How to Improve Employee Engagement in Times of Change

In the latest blog of Ipsos Loyalty UK, Antonis Kazouris, Research Executive at Ipsos LEAD, discusses the importance of employee engagement in times of change.

How to Improve Employee Engagement in Times of Change

An important area for every organisation that strives for success is employee engagement. However, the challenge for many is how to develop and maintain high levels of engagement.

It’s been proven time and again that engaged employees are more likely to have a better quality relationship with their employer, leading to more positive attitudes, intentions and behaviours. In addition, engagement can be a predictor of organisational performance, job satisfaction, organisational commitment and positive employee behaviour. As a result of all this, it is a highly regarded outcome that organisations are trying to achieve by creating a fruitful working environment that will eventually lead to more engaged and motivated employees.

This makes absolute sense. So why are many organisations failing to move the needle on engagement? One reason is because too many are looking for the quick win. “Let’s make some quick changes that will result in higher engagement, as people will see we are ‘doing stuff’”. The reality is this approach has the complete opposite effect.

Why so? Change is of course vital to boost the competitive advantage of an organisation but success depends on the change process, organisational outcomes expected and more importantly, in how employees react to change. For example, organisational change is considered to be the main source of job-related stress due to the inevitable feeling of uncertainty which is created when an employee’s skills or efforts to adapt to the change are not enough. It is therefore crucial that employers consider the effect of change on their people. Make sure you attempt to mitigate the negative effects of change on an employee’s health and wellbeing through how they manage any change process.

If changes are perceived as highly unpredictable, it will have a negative effect and will likely lead to increased levels of fatigue and anxiety, dramatically reducing engagement. Change may of course arise from external influences, for example the government fund policies to the public sector (e.g. NHS), which leads to a loss of control. In most of these cases, change will again negatively impact employee engagement and employee perceptions.

So, how should you approach change? What is the silver bullet?

  • Ensure your managers follow a detailed and long term action plan that will enable them to observe their team’s reactions during the action planning process and make sure you have a flexible mindset to adjust an action plan if needed.
  • Ensure there is a robust organisational change communications plan in place, one that will increase engagement, reduce anxiety and stress and ultimately, raise employee wellbeing. Therefore, it is important that your managers keep a transparent and consistent message that enhances employee’s participation and involvement in the change process.
  • Personalise the changes between different teams and departments within an organisation. This will positively impact the perceptions of employees and will improve buy in from employees and thus improve engagement levels.

In summary, organisational changes can impact, significantly, engagement either in a positive or a negative way. So, make sure your managers are able to identify the best possible way to communicate and implement changes in a way that they will eventually have a positive effect on engagement and organisational performance. Make sure your managers are aware that there is no “one size fits all” action plan and any change needs to be a result of constant communication and understanding of how your employees’ perceptions and psychological contracts align with the organisational goals and strategy.