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Engage Employees in Change

It matters to ensure support and adoption

When change is launched in an organization, there is an expectation among senior leadership that it will be successful. Sometimes this assumption is made because the change appears to be minor and “not a big deal.” Other times this assumption is made because senior leadership understands why the change must happen and assumes that employees have the same understanding (in reality; they don’t since employees are not often privy to the same information that executives are privy to.)

Regardless of the type or complexity of a change, it is essential to engage employees in the change. In the initial stages, this should be done via communications about what is happening, why, when and how.

Employees drive the success – or failure – of change in an organization; not leadership. Certainly, leadership must provide a vision for the change and must champion the change; but it is the employees who must adopt the change and make it a success. Organizations that realize this do a far better job of launching change initiatives that are successfully adopted throughout the company.

Consider this situation…

One of Abudi Consulting Group’s (ACG) clients, a global pharma organization, was about to merge with another pharma organization. Leaders of both organizations knew that there would be concerns around the merger and, in particular, what it would mean for employees’ jobs. In addition to this primary concern of employees, both leaders knew there would be many other questions that would arise; some of which they could answer now and others that would have to wait until later when more information was available.

In this situation, because our client was thinking about the reaction of employees ahead of meeting with them, they would be able to prepare for questions that are likely to arise. Even if they couldn’t address every question – for example – what might this merger mean for every employee’s particular role in the organization – they would be able to acknowledge that this is likely top of mind for employees and therefore will be addressed as soon as possible.

What I have found is that even when an answer is not available, acknowledging that there is a question/concern of employees that will have to be addressed enables for increased comfort. Ignoring that the concern exists, or brushing it aside if it is brought up, does not help to keep employees focused and engaged throughout a major change.

Back to our client story…

ACG got together with the leaders of both organizations to strategize and plan for their upcoming employee meetings regarding the merger. This enabled for consistency in information shared by both organizational leaders. We listed the expected concerns and questions that would arise and collaborated to plan responses to those questions. Concerns and questions we expected that would arise included, for example: what will happen to my job; will I need to relocate; why is this merger happening; who will I report to; will benefits change; will my job change. When a definitive answer was not possible, we would be honest and upfront with employees and tell them what was known and when additional information was expected.

Develop a Communication Strategy

In the early stages of a substantial, transformational change in the organization – whether a major restructuring, a merger and acquisition, or some other significant change – develop a communication strategy.

Below is an example of a partially completed communication strategy for one of ACG’s clients.

Communication Strategy

Change Project: Process improvement change initiative

Objective: To eliminate redundancies in processes that have developed through organic growth of three key areas within the organization.
Impacted Groups: Marketing, Sales, Operations
Number of impacted employees: 150 employees between all three departments involved
Other impacted individuals/employees/external parties: 2 vendors
Key Change Management Personnel



Primary Role

Jack Smith CEO Change Sponsor
Abigail Adams SVP Marketing Change Leader
Allan Johnson SVP Sales Change Leader
James Sanders SVP Operations Change Leader
John Pearson Sr. Project Manager Change Manager
Jeremy Fanland Communication Supervisor Communication Contact
Communication Tools and Channels


Primary Use of Tool/Channel

Department Meetings Initial communication by each change leader to their department; prior to email to entire organization
All Staff Meetings Communication to share information, ensure everyone hears same information, answer questions
Email To communicate organization-wide to notify of change initiative and for regular update on change initiative
Surveys To gather data to structure the change initiative from those most closely impacted
Focus Groups Follow up to surveys; used to gather feedback throughout implementation
Internal Portal/Website Another source for employees from throughout the organization to get information about the change initiative and share their thoughts/feedback
Internal Stakeholders and Information Requirements

Stakeholder Group

Information Requirements

  • Benefits of change
  • Training to be provided
  • Regular updates
  • Etc.
  • Benefits of change
  • Training to be provided
  • How to communicate with customers
  • Regular updates
  • Etc.
  • Benefits of change
  • Training to be provided
  • Regular updates
  • Etc.
All employees
  • Initial communication about the why of the change
  • Regular updates about what is going on
External Stakeholders and Information Requirements

Stakeholder Group

Information Requirements

Vendor A
  • What’s happening and why
  • Impact from initiative
  • Etc.
Vendor B
  • What’s happening and why
  • Impact from initiative
  • Etc.
  • Benefits to customers
Distribution of Information: Primary Point of Contact: Jeremy Fanland, Communication Supervisor
Requirements for Distributing Information

Communication Component

Due Date


Distribution Methods

Presentation Dec xx, 20xx All employees At all staff meeting, via email
Internal portal Dec xx, 20xx All employees Share portal access via email
Requirements for Information Gathering and Reporting

Information Input

Person(s) Responsible for Collecting and Reporting

Person(s) Responsible for Submitting Information

Due Date

Information for presentation Marketing, Sales, Operations Administrative personnel Marketing administrator Dec xx, 20xx
Requirements for internal portal Marketing, Sales, Operations IT Group – Jason Simmons Nov xx, 20xx
Issue Escalation Process:
Approval of all communications to reside with Communication Supervisor. All communications to flow through Communication Supervisor. Any changes to planned communications – whether reduction in communications or additional communications will be considered an “issue” and must be approved.

Issues regarding communications will follow this process:

  • Meeting to be led by Communication Supervisor to understand and document issue
  • Issues with impacts between $x and $x or of not more than 2 weeks in duration: decision rests with Communication Supervisor
  • All other issues to be escalated to Change Sponsor and Change Leaders for decision
    • Include: 2 – 3 options to resolve; pros and cons of each option; Communication Supervisor to recommend option
Communication Plan Updates:
Communication plan to be evaluated every 3 months at a Change Team Monthly Meeting. Updates to occur as needed.
Revision History
Version Number Date Originator Reason for Change
1.0 Nov xx, 20xx Communication Supervisor N/A

The Initial Communication

Your initial communication regarding the change initiative should include:

  • A vision for the change (the “why”)
  • The expected impact of the change – list the positive and negative impacts that may surface and how they will be addressed or how they are being thought about
  • Feedback mechanisms that will be, or are, put in place for employees to provide their ideas, opinions, thoughts, suggestions, concerns and to ask questions

Back to our client story…

After the initial all team meetings that each leader had with their respective organizations, ACG worked with the leaders to create one initial communication that reiterated what was shared in the all staff meetings, provided a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section that answered the questions we expected employees had as well as the questions they raised, and provided access to a forum where employees could continue the conversation about the upcoming change and learn more. This helped to ensure that there were no misunderstandings of what was communicated and that everyone had the same information (and, of course, enabled for the leaders to effectively reach those employees who were unavailable to attend the all staff meetings.)

In Summary…

Change is never easy; and it is even more difficult when leadership does not engage their employees in a change initiative. To engage employees right from the start, communicate openly and honestly about the change; providing information that can be provided and is known, acknowledging that not everything is known and promising (and keeping that promise!) to provide more information as it is known/decisions are made.

Developing a communication strategy enables for ensuring that communications will happen regularly. At ACG, we have found with our clients that when we develop a strategy for communications around change, the client is more likely to follow that strategy; especially when we check in on communication status on a weekly basis when we check in on the status of the change project.

Interested in learning more about how to ensure change is embraced by employees in your organization; purchase Gina’s book on Implementing Positive Organizational Change: A Strategic Project Management Approach, J Ross Publishing, 2017. Contact Abudi Consulting Group today to learn more about how we support clients going through change in their organization.

Read another client story: Engaging Employees in Organizational Change: A Client Story – How Employees were Engaged after an Organization Change was Launched and Failing.

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