Engaging for change

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During change efforts, employee engagement is not to be seen as a bolt-on program to check how employees are feeling or what they want— it has to be a way for leaders, managers, and employees to collaborate for the success of the organization

Workplace transformation due to disruptions has become a norm and is no longer an exception. Every organization is facing several disruptive forces like rapidly changing technologies, new business models, automation, mergers, acquisitions, innovation, talent shortages etc. and these are the changes that are redefining how companies generate and deliver value to customers. These disruptions create challenges and opportunities for HR professionals such as leveraging the advanced technologies to provide better employee experience and attracting and retaining scarce digital talent. Majority of business leaders say transformation and employee engagement are important but in practice, these are handled differently. While transformations are unavoidable, it becomes imperative for leadership and HR teams to lead and engage employees through these disruptions successfully. One consequence of such disruptive transformations is a feeling of ‘change anxiety’ and fear at the individual employee level and organizational level resulting in disengagement and productivity impact.

‘Engaging for Change’ has to be the recipe for successful implementation of any transformational initiative. During change efforts, employee engagement is not to be seen as bolt-on program to check how employees are feeling or what they want. It has to be a way for the leaders, managers, and employees to collaborate for the success of the organization. The important element of employee engagement is to build trust. Trust emerges when people believe in what organization believes and it emerges from the common values and beliefs practiced every day. When we are surrounded with people who trust us and whom we trust, we are a lot more confident, we are open to taking risk, failing and exploring. Hence, engagement should embrace principles of personal connect, communication, collaboration and empathy. Sustaining employee engagement during disruptive changes requires empowering employees at all levels and encouraging them constantly to look for newer, agile, and effective ways of getting better outcomes. An organization going through change is like an elastic band — if tension is released, it will return to its original form.

Here are some of the ways we can embed employee engagement into the transformation program:

Getting employees on board: Getting employee commitment to change matters more than anything else. This requires extensive communication by leaders and managers through various means including individual-level reach.

Muddle in the middle: The link between frontline employees and leadership in any organization is the middle-managers. In many change efforts, not much time is spent in building common clarity about change as is shared by top leadership resulting in their inability to translate that coherently to the employees in their teams. This lack of clarity gives birth to employee discontent.

Create positivity: While it is true that any change effort generates pressures of anxiety among employees, leaders should place the spotlight on positive outcomes of this change and challenge employees to participate by contributing to those outcomes and help them join collaborative tasks or innovation jams/Hackathons.

Change as a journey: Instead of pushing transformation as a milestone, organizations should allow employees to embrace new ways, make room for failures, and celebrate the lessons learned to achieve a high degree of trust. It will help build a culture where transformation is seen as an ongoing process for self-growth and progress.

Identify game-changers: In our current digital and interconnected world, many employees are well-informed and know what matters to them and the organization. They are highly engaged and can be leveraged to serve as contagion influencers in their peer groups and build a positive momentum for the transformation effort.

Communicate successes: Communicating and celebrating success stories helps convert those who are on the fence. We can effectively leverage technology such as enterprise social, digital apps and gamified approach.

One size doesn’t fit all: Understand employee pulse and engagement drivers across different segments and design tailored interventions.

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