Today more than ever, companies are recognizing the critical importance of employee engagement particularly during times of transformation. Research has linked the way an employee feels about his or her job to several crucial business metrics including leadership development, overall profits and customer engagement.

Unfortunately, while employee disengagement is a challenge that regularly confronts the global workforce, it can be particularly problematic to an organization that is trying to transform. Employees can easily become disengaged during organization-wide change especially when they feel left out of that process, or unsure of what their new role will be after the change. Disengaged employees can cause a delay in reaching the goals of major change, or, worse, cause a change to fail completely. Conversely, having engaged employees during major change can be the key to that change’s success. Here are some perspectives on successful employee engagement both before and during change.

Kaitlyn Carr, 2016. Key Factors for Building Engagement

“In almost every study on employee engagement, the number-one driver of work-related happiness and engagement is also the number-one driver of employee unhappiness and disengagement: your relationship with your immediate supervisor. You might have heard the adage that ‘people join good companies, but leave bad bosses.’ It’s true- if your boss is the bane of your existence, then you need to work to improve the relationship. In most dysfunctional manager/employee relationships, it is often a breakdown in communication that is causing the rift. Open up those channels and make an effort to reach an understanding.

Trust in leadership, which is generally built by leaders showing empathy and caring for the well being of the employees, is an essential factor in building engagement. Employees also need to have a good relationship with their immediate supervisor; this relationship can be a key factor in employee engagement or disengagement.”

Melanie Franklin, 2016. Change Success Criteria

“We need to recognize that the scope of our work is not only to build the rational case for change. We need to build the emotional case for change. Everyone impacted by the change needs to be able to identify for themselves what the change will mean for them. They need to be able to see the possibilities, and they need to feel excited by the potential that the change offers. As change practitioners, what we have to concentrate on implementing is not the change itself but the process, tools and techniques for enabling change to happen.”

Related: “Context and Conversation—Two Effective and FREE Tools to Use During Change Initiatives

Tammy Jordan, 2015. Managing Constant Change and Transition

“People generally feel ok with change because it isn’t about them yet. People can stay objective. However, the individual transition makes the change ‘real’ to the people through their own psychological process. For example, if I think of the new software change coming down the road, I’m ok with it when it’s announced in emails. However, as soon as I’m trying to implement the new software, my psychological process begins. Let’s suppose I wasn’t able to get properly trained and I continue to make many mistakes. I’m frustrated, overwhelmed and am afraid of looking like I don’t know my job. However, one of my colleagues in another department was able to go to three trainings on the new software and has a supervisor that is extremely supportive and has even used the software at a prior company. As you can imagine, our transitions are going to be very different . . .

. . . change agents have a dual role in successful change management strategies. Just as airline passengers are advised, in an emergency, to put on their own oxygen masks first before helping others — leaders need to first internalize and embrace the change themselves before they can effectively help others through it. How do you react to a new change? Do you fight, flight or freeze when things are uncertain? Knowing how you respond and using yourself as an example can help others understand that they are not alone in the process; as a change leader, show that you understand. Be vulnerable and talk about how you reacted to a past change; make the unknown an ok place to be. Experiment with change every day: sit with different people in meetings, mix up your schedule, take a class in a topic way out of your comfort zone. After all, leaders, especially change agents, must walk the talk and they will be looking to you to champion these strategies.”

Dr. Jevon Powell, 2012. Increase Employee Involvement using Pulse Surveys

“Employees want to feel heard. In fact, the desire to influence, interact with and have an impact on our environment is basic human nature. So when people feel powerless or micromanaged in their work, what do they do? Typically, they disengage themselves from that system either mentally (through reduced motivation and satisfaction) or physically (through turnover or counter-productive behavior).

How do you keep employees from disengaging? Two practices for encouraging employee involvement are important for every type of organization:

  • Establish processes to solicit (and act upon) employees’ ideas and input
  • Provide employees with the autonomy to make decisions (large or small)

Linda Ackerman Anderson, 2009. Awake at the Wheel: Moving Beyond Change to Conscious Change Leadership

“Transformation will only occur when a critical mass of the organization has undergone the required mindset change to perform in ways that produce the desired outcome. The fastest way to achieve critical mass, as well as widespread commitment to the change, is through whole system involvement in the process. All stakeholders must be included in shaping the future and the process of creating it. Large group interventions such as ‘Future Search’ (Weisbord, 1995), ‘Real Time Strategic Change’ (Jacobs, 1994), ‘Visioning and Design Conferences’ (Axelrod, 1992), ‘Whole-Scale Change’ (Dannemiller, et al, 2000), and ‘Open Space’ (Owen, 1997) are excellent ways to generate collective intelligence on various aspects of the change, heighten commitment and excitement, and alter both people’s mindsets and the organization’s culture. These interventions are key acceleration strategies for every phase of the change process, allowing major pieces of work to be accomplished in much shorter time.”