Change can be scary. It’s even scarier if it happens at work and it feels like there’s nothing you can do about it. Keeping employees engaged during these times can have a huge impact on the outcome of the changes.
Whether it’s a merger or acquisition, organizational restructuring, a change in strategy, or something else, it can be hard for employees to wrap their heads around change and accept what’s happening as the new norm.
18% of employees would consider leaving their job if a big organizational change occurred.
While I haven’t experienced this in a job myself, I have seen a couple of companies my friends worked for go through big changes.
It resulted in turnover so high that pretty much everyone who’d been there pre-transition was gone within a year or two. That’s a lot of money wasted on hiring because the change led to super disengaged employees.
Change in any part of our lives can be stressful, so it’s hardly surprising that 73% of employees affected by change say they’re suffering from moderate to high stress levels. That can have a big impact not just on employee engagement, but on productivity, retention, and even mental and physical health. It’s really unsurprising so many of my friends’ colleagues left.
And, when you consider that 75% of transformation efforts don’t deliver the results change-makers hoped for…it makes you wonder if it’s even worth it.
It doesn’t have to be that way, though.
Here are five ideas for keeping employees engaged through organizational changes:
Make leaders visible
The biggest reason employees resist change is a lack of trust in leadership. That can only improve when leaders are visible and clearly communicate with employees.
How can they do that?
There are endless ways, whether you’re in an office or remote:
- Posting internally on Slack, Teams, Workrowd, or whatever your company uses (not just to criticize or complain, but to compliment or even just initiate small talk)
- Posting regularly to social media on somewhere like LinkedIn to humanize you to employees
- Hosting ask me anythings (AMAs)
- Making an active effort to talk to as many employees as possible and get their views
- Holding live video streams for company updates
The more you openly and honestly communicate with employees, the more likely they are to trust you. The more they trust you, the more successful you’re likely to be at keeping employees engaged.
If they think you’re opaque or inaccessible, warning signals are going to go off in their minds and they’ll be less accepting and trusting as a result.
Keeping employees engaged through transitional changes isn’t just about making leaders visible. It’s also about being honest with employees. They need to know what’s happening.
So, share as much information as you can with them.
What’s the reason for the change?
Which departments will it affect? How and when will they be impacted?
Will there be new functions or ways of doing things going forward?
The more you can share with them, the more accepting they’re likely to be about the change.
It may help to have regular meetings with employees to keep them informed of how the change is going, since it won’t be a one-day thing.
Team members will appreciate your honesty and transparency and reward you with their loyalty and trust. That alone will go a long way towards helping you meet your goal of keeping employees engaged.
Let employees express their opinions
One of the ways you can make change less scary for employees is by making them feel like their voices are valued. Just by allowing them to voice their concerns, they’ll feel a little more in control. And, crucially, more valued in the workplace, so that keeping employees engaged will be easier.
For a successful transition of any kind to happen, employees need to know what’s happening and feel heard.
You don’t have to like what they have to say, nor do you have to act on it, but you have to give them a way to share their thoughts.
If they feel like they’re being silenced or ignored, they’re less likely to accept the change.
Sometimes, all people need is to get something off their chest. Once they’ve done that, they’re more likely to get onboard.
You could collect their feedback via a questionnaire or survey; host a Q&A; organize a drop-in session for them to speak to senior leaders; or ask team leads about what their employees have said to them.
The more avenues you use to collect feedback, the more likely you are to get a clear picture of how employees really feel about what’s going on. And what steps you can be taking towards keeping employees engaged.
While negative feedback is never comfortable, censoring employees’ negative comments about the transition will only fuel the fire.
They need to feel heard and supported, otherwise they’re going to feel angry and silenced.
And the more angry and silenced they feel, the bigger the risk of a backlash, whether that’s through mass resignations, negative reviews, decreased morale, or something else. Regardless of how it manifests, it’s inevitable that dissatisfied employees will impact your bottom line.
Set an example
Employees will follow the lead of their managers. So, by leaders setting an example, it can help put employees at ease.
They could do this by:
- Being open about how they feel about the change(s)
- Adopting, and embracing, new behaviors or attitudes
- Listening to employees’ thoughts on how things are going (and passing on any feedback)
- Making employees feel psychologically safe at work
Change at work can be scary for employees and lead to them feeling increased levels of stress. This can present some big challenges when you’re focused on keeping employees engaged.
By clearly communicating with them about what’s happening and allowing them to voice their concerns, you’re far less likely to suffer from the negative consequences that can come from organizational changes.
If you’re ready to make keeping employees engaged more of a ‘set it and forget’-type effort, Workrowd’s suite of tools can help. With streamlined communications, program and events management, and automated surveys and analytics all under one roof, you can easily support your workforce through all sorts of ups and downs.