Although change is common among organizations, successful organizational change is far from typical. Why the low rate of success? There are likely a number of contributing factors, but research increasingly finds the importance of the often ignored, but invaluable resource called employees—specifically employee attitudes and behavioral reactions to change.
A new study (Shin et al., 2012) extends previous research on organizational change by highlighting two factors. The first factor is organizational inducements, which are valued tangible and intangible outcomes employee receive in exchange for contributing to organizational performance. The second factor is psychological resilience, which means a trait-like ability to recover from adversity and adapt to shifting demands. The researchers say that both of these factors are resources that need to be developed over time before organizational change begins. They also examine the mechanism by which these resources affect employee commitment to change.
THE RESEARCH STUDY
The authors used survey data collected during three time periods (over a 22 month period) from 234 employees and 45 managers at an IT company in South Korea undergoing large-scale organizational change. Results indicated that employees who perceived themselves as having received high levels of organizational inducements (e.g., career development, open communication with management, good healthcare benefits, competitive salary) tended to have higher commitment to change. This is because those resources helped employees feel good and have a better relationship with the organization. Also, employees with high resilience tended to express high commitment to change because of the good moods they experienced during the change.
PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS FOR ORGANIZATIONS
Based upon these results, four practical implications for managers were noted. First, it is important for managers to be aware of the importance of employee commitment to organizational change. Results show how employee commitment relates to discretionary behavior that can affect change implementation. Second, organizations should consider providing high levels of organizational inducements before initiating change to enhance employee commitment to change. In other words, companies would do well to be proactive rather than reactive to employee attitudes and behaviors towards change.
Third, employee psychological resilience should be considered for selection or for training interventions. Reportedly, resilience can be developed through training and social support. Finally, managers can enhance employee commitment to change and behavioral reactions to it by helping employees stay in good moods and improving social exchange. To do this, they may consider using words that express optimism and enthusiasm when discussing an upcoming change.
Shin, J., Taylor, M.S., & Seo, M. (2012). Resources for change: The relationships of organizational inducements and psychological resilience to employees’ attitudes and behaviors toward organizational change. Academy of Management Journal, 55(3), 727-748.