Organisation : Employee Engagement in the Face of Change

Andrea has more than 17 years experience in performance-based change management with companies in diverse business sectors. She works with Fortune 500 companies to guide the leadership development aspect of large scale change efforts. She formed Morningstar Ventures to help today’s companies create sustainable change in performance by influencing and enhancing leadership.

Andrea is recognized industry-wide having authored numerous development programs throughout her career. She received her Bachelor of Science from Millikin University, her Consulting Practices Certification from the Meridian Institute, and she completed graduate studies at University of Kentucky, Lexington.

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What is Employee Engagement?

The traditional definition: The degree to which employees are personally committed to helping an organization by doing a better job than what is required to hold the job.

I consider that definition incomplete at best. It sounds like a tactic for organizations to continue to get more for less. At the same time, no one can argue that it defines what we all want, whether you are the CEO or the shareholder, or the manager or co-worker of the employee that is engaged to the point of going above and beyond what is required.

I’d prefer to add a more employee-centric definition: Engagement is when employees get to utilize their skills, strengths, and innate creativity, and to contribute to something meaningful. Then it follows that they will put forth careful effort, demonstrate motivation, and perform at an above-average level. Thus leading to what we all want as business leaders: improved business results.

What difference does it make?

The statement that employee engagement leads to tangible business results is not just an opinion. It’s backed up by extensive research utilizing hundreds of focus groups and thousands of employee interviews at all levels in diverse industries worldwide. Employee engagement impacts business outcomes.

How do you know when you have it?

One way to know is to ask. Regular employee satisfaction surveys are a standard process in most large organizations. But the more important question might be: What does it look like? Poor engagement results on an employee opinion survey should not surprise leaders. The signs were there all along, waiting to be noticed.

What produces employee engagement?


What kind of connection?

  • Connection to the strategic direction of the company
  • Connection to the direct manager
  • Connection to personal empowerment

Why does change – any change – endanger employee engagement? Change threatens the modes of connection.

Connection to Strategic Direction

When there is organizational change, whether due to merger/acquisition, leadership change, or competitive and economic pressures or opportunities, there is usually some significant change in strategic direction. And often the employees that we wish to keep engaged are the last to be informed of the reason for the change in direction, what the new direction is, and why it holds promise for the future. A dropped connection.

Connection to the Manager

Time and time again, research shows us that employees are not loyal to companies – they are loyal to people. The direct manager has the single biggest impact on employee engagement. And if these managers, from team leaders through senior executive, are not engaged themselves, or are incapable of communicating the reasons for – and payoff of – change, in ways that enlighten and inspire, the front-line employees will remain disconnected from the company. That impacts their ability to connect with the customer.

Connection to Personal Empowerment

A key lever for building engagement in the face of change is building or restoring a sense of personal empowerment, which includes resilience, personal responsibility, and uncommon fortitude. It is normal for people to question these traits and inner qualities in the face of change. But what can leaders do about that?

Restoring or growing personal empowerment is perhaps the most difficult and yet is also the highest impact route to employee engagement. This path involves teaching, coaching and reminding that the mindsets and resulting day-to-day behavior of each and every employee does more to impact the success of an organization than anything the executive team can implement. Of course, leaders must believe this in order to affect it, and they must have the skills to instill resourcefulness and responsibility, and to empower in a way that demonstrates and assures employees that their ideas, opinions and efforts are making a difference.

Copyright 2008 Andrea Chilcote / Morningstar Ventures

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