Global disruption and change: two familiar constants in the modern world. Today’s organisations face a range of challenges that require careful navigation and strategic decision-making. Economic uncertainty, technological disruption, changing consumer behaviour, talent acquisition and retention, regulatory compliance, cyber security threats and, sustainability and environmental concerns – each one or combination requires companies to innovate, adapt, expand, and reimagine ways of working.

Clear examples of organisations demonstrating innovation by embracing change include the likes of online retailers, moving from online bookstores to e-commerce giants, streaming services, reimagining the entertainment industry via its subscription-streaming service or car manufacturers, focussing on sustainable transportation.  But what are the characteristics that enable some organisations to grow and adapt while others flounder? What actions can organisations take to ensure they’re well-placed to transform? In times of disruption and ongoing uncertainty, how do companies cultivate change to thrive?

Looking at WTW’s global employee opinion database, there are a group of companies that act as a blueprint for navigating and leading change with unparalleled success. The actions they’ve taken have allowed them to drive great performance, even during times of disruption. In fact, those committed to change effectiveness are able to deliver 2.6 times greater revenue growth over three years, compared to companies that don’t have effective plans for change in place. We call these types of organisations ‘change accelerators’.

So, how can companies thrive during times of global disruption?

The first aspect focuses on creating the right environment to thrive. This can be achieved by prioritising three fundamental and strategic change management principles: insights, risk and people.

  1. Leveraging data and insights for organisational decision-making. Gathering data and insights has a wide range of benefits from building your business case for change, to assessing potential impact. It provides a real-time view on how change is adopted and a spotlight on where adjustments can be made. Insights captured from stakeholders can reveal hidden challenges or opportunities that can be easily overlooked, and continuous employee listening can monitor sentiment and reactions across your workforce allowing you to adapt your change strategies accordingly.
  2. Adopting a risk-focused approach to identify potential challenges, expose risks from disruptive innovations, regulatory changes or market fluctuations as well as hidden threats that may give rise to confusion, doubt or disengagement. A continuous monitoring of risk and tracking of key performance indicators such as behaviour change, utilisation, margin, retention, sustainability can enable organisations to refine their approach and adapt necessary interventions as needed.
  3. Focussing on the people aspects of change. Effective leadership can set the tone for change and create the desired employee experience that inspires others to follow suit. Providing the right resources to build the behaviours necessary for resilience and adaptability is critical. Because when individuals feel heard, valued and appropriately equipped, they are most likely to embrace change, new ways of working and actively contribute to an organisation’s success.

The second aspect requires organisations to place a spotlight on the four critical dimensions of Employee Experience: purpose, people, total rewards and work.

  1. Purpose. When employees understand why change is necessary and how change is aligned to a clear organisational purpose it enables individuals to connect their own values and aspirations with the company’s mission delivering personal ownership and motivation. Companies that frequently perform better than their peers also maintain a relentless focus on the purpose of why change is necessary or demonstrate their senior leadership has a clear vision for the future as reported by employees. The gap in perceptions of leaders managing change is 10% between high performing and average companies.
  2. Employees need to understand why changes are happening, how they’ll be personally impacted and what it will mean for the organisation. Leaders who build trust by offering clear and transparent communication and act in a manner that is honest and authentic (whilst acknowledging the challenges and risks) builds a stronger sense of community and essential levels of trust. The best companies not only outperform their peers financially, but employees also report their leaders manage change better, in fact there is an 11% difference in their reported experience.
  3. Total Rewards. Enabling and rewarding employees for their contributions can be the difference in driving the behaviours necessary for organisational success. Identifying both the monetary and non-monetary rewards offers reinforcement and commitment to change. With competition for talent considered by 77% of employers as a key issue, organisations are looking for their Total Rewards to work harder including in today’s financial climate, benefits specifically related to financial wellbeing and short-term finances. Enabling employees to see the full value of their employment has never been more necessary and organisations that demonstrate a leadership interested in the wellbeing of their employees to a higher degree than their competitors (by 8%) also perform more effectively.
  4. Work processes and the way that work is performed needs to align to how organisations are transforming or adapting to their environment. Change accelerators provide their employees with the training, tools and resources to make decisions efficiently, cultivate cultures of drive and continuous improvement and enable the organisational agility to remain competitive. Employees in these organisations are 16% more likely to agree decisions are made in a timely manner and 20% are more likely to agree they have the flexibility and autonomy to do what’s best for their customers.

Together, these aspects provide the key to unlocking an organisation’s potential for success. By focusing on insights, risk and people and valuing combined with integrating the employee experience in a meaningful way focussed on the aspects that will drive optimal value can present not just a challenge to an organisation, but also an opportunity – to become more agile, adaptative and to ultimately thrive.

Gaby Joyner 2023
Gaby Joyner
Head of EX at WTW | + posts

Gaby Joyner, who has been with the company for 23 years, is Head of WTW's Employee Experience business for Europe and Head of the Great Britain practice.