Employee Engagement – The Crux of Successful Change Management

Employee Engagement – The Crux of Successful Change Management


Organisational change has become the norm in the contemporary workplace, due to globalisation, rapid enhancements in technology and an increasingly competitive economic landscape. However, staff still tend to be reluctant to accept and adapt to changes and this has n effect on employee engagement. As organisations are dependent on their employees to ensure their success, it poses a very serious threat to the productivity and sustainability of organisations when their people are reluctant to embrace change.

When change takes place, employees tend to experience a very normal emotional transition. Some of the feelings that employees may experience include fear, loss, distrust, shock and bewilderment. In many change management strategies, the leaders who are responsible for the change strategy do not have the awareness or skills to deal with these feelings. When these feelings are not acknowledged and managed in a positive way, it may lead to a persistence in these emotions. The feelings may be felt more intensely and in some cases, can even result in serious mal-adaptive behaviour. These emotions will quite often be accompanied by feelings of anger toward the leaders that are imposing the changes on them and, in an attempt to protect their own emotional wellbeing, employees tend to disengage emotionally from the change process.


Change managers and change champions need to assist employees in dealing with their emotions related to the change process, by keeping them engaged in the process.  The ways in which change agents can engage staff members in the change process is to get their input during the planning of change, involve employees in key decisions that may affect them, help staff members manage loss related to change and keep everyone focused on the goals related to the change strategy.




If a company doesn’t involve employees from the onset of the change process it, will be very difficult to get their buy-in at a later stage. It is important to explain the rationale behind the changes and get employees’ input on how the changes should be managed and implemented. If employees are involved from the beginning, it will not come as such a shock to them when the changes are announced. Instead, it will give them a sense of ownership and understanding of the changes and it will allow the organisation to implement changes that best suit strategy, organisational culture, operations and, of course, the company’s most valuable assets, namely, its people. When planning the changes, the process should be broken down into smaller stages and initiatives. When employees have a full overview of the changes and understand when and how the changes will be implemented, it will help them cope with the changes when they come, and have a positive effect on employee engagement.




Managers who are tasked with implementing organisational change should get input from employees before making decisions that will directly impact their work. As employees are subject matter experts within their own fields and areas of responsibility, they would be the best points of contact to consult with on advising change managers on the timelines and resources that are required to implement the changes. Employees are also valuable assets to utilise when it comes to brainstorming about the practical feasibility of implementing certain change initiatives. People typically find it easier to agree to ideas when they feel that they have been consulted and when they feel that they have had the opportunity to influence the idea in some way.




Change could mean that employees lose something. It may be the loss of a routine, process, system, task or even a colleague. No matter how trivial the loss may appear, it may impact an employee’s confidence and sense of security, and the loss needs to be acknowledged. Change managers need to assist their employees to make a good transition by having discussion forums either in a group or individual format. When individuals feel that their emotions are acknowledged and respected, it will assist them to accept the changes more readily. Also, when individuals have the opportunity to convey their concerns it may be a good idea to get their input on constructive ways in which these concerns could be addressed and, subsequently, lead to a more rigorous change process.




When employees understand the argument and need for change, it will be easier for them to stay focused on what needs to be achieved. Organisations need to communicate the reasons behind the change initiative and the goals that need to be achieved on a frequent, consistent and positive basis. Have conversations with employees regarding the ways that they prefer the changes be communicated to them. Ask employees what their perspectives are in terms of the organisation achieving its change mandate and whether the changes align with the organisation’s values, ethics, strategy and key operational outcomes. Individuals tend to accept changes easier when change is imbedded into the organisational culture. Employees respond better to change when organisations position change as part of a culture of continuous improvement that is being strived towards within the company.


Finally, always remember that change needs to be managed very carefully as we are dealing with people’s hearts.

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