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Management shakeups – be it from an acquisition, merger, or simply a changing of the guard – can be especially rough on employees. Teams often undergo restructuring, and staff members have to adjust to new management styles and expectations. Many employees may be nervous about losing their jobs or forfeiting gains that they’ve worked for under previous leaders.

The fallout from management transitions may range from employees being disgruntled and not performing as well, all the way to employees exiting and looking for a work environment that offers more stability. Rarely do large management transitions go off seamlessly. However, there are ways to mitigate against turnover and to keep employees engaged during the change.

How? It starts by listening to your employees, and the best tool to conduct effective listening is with qualitative research.

Wait, but isn’t qualitative research used in advertising?

Many people associate qualitative research with advertising. One of the most popular methods is focus groups, where people are assembled and asked their opinions on ad copy, product concepts, or to brainstorm new ideas. Qualitative research, though, is actually a category that includes a variety of other techniques for gathering feedback, including in-depth interviews, ethnographic research, and social media listening.

In internal corporate contexts, in-depth interviews are the method of choice. People are interviewed, either in-person or over the phone, and the interview will last anywhere from ½ hour to 1 hour. The individual format allows for more privacy and gives employees the ability to express their views candidly and openly; all interviews are conducted anonymously, so employees can rest assured that their name won’t be tied to their responses. The fact that the interview is conducted by a neutral third-party agency also ensures that there is no bias from the company where the employees work.

Why use in-depth interviews when there are management transitions?

When a company undergoes a major management shift, employees tend to get uncomfortable. They ask questions such as, “How will my job be affected?” “How will my team change?” “How will management structure our new roles?” To help the new management most effectively transition employees through a change, bringing in a neutral research agency to learn from employees is one of the most effective methods to implement changes collaboratively. Instead of a top-down approach that dictates to employees how they will be working under the new leadership, in-depth interviews bring the employees’ viewpoints to the table. This is particularly helpful in companies where there are employees with a long-tenure and who bring a wealth of experience and institutional knowledge to the table. When employees are encouraged to share their viewpoints, offer their observations, and be a part of the discussion on the changes, they’re less likely to feel that the transition is placed on them, and more likely to feel that they have been instrumental in shaping a change that works well for established employees, new employees, and the new structure that’s being implemented.

The danger of not involving employees in a management shift or corporate change

If you work in HR or upper management, likely you’re very aware of how expensive employee turnover can be. Statistically, management shifts and corporate mergers account for some of the highest periods of turnover and employee dissatisfaction. A wiser approach is start off with a preventative mindset. To keep employees assured and productive during a transition, make sure your company involves them in the conversations and adds their viewpoints to the restructuring process. The money you spend on in-depth interviews and bringing in an outside research agency will far outweigh the costs your company is likely to incur if you don’t involve employees and end up on the reactive side of the equation, where you struggle to hold on to valuable employees and grapple with employee dissatisfaction, frustration, and lower productivity.

Is your company undergoing a management shift? Learn more about qualitative research and how it can ease the transition >