More employees disengage when organizations don’t implement change well

Ninety-four per cent of employees who report that change was not handled well in their organizations are disengaged, according to a global study by Right Management. The research identifies the factors critical to change implementation effectiveness and the correlation with employee engagement. For employees who said leadership managed change effectively, only 40 per cent  were disengaged.

Right Management’s white paper, entitled “Ready, Get Set…Change! The Impact of Change on Workforce Productivity and Engagement,” summarizing the key findings drawn from research of 28,000 employees in 15 countries. The paper serves to demystify the change process and highlight key engagement drivers that senior leaders can use to effectively improve change management initiatives and results.

“Employee engagement is a key driver of organizational effectiveness and directly impacts productivity and profitability,” says Deborah Schroeder-Saulnier, senior vice president for global solutions at Right Management. “It’s a critical measure of person-organization alignment, expressed as employee satisfaction, commitment, pride and advocacy. Disengaged employees negatively impact productivity, customer retention, morale and satisfaction on the job.”

Schroeder-Saulnier notes that change is necessary for companies to evolve and respond to dynamic market conditions. “Given the constant need to navigate rapid change, such as organization restructurings, revamped product lines or the appointment of a new leader, it is imperative that organizations introduce systems to help their entire workforce to participate in and adapt to change. Leaders need to involve their workforce in change, not just impose it. They can be more effective in implementing changes by understanding behaviours that create obstacles. Agile organizations can be trained to embrace change, not only as a one-time event, but on an ongoing basis.”

Key findings from the global study include:
  • Best performing organizations manage change nearly four times more effectively. In top-performing companies (defined as those achieving higher revenue and above-average customer loyalty profit results), 60 per cent  of employees responded that “change is handled effectively in my organization,” compared to 16 per cent  of employees in below-average performing organizations.

  • Less than half (43 per cent ) of employees are confident in their organization’s change process.  One in three employees believes their organization does not handle change effectively.

  • The biggest downfall for senior leaders is the perception that they do not follow through on what they say they will do. Less than half (47 per cent ) agreed that senior leaders communicated change effectively; 54 per cent  of employees doubted senior leaders’ ability to respond appropriately to changing external conditions.

  • Organizations that do not manage change well are four times more likely to lose talent.  Twenty per cent of employees who perceived change was not handled effectively indicated they planned to leave within one year versus only 5 per cent of employees who held a favourable view. The latter planned to stay for at least five years.
  • Ineffective change management can lead to lower levels of job confidence. Of the employees who reported that change management was not handled well, 45 per cent  expressed favourable feelings about not losing their job within 12 months, while 32 per cent did not. This is in stark contrast to organizations with effective change management, where 80 per cent  of respondents had positive feelings about keeping their job versus only 7 per cent  who did not.

  • Ineffective change management negatively impacts an organization’s ability to attract talent. When employees reported that change was managed poorly in their organizations, 75 per cent of respondents had concerns with their company’s ability to attract talent.

Schroeder-Saulnier notes that employees are not always prepared to successfully embrace change, thwarting the organization’s ability to meet objectives. “Change is often perceived as threatening and can be distracting and disruptive to your organization’s ability to operate efficiently. Employees need to be treated as more than passive recipients of change.”

Copies of the white paper, “Ready, Get Set…Change! The Impact of Change on Workforce Productivity and Engagement,” can be obtained by contacting [email protected].

Right Management surveyed 28,810 employees across 10 industries in 15 countries (Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Demark, France, Germany, India, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, South Korea, Sweden, United Kingdom and the United States). The data was collected between November 2008 and January 2009.

Right Management ( is the talent and career management expert within Manpower, the global leader in employment services.