Sometimes, I get the opportunity to read some great work-related magazines here in Chamberland. One came across my desk today, called Incentive. It had promise: the cover art was engaging, and the headlines screamed, “25 Most Influential People In The Incentive Industry” in a really cool, colorful font. I’m a sucker for a cool, colorful font. Times New Roman…puh-leez. That is so yesterday.

Anyway, I open it up and on page six (that’s right, page 6! That’s like, the beginning) there’s an article about big changes hurting employee engagement and retention.

As a part of an organization that has recently undergone a big change, with more to come, I was curious about this article because I didn’t feel any disengagement or driving urge to find other employment as a result of the changes. In fact, all the changes in our office have been positive from my viewpoint: we have a new executive director, and as a result, a new program and marketing coordinator (that would be moi), and some changes headed our way next year that I am looking forward to. Then I realized that I was part of the changes in the office, and maybe I would feel differently if I worked somewhere else, with different office dynamics, and for a longer period of time. I may not be in the best position to judge what I would do in a situation with big changes under different circumstances. I decided to read on.

The article talks about employee willingness to take reasonable risks during periods of change in the office; the statistic stated is a drop of 18 percent. What is a reasonable risk in employment? Well, it’s about speaking up. Taking initiative. Working toward the goals of the organization. In my case, it’s creating memes for Facebook and defending them even when they don’t receive the needed engagement more than 20% of the time (those memes are gonna pay off, you watch). So, when a company goes through a big change, such as restructuring or leadership changes, employees are less willing to speak up. Which makes sense; no one wants to be the squeaky wheel to the new boss, right?

So what do you do about it, employers? How can you reassure your employees (the good ones, those risk takers, the movers and shakers) that big change doesn’t mean shut up and keep your head down? After all, good employees make sure your bottom line is toeing the mark.

Incentive’s Leo Jakobson writes:

“Engage before the change; develop strong engagement BEFORE the change, so everyone can weather the storm.”

“Create frequent, clear, and consistent communication at the start of a change event.”

“Coach and develop leaders who understand the role in the change.”

“Support staff; make sure they have the tools, skills, and ideas to stay engaged in their projects. LISTEN to their ideas, even if they aren’t viable at the time of the change.”

“Change impacts the entire organization; develop ways to retain the best and brightest.”

Big changes are scary. No one really likes them except adrenaline junkies. But they often lead to good things, if you let them; and that’s one I didn’t have to read in a magazine.