Challenges facing organisations

Insanity – doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Albert Einstein

After a sustained period of restructuring, redundancies and reorganisation organisations are coming out of a period of unprecedented change. This period has significantly impacted upon employee confidence and morale as it has been marked by: 

  • Negative messages
  • Downsizing and doing more with less
  • Focus on getting by and weathering the storm

The prevailing consensus is that we have bottomed out but an immediate return to pre-recession growth is unlikely. This has led to a new challenge facing Senior Management Teams - how do we enable employees to reengage as oppose to just get by? Companies are asking questions such as: 

  • How do we get our employees reconnected and realigned? 
  • How can we ensure our managers are managing for the right outcomes? 
  • How do we ensure our teams our effective and not just efficient?

Engagement research shows that, through planning and careful implementation organisations can significantly improve staff engagement leading to significantly increased performance levels. Research by the Corporate Leadership Council shows that 75% of workers are moderately committed1. While, such workers are often characterised by a willingness to do basics of job but little more, similar research shows that Senior Executives can have a significant impact upon discretionary effort through their interventions2.

  • High engagement drives performance – up to 20% increase in discretionary effort
  • Employees are twice as committed to their manager as to their job (73% v 34%)
  • Employees have a strong desire to understand their role in the organisation and what impact they can have upon its success
  • Creating a connection between what employees do and the organisation aims to achieve will increase engagement by one-third 
  • Communication is the single biggest factor that can increase engagement 
  • Taking culture into account can have up to 3 times the impact upon a successful change compared to rational interventions
  1. Don’t engage employees on renewal until any remaining restructuring is dealt with first.
    Companies need to have a conscious sequencing on engagement. Engaging employees on restructuring is not the same as engaging them on renewal.
  2. Humans are not machines; no two people will respond the same way. 
    Employees need to feel that they can influence the outcomes rather than have change done to them. It is important to remember that organisations approach change in a rational way (Strategy, Design, Implementation, Close) while human change is about endings and beginnings (Let go of the old, Make sense of the new, Adapt to it).
  3. Recognise and validate what people feel. 
    A key part of allowing employees to move forward is to give them the opportunity to deal with their frustrations and vent their any sense of loss that they have arising from the change process that they have been through. Keeping this bottled up inside can lead to dysfunctional behaviours. Staff need to be allowed work through the defence/ coping mechanisms that we bring into play when faced with change – Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance/Making Sense and Hope3.
  4. Managers and employees should own and shape their future.
    Behaviour changes happen at the point where individuals accept and make sense of the change – people realise that the world has moved on and that they need to adapt. We need to create an environment that enables employees to come to terms with the impact of the change and allows them to reengage in a positive way.
  5. Change happens through 1000 small steps.
    Enabling employees to sustain their reengagement requires quick wins. The positive impact on morale when employees can resolve problems or issues that have been causing difficulty for them should not be underestimated. Employees must see and feel that things are moving forward and getting better round here.

Renewal happens when you engage your employees in dealing with the outcome of the change process and involve them in designing a future that they can positively commit to. It happens through a series of small steps that directly involve your employees in the process. 

Senior management ownership and commitment is key; without it, staff will not buy what they are selling! Equally, management will need to adapt their leadership style to suit the different situations. While pacesetting may be appropriate for a restructuring process, a participative and coaching style will be needed for ensuring greater engagement.

  1. CORPORATE LEADERSHIP COUNCIL. (2004) Driving performance and retention through employee engagement. Washington: Corporate Leadership Council.
  2. CORPORATE EXECUTIVE BOARD. The top drivers of employee engagement. Washington: Corporate Executive Board.
  3. Kübler Ross model adapted.

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