Technology, coupled with the global economy, has accelerated the need for organizational change. Competition drives companies to take action or be left behind.
But it wouldn’t be right to talk about organizational change without considering the people who make up the organization. How do employees cope with sudden—and often significant—change in their workplace?
With the ever increasing demand for employees to change the way they work, I thought it might be worthwhile to look at how the modern employee reacts to change.
Towers Watson’s 2014 Global Workforce Study
Towers Watson’s 2014 “Global Workforce Study” interviewed more than 32,000 employees, drawn from medium-sized and large business organizations across a range of industries, and from 26 global markets. The aim was to take the pulse of changing attitudes that affect employees’ attraction, engagement, productivity and retention during organizational change.
Based on their research, I’ve compiled the hard hitting facts on how employees today view organizational change and what employers should be looking at in order to retain their best talent
1. 70% of Employees are Experiencing Change
The study found that more than 70% of employees had experienced major change in the last year. These included mergers and acquisitions, downsizing, outsourcing of jobs and general restructuring.
2. Organizations Expect Significant Change
Equally important, the study indicates that this level of change will most likely continue. Of the organizations surveyed, in the next 3 years, 69% expect to expand internationally; 55% expect a merger or acquisition; another 55% expect some sort of outsourcing or offshoring; and, 25% of employers believed that they would need to cut back on their staff.
While these changes are occurring, there will also be transformational changes that affect the day-to-day routine of employees. These include changing work hours, changing daily business operations and adopting new technologies.
Changing a technology will require employees to learn and adapt to the new system quickly and with a minimum of organizational disruption.
3. Change Negatively Impacts Employees’ Attitudes
The Global Workforce Study showed that staff experiencing major change in their organization have less positive views of the following aspects of their job, listed most negative to least.
- Company image
- Company leadership
- Personal their career development
- Their performance evaluation
- Customer focus, empowerment
- Compensation and benefits
- Training, engagement
4. Failed Change Doesn’t Make Employees Want More Change
The degree to which employees’ attitudes differ from the global average has much to do with change that has failed. If an organization is proactive with effective change and communication strategies, they are 3.5 times more likely to outperform companies that do not.
And many do.
Around 50% of change projects work well initially, however, in the long-term, only 25% meet their objectives.
5. An Employee’s Initial Attitude Affects How They Embrace Change
The change itself and the way it is managed are only part of the equation; a large part of how employees react to change is influenced by their existing attitude towards change.
In the Global Workforce Study, participants were asked if they like new experiences, embrace change, are usually among the first people to try new technologies and if they are happy to take risks to get the most out of life.
Those who agreed with these statements were more likely to prefer change. Those who prefer stability were more likely to disagree with those statements.
Further, the study found that employees who prefer change are three times more likely to be highly engaged at work than those who prefer stability.
How to Positively Impact Employee Attitudes During Change
The Global Workforce Study found three areas that employers should address in order to manage successful change.
Focus on the Fundamentals
Employees rely on the basics of their business organization to be effective regardless of the status of change. Don’t lose sight of the importance of aspects like leadership, communication, training, learning, and measurement during major changes.
Evaluate Employees Before and During Change
Fully evaluate the work culture, employee readiness for change and the impact of change on people. Having an understanding of this will shape strategies to better adapt to your specific challenges in the change process.
Training Managers for Change
Empower managers with the tools and information they need to be central to change. Effective training ensures they can make an impact and can be held accountable for the success of the change.
What We Learned From the Global Workforce Study
The rate at which change is happening is not expected to slow down anytime soon – and yet, to date, only one in four changes achieves its objective. The big question is how an organization can carry out change management effectively, giving them a competitive advantage, while not having to deal with high turnover rates or a loss in productivity.
Large organizational change can only be successful if change managers focus on engaging employees who will ultimately carry the weight of a changing workplace. Doing so requires a deep understanding of the different attitudes employees may have towards change and how to play to their strengths.