by Leo Jakobson | November 01, 2016

A meta-analysis of six-million-person global database of employee opinion surveys maintained by the management consulting firm Korn Ferry Hay Group confirms what top executives have long believed: periods of intense change, such as a merger or leadership transition, can have a dramatic impact on employee engagement and performance. 

The study, "One Definitive Guide to Engaging Through Change," found that employees' belief that their firm can retain top talent is 27 percent lower than the global average during times of change. In addition, employees' willingness to take reasonable risks drops 18 percent, their belief that poor performance is effectively addressed drops 16 percent, and agreement that the company is well managed and run drops 11 percent. 

The study, released in October, also finds that employees' belief that the company is keeping them informed about the performance of the business drops by nearly one fifth (19 percent) during these times of change.

"While no two changes are the same, many factors influence whether they succeed or fail," said Mark Royal, senior director of Korn Ferry Hay Group. "But we know from our work with clients across the globe that there are distinct 'dos' and 'don'ts' to help leaders engage and enable their people."

The report recommends five basic steps every organization should take to mitigate the impact of change:

* Engage Before the Change -- Work to develop strong engagement levels before change to help weather the storm.
* Make Communications Crystal Clear - At the start of a change event, commit to working with your leaders and internal communications team to create frequent, clear and consistent communications.
* Set Leaders Up for Success -- Coach and develop leaders, and help them understand their personal role in change.
* Support and Equip Managers -- Make sure managers have the tools, skills and ideas to engage their teams.
* Involve Your people -- Change impacts the entire organization. Develop ways to retain the best and brightest.

"Change can make the future look less certain, which gives your competitors a great opportunity to try to snatch your best people," Royal added. "Make sure you know who your high performers and high potentials are, then think about proactively engaging them. This is especially true for new hires, who may have signed up to work for a very different organization from the one it's about to become."