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By Sakshi Shetty

Business transitions such as mergers and acquisitions – or even a change of name or logo – can be a cause of uncertainty for employees. There is always the looming fear of losing a job or the reputation established under previous leaders. Most times the restructuring, movement, and new expectations that come with management transitions are huge contributors to employee disengagement.

The solution lies in listening to your employees. Though securing buy-in from them early on will require extra effort, taking the time to engage them in your change management plans will definitely increase the odds of a successful transition. Typically, the best tool to conduct effective listening is with qualitative research.

What is qualitative research?

Many people associate qualitative research with advertising. Indeed, qualitative research is used with advertising to understand the most relevant and potentially successful adverts. One of the most common methods employed is focus groups, where people are assembled and asked their opinion on ad copy, product concepts, or to brainstorm new ideas.

In reality, qualitative research is a category of research that uses a number of different methods for gathering feedback. These methods include in-depth interviews, ethnographic research, and social media listening – each technique being unique in the information it can provide, and the setting it can be used in. For instance, in-depth interviews are usually the preferred method in internal corporate contexts. This would entail having a neutral third-party research agency interview employees in-person or over the phone for approximately 30-60 minutes. The one-on-one format allows for more intimacy and privacy, and the anonymity of the interviewee ensures the responses won’t be tied to a name. Overall, this creates a space where employees can freely express their views. This data is then compiled into a report to present relevant, candid, and unbiased research findings to the company.

How can qualitative research help with management transitions?

When there is a major change afoot, having a neutral research agency obtain employee insights is one of the most effective ways to implement the change in a successful and collaborative manner. This avoids the top-down approach which dictates how employees should work under new leaders, and allows for a more inclusive approach. When employees are encouraged to offer their viewpoints and be a part of the discussion, they are 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 the company, established employees, and new employees alike. Moreover, it makes them feel they are being heard, and not ignored or forgotten during the transition process.

What happens when employees are not involved in a management transition?

“What changes will the new management make?” “How will my job be affected?” “Will my team change?” These are some of the questions that employees may have during periods of transition. Research has noted that management shifts and corporate mergers account for some of the highest periods of turnover and employee dissatisfaction. And if you work in HR or upper management, you are aware of how expensive employee turnover can be. Thus, the best approach is having a preventative mindset.

Think about it this way: the money you spend hiring a third-party research agency to conduct in-depth interviews will far outweigh the costs your company will incur if you don’t engage your employees; turnover is expensive. You don’t want to be in the situation where you struggle to retain valuable employees and have to deal with an unhappy workforce. Listen to your employees, and listen early on.

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