Skip to contentSkip to navigation

Maximizing employee engagement in times of change

|October 24, 2017
hand reaching for the sky
Written by

Mark Dailey


Times of fundamental change are always a significant test of an organization’s leadership, culture and character. But they can also provide the best opportunity to deepen employee engagement and provide the impetus to deliver successful, lasting change.

The default position for too many senior leadership teams is to assemble a team of consultants and legal and regulatory specialists. Often, what passes for employee engagement is making sure employees ‘get the memo’, but don’t feel engaged in the potential outcomes.

Trusting employees to help articulate and design the change that a firm needs to make – not just understand the rationale for it – is the best possible way for them to become committed, and remain so, during the turbulent time ahead.

During times of change, many leaders crave control. Often the biggest challenge in a time of transformative change is getting senior leadership to focus on, let alone prioritize, employee engagement.

This may stem from a basic distrust of ‘crowd-sourcing’ employee input. Many leaders fear raising employee expectations, feel that deadlines are too tight to engage, and fundamentally distrust employees’ ability to understand both the big picture and nuances needed to deliver change. The instinct instead is to hunker down and adopt a top-down, controlled approach to facing the change.

At Madano, and across the NATIONAL network, our priority as trusted advisors is to understand the unique dynamic between our clients’ leadership and their employees. During times of change, we remind them of the power of employee engagement in involving employees in the future of their organization.

One recent assignment shows the power of embracing employee engagement during a significant organizational shift. Our client needed to make a fundamental change in its business model. They moved from being product-centric to customer-centric, cut 20 per cent of the staff, simplified the product range, closed retail outlets and completely transformed the IT and sales platforms.

We worked alongside the CEO of the organization to develop and implement a new engagement strategy. As the period of change continued, Madano helped the client engage their staff from day one through the following tactics:

  1. Changing the narrative about their core product from boring and commoditized to a valuable service
  2. Diversifying their top-down communications from face-to-face briefings by department heads to using town halls, roadshows, CEO blogs, and video messaging from senior leaders
  3. Creating a shared and employee-driven online platform enabling employees to share information on the changes
  4. Building an employer brand with employee input that made holiday allocations, bonuses and learning opportunities more democratic
  5. Celebrating the first 9 months of change with a signal event, an internal annual general meeting, open to all 4,000 employees, to meet face-to-face and virtually using an app to monitor their involvement
  6. Involving employees in designing a branch of the future, helping to co-create the stores of the future
  7. Moving all employees (other than retail staff) into a shared HQ building, creating pride in their everyday work and a feeling of accomplishment in coping with the change

Why were our tactics effective? Because they built trust between management and employees during a time of risk and opportunity. It forged a strong bond between employees and management and encouraged creativity, innovation and accelerated acceptance of new ways of communicating that in normal circumstances might take ages to be adopted.

Tying the need for employee engagement directly to changing strategic business objectives is the best and fastest way to activate and invest engagement with meaning. Incorporating employees into this process is what makes it come alive for employees, and encourages the personal investment that drives positive engagement.

If you’d like to continue the conversation on preparing your organization for change, contact one of our experts leading our Employee Engagement offering.

——— Mark Dailey is a Senior Consultant at Madano, sister company of NATIONAL Public Relations