Embracing change management: Engaging employees for sustainable change – Part 3

Phil Merrell Embracing Change Management

Part 3 in a five-part blog series

One reason companies are so challenged by change management is because many of them operate differently than they did even a decade ago. The tall hierarchies through which leaders pushed directives are being replaced by flatter, less hierarchical, cross-functional and cross-border organization models. While these models deliver the benefits of more agile and collaborative working, they also present challenges when it comes to communicating change with employees.

Your communication methods have to adapt to this shift. And that means creating forums that welcome open dialog, collaboration and a trusting environment in which colleagues are comfortable voicing feelings and concerns – ‘stand up speak’ up is a rallying call often heard.

It’s not enough to simply inform your workforce about organizational change. You also need to inspire and engage them in the process as much as possible. It all goes back to agile leadership. Recognizing the need to be transparent and listening to their teams, agile leaders go beyond the traditional command-and-control leadership style to truly understand the barriers to change and new ways of working.

Here are four ways to improve employee engagement:

  1. Find opportunities to involve employees throughout the change process. You want them to feel like the change is happening with them, not to them. They need to feel like they have a voice and a skin in the game.
  2. Generate energy around the change by personally embodying the future state – in other words, “walking the talk.”
  3. Stay visible and accessible during difficult periods.
  4. Encourage dialog and respond to feedback. Even if changes can’t be made, simply acknowledging employees’ concerns and explaining why changes can’t be made can go a long way in winning employee support.

By engaging employees, you’re putting in the time and effort to work with your organization’s culture, which has multiple and often conflicting interests that can make change management complex. While some change leaders view their company’s culture as something to move on from, skilled leaders make the most of it by tapping into the ways people think, behave, work and feel to drive change and make it last.

Next week: Embracing change, part four: Early adopters enable cultural change that sticks


Phil Merrell is the ‎Director of Change Consulting, EMEA and Global Change Management Lead at ‎Willis Towers Watson.

Gaby Joyner is the Director of Willis Towers Watson’s Change Consulting practice in Great Britain.

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