The way you improve employee satisfaction after an organizational change

Door Henrieke van Bommel

Changes within an organization, like management changes, restructuring or mergers, have a considerable impact on employees. Sometimes their role changes, they are placed in another position or organizational unit, or they have to follow a training course to meet new requirements. But even if personnel changes are limited, there are still consequences for employees.

This was also the case with an organization in the culture sector, where a new director had been appointed. He made a number of changes and opted for a more commercial approach. Some of the changes caused unrest among employees. The management was keen to remove this unrest and therefore sought the help of Highberg.

Henrieke van Bommel is an Analytics Translator at Highberg and is happy to tell you about this process.

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How satisfied are the employees and what could be improved?

The reason for the research was that people were less satisfied than before. But how do you investigate how satisfied people are and why? Henrieke explains: ‘In such a situation, you naturally not only want to know what the current state of affairs is, but above all where and what you can improve. Our proposal was therefore to first start with a qualitative study with interviews, and to follow that up with quantitative research with a questionnaire.

‘You then have a nice combination of more in-depth information with a smaller group, which you can then test with the entire population. At Highberg we have a lot of experience with both qualitative and quantitative research, and we are also good at combining both. ‘

With Highberg, the research is confidential

That is not the only advantage of choosing a party like Highberg. Henrieke explains: ‘The big advantage of conducting this research together with an external party is that the results remain anonymous for the organisation. For example, the management of this organization does not know who we spoke to during the interviews.’

‘We also sent out the questionnaire in the second part of the study. Ultimately, the client only sees the aggregated data, without data about individual employees or access to the individual results. Those cannot be traced from the data either. For the organisation itself, the research is therefore completely anonymous and confidential.’

Selecting a representative group of participants

As mentioned, the research started with interviews. Henrieke: ‘We first put together a group of people we wanted to interview. We looked at as many employees as possible from different groups. In total, there were twenty people, and we tried to speak to people from all walks of life. We created a confidential environment so that people dared to tell their story.’

Gather valuable information with the interviews

The goal is to get the most valuable information possible from the interviews. Henrieke: ‘We really invited the participants to share everything about what exactly is going on within the organization and what they think needs to improve. These were sensitive issues because there was a lot at stake. You only get this to the surface if you bring in an independent third party. By carrying it out in this way, you inspire confidence that you are serious about it.’

Henrieke van Bommel

‘What we ultimately wanted to achieve were improvement points to reconnect with each other. That employees work together in a pleasant way as well as with management, in a pleasant working atmosphere. We focused on internal communication, because it turned out to be a prerequisite for that mutual connection.’

After interviews, quantifying is the next step

‘Based on the results of the qualitative research, topics are determined that are reflected in the questionnaire. On such a topic, such as leadership or communication, you then ask several questions. We always work with certain constructs that contain fixed questions. In this way you can question all employees of the organization in a structured way.’

‘Topics covered in the questionnaire included the eNPS (Employer Net Promoter Score), but also work culture, undesirable behaviour, internal communication, collaboration and more. The response rate was over 80%. That is quite high and indicates that the employees find the research important. We analysed the results and then summarised them in a final report. The beauty of a combined qualitative and quantitative study is that you can interpret the results from the questionnaire with the results from the interviews together with the information that people give in the open-ended questions.’

Presenting results and next steps

Finally, the final report was presented to the MT and the works council. Henrieke: ‘The results were quite intense. Of course, they knew that things were going on, but the research made that very concrete. For example, it has revealed that problems did not only occur in certain parts of the organization, as they thought, but that it was actually an issue for the entire organization. We have also issued an advice with the report, recommending that a culture change process be initiated. With that, we have completed this project and the next steps can be determined.’

Strong involvement within the process

Henrieke was positively surprised about the involvement in the process. ‘It was nice to see that everyone attached a lot of value to it. For example, our proposal had to go through the Works Council. We received quick feedback and a positive response back. The employees were also very involved. Everyone wanted to cooperate, even from their holiday address if that was convenient! Also, the fact that not a single interview was cancelled says something. I sometimes see it differently.’

Strong combination of qualitative and quantitative research

The research has yielded a lot of valuable information. Henrieke: ‘The subject of the research was and is extremely sensitive. Working with an external party is therefore key. People then have a safe place to tell their story.’

‘Moreover, the combination of qualitative and quantitative research is super. Firstly, because it gives employees confidence in the questionnaire. They know that it was drawn up on the basis of the interviews and therefore really applies to them. Secondly, the qualitative start is strong anyway. This allows you to share more background because you get more in-depth information from individual employees, while the research is carried out according to anonymous methods. Moreover, you come up with things that you may not have thought of in advance and otherwise would not have asked for. And now you can follow that up nicely with the quantitative questionnaire.’

Challenging process but very proud of the course and result

Delivering bad news is never fun, even with a study like this. Henrieke: ‘The biggest challenge was to present the rather negative outcomes in a good way. This is important, because, for example, undesirable behavior plays a role in many organizations. Such behavior is reported, but people are not satisfied with the follow-up. So, an organization must deal with that, that’s what I like to pass on. Visualize what happens with a report, so that people dare to speak up and you gain more insight. I am proud that we have been able to expose this, because only then can you change it! ‘

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