Change Champions: Welcoming organizational change through employee recognition

Change is hard—ask anyone! But change can also be exhilarating. Currently, nearly every for profit and nonprofit organization is in the “messy middle” of significant change: that awkward time when work on the new direction has begun and milestones are being met but everything seems murky and uncomfortable. Meanwhile, everyone in the organization is working as hard as they can to keep their projects moving forward. When big change is needed, we plan the business case for change, schedule updates and announcements, have measurable goals, and fill our calendars with work blocks and update meetings—but we too easily forget to spotlight those special “cheerleaders for change” among our team members.


At United Way of Central Indiana (UWCI), we want to be masters of change, and we know that it will be our Change Champions who rally everyone around them to get others on board and accelerate the process of change.


Recently our Kudos Committee, a dedicated group of individuals who help recognize outstanding employees at United Way, developed the quarterly Change Champ Award to enable peers to elevate those who look for improvements, see the bigger picture, communicate the benefits of change with gusto, and work together to make change happen. Every quarter, the Kudos Committee will select up to four Change Champs from among nominations and winners will receive a power bank.


Hard working team members are not only appreciative when they receive recognition for their extra efforts, but they are eager to nominate their peers as well. Within one hour of announcing the opportunity to nominate prospective Change Champs, we received six nominations! In total, we received 30 nominations for 18 team members. This is remarkable given that we have 109 team members, total!


To build excitement and to make sure that every nominee felt valued, we invited each one to stand up front at an all-team meeting. Each one received applause and recognition as they made their way to the front of the of the meeting room. Newer and longtime tenured nominees from every division took their place next to peers from different generations. Next, accompanied by a thunderous desk pounding drumroll, each winner was named and stepped forward to receive a power bank. For our first quarterly Change Champs Award, the four winners were:


Brandon Cobb – Fundraising
Marena Gammons – Community Impact
Mary Jones – Community Impact
Jake Roesler – Operations, Marketing and the President’s Office


Change can be made considerably easier when volunteer Change Champs model the new behaviors and processes for others and share their enthusiasm. Attitudes are contagious – when your organization celebrates Change Champs, more team members embrace the future state!


About the blogger

Nancy S. Ahlrichs, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, is an author, international speaker and talent management expert who rejoined United Way of Central Indiana in 2017 for her “second tour” as Chief Talent Officer. Since her arrival, she has led them to win 2018 Best Places to Work and the 2018 Mayor’s Diversity Award. She is a board member of the Indiana Blood Center and a past board member of the Kiwanis Club of Indianapolis. Nancy is a “Double Boiler with her BA and MS degrees from Purdue University.