Can you change with the times?

Can you change with the times?


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If you have experienced organisational change that has impacted employee engagement and retention negatively, there may be reasons for understanding what has caused this.

Caroline Palmstedt, talent management lead for Asia Pacific at Monsanto, shares the neuroscience behind why organisational change can fail.

While most change projects focus on structural and process-orientated change strategies, few invest in the human side of change and the potential impact on employee engagement because of it.

According to a study by Corporate Executive Board (CEB) in 2013 there are three areas for concern when managing change:

  1. Employee performance during change.
  2. The disengaged stay.
  3. High potentials more likely to quit.

CEB found that disengaged employees are 36% more likely to stay during periods of change, while 25% of high potentials are more likely to quit. This is alarming to change projects requiring high-performing talent.

Moreover, organisational change negatively impacts commitment. It is not hard to understand the challenges leaders and human resource practitioners face managing change successfully.

“In times of change disengaged employees are 36% more likely to stay, while high potentials are 25% more inclined to leave the organisation”

The need to reduce risks of anticipation of change

Even the expectancy of change seems to negatively impact employee engagement. CEB’s analysis in 2013 found the mere anticipation of change impacted performance and retention more than the actual change.

In other words, expectation of change is more damaging than change itself. This calls for action and attention to talent performance and retention strategies.

Invest in talent development

Another important focus for change leaders is to maintain awareness of the need to invest in talent development during change.

During pressure to deliver change results, most leaders tend to focus on result optimisation rather than coach and develop their teams to manage change as well as contributing to its success.

Additionally, talent development investments may be reduced in favour of attending to structural change results.

HR practitioners play a crucial role in helping leaders overcome these manager barriers with robust talent development strategies in place.

Leaders coaching talent for development and recognising employees for coping with change will undoubtedly be more successful achieving change goals as well as contributing to building a culture of recognition and development.

“Managing change with people rather than to people is key for succeeding in change”

Help leaders overcome the 1% challenge

For leaders managing change, goal-setting becomes a priority, with a focus on process and structural goals rather than helping employees cope with change.

The Management Research Group investigated managers’ ability to deliver goals and address people’s needs at the same time.

It found that less than 1% of managers (0.7%) demonstrated both capabilities at the same time. A resounding 99% of managers lacked the combination of demonstrating simultaneously people skills and goal-focus skills.

Helping leaders help their brains to manage both goals and people simultaneously is a key leadership development area, creating an opportunity for human resource practitioners to add value to change projects.

“Less than 1% of leaders have the capacity to focus on the goal and people’s needs simultaneously.”

Crucial to managing change with employee engagement and retention as the focus is to provide certainty at all times, requiring transparent communication throughout change.

Leaders managing change create additional value to their organisation by attention to the hidden asset on the balance sheet – the people asset.

By focusing on employees’ journey of coping with change, and continuous efforts made on talent development, the positive impact to a change outcome can be considerable.

The opinions reflected on this piece are personal and do not represent the views of the employer and company.

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