Riding through times of change
By JI-HAO, LEE
Although successful organisations often apply a modest, continuous level of change, in the past few years, organisations have had to employ significant business and talent survival tactics in response to challenging economic conditions.
Times of change can cause employees to feel confused or unsure about how they will fit in after the change.
During these uncertain times, it can be difficult for employees to remain focused and stay productive.
Therefore, maintaining employee engagement in the midst of organisational change is a key element in the success of a change initiative.
Employee engagement measurements (Aon Hewitt) demonstrate that engaged employees say good things about working at an organisation, have a desire to stay and be part of the organisation and they strive to give extra discretionary effort at work.
Employee engagement becomes particularly important during times of change because a highly engaged workforce is more likely to embrace and drive the change while a disengaged workforce might cause resistance.
Transformational changes such as mergers and acquisitions (M&A), strategy transformation and restructuring affect engagement, but many organisations struggle with effective strategies and actions to help improve engagement during the change.
Mergers and acquisitions
While understanding one’s career path is a critical driver in contexts of restructuring or strategy transformation, it is overtaken by having visible senior leadership during M&A.
Employees want to see and hear from their senior leaders to help them understand where the new organisation is heading, and how the change influences their jobs.
It also appears as if employees value skill development during M&A where these skills and behaviours may be vital for the newly integrated business model.
Restructuring efforts usually result in elimination of jobs; these events affect employees in a very personal and tangible way.
Remaining employees may also fear for their jobs, while at the same time they may be required to take on the work of eliminated positions.
Employees in these situations can be engaged through observing their co-workers make personal sacrifices for the sake of the organisation and ensuring that employees can depend on others within a work group.
These situations usually mean letting go of old behaviours and adopting new ones to compete in new markets and drive business value in a different way.
Organisational leaders can drive engagement during this type of transformation by keeping an open, two-way dialogue.
Employees want to feel as if they work in an environment that, despite the organisation’s modification of its core strategy, still values their input and enables good decision-making.
Driving Employee Engagement through Change
In order to keep employees engaged during times of change, it is important for organisations to assess, understand and take action as it undergoes transformation based on the following steps:
- Define the type of change the organisation is experiencing and what is required from employees.
- Measure engagement and other work experiences throughout the change.
- Tailor interventions that meet employees’ engagement needs during change.
- Develop an action plan with clear timelines and accountabilities, followed by implementation and communication to employees.
- Once the organisation implements action plans, it is critical to reinforce and ensure they don’t lose steam throughout the change process.
With change happening all around us, organisations that recognise the significant impact of employee engagement and take action to measure and manage it will come out ahead. It may be challenging but not impossible to maintain high levels of engagement during change.
One of Aon Hewitt’s Best Employers in Malaysia, Agilent Technologies is no stranger to organisational transformation and change.
Agilent has grown at a fast pace going through several spinoffs, transformations and IPOs (initial public offerings) globally in the last 15 years, while being able to maintain the momentum of continuously improving employee engagement in their journey to becoming a Best Employer in 2009 and 2013.
Therefore, taking the first step in a change management strategy – measuring engagement and what drives it for the organisation is an important element in enabling organisations to effectively manage the opportunities and risks associated with most types of change and transformation.
To measure and improve employee engagement, the Aon Hewitt Best Employers Malaysia 2015 programme, in partnership with TalentCorp Malaysia and myStarjob.com provides a platform to identify engagement levels, leadership effectiveness, employer brand and culture to drive high performance.
Best practices in talent management are shared with participating organisations and results are benchmarked against other aspiring or recognised Best Employers in Malaysia and Asia.