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New Research: One in Three Employees Don’t Adapt to Changes at Work

Right Management survey finds workforce engagement and productivity at risk

New research from Philadelphia-based Right Management, a provider of talent and career management solutions, has found that 31 percent of employees are not able to adapt to changes at work, decreasing their effectiveness on the job and highlighting that engagement and productivity are at risk for many organizations.

Right Management surveyed over 100 senior human resource professionals across North America. The survey asked: Is your workforce able to adapt to change and increase their effectiveness on the job? Results were as follows:

• 31 percent—No, employee engagement and productivity are a major risk
• 43 percent—Somewhat, our workforce gets the job done, but morale suffers
• 26 percent—Yes, our workforce is very agile and responds to new challenges

"Addressing the challenges created by today’s tumultuous economy requires leaders to make a variety of difficult changes, from reductions in force to radical restructuring," notes Right Management President and Chief Operating Officer Douglas J. Matthews. "As our poll results demonstrate—with only one in four employees having the agility to adapt to change—most organizations don’t prepare their employees to handle changes at work. As a result, change management strategies tend to fail, undermining the organization's ability to achieve the goals the change initiative was designed to produce."

Matthews observes that the most common obstacles stem from a lack of planning, preparedness and skill in managing the change process. "With careful planning and the support from top leaders, organizations can help their workforces adapt to change, maintain employee engagement and productivity, and accelerate performance to new heights."

Failure to act can have severe consequences, cites Matthews. "Productivity drops, service quality declines, unwanted turnover and absenteeism increases, customer loyalty wanes and often the organization's brand reputation is tarnished. And all of that, of course, ultimately affects the bottom line."

Matthews cautions that most change management strategies tend to fail because of human nature. "Most people have a hard time dealing with change. But, more than that, they lack the specific behavior traits needed to adapt easily to difficult changing circumstances. Assessment instruments can help to evaluate an individual’s propensity to deal with change. Coaching can help them to bridge to behaviors that reflect competence. Understanding and developing the behaviors that help individuals adapt and thrive during change will enable organizations to realize significant benefits and ensure the company’s continued success."

Right Management conducted this research via an online poll in February and March, 2009. One hundred and seventeen North American human resource professionals responded.