much but because each step has been incremental, each change has been accepted and adapted more easily. What these companies realise is that they need to bring everyone along with them in order to make these changes successful, hence why they frequently make minor changes rather than major changes at any one time.
  • Be aware that most people will process or perceive change as a threat. Humans are always asking, “What’s in it for me?” So any change initiatives need to be framed around the positive opportunities for individuals that come with the change, e.g. opportunities to reskill or upskill, etc.
  • Understand that people are social animals who need time to ‘heal’ and time to process to best understand the change. People will experience ‘change grief’, whether it be for a change in their team, their wider organisation or their individual job tasks.
  • To help staff prepare for change it’s best to have regular consultations with them and show them the actual evidence and data which supports the required change.
  • An example of change that Charles needed to implement within the business was around talent acquisition. The Foundation’s traditional application platform was not going to be suitable, as the talent they needed to recruit was changing. They realised the recruitment process had to be mobile device optimised as over 65% of new teachers are only going to look for a job on their mobile devices. This example demonstrates that sometimes the type of change and/or pace of change is forced upon stakeholders by external circumstances.

What examples do you have of change being managed well or not so well in organisations which you have been a part of? Please share in the comments below. 

About the Author

Catherine Gillespie brings a wealth of skill to her clients. With particular expertise in teaching communication and workplace conflict resolution skills, Catherine has made a marked difference to the organisations she has worked with. She empowers teams and managers to adopt constructive styles that support harmony, productivity and progress in the workplace.

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