Managing both change and engagement with the commitment curve
Employees develop engagement towards their employers, companies and implicitly towards businesses, through commitment to the major organizational requirements and core values. In order to highlight the employees’ evolution within an organization through commitment, a commitment curve was designed. The curve displays the stages through which each person that joins the company should pass in order to subsequently become an engaged employee.
The commitment curve is built within two main dimensions, where the vertical axis is represented by the degree of access to the set of competencies and behaviors solicited by the company’s core values and the horizontal axis displays the achievement in time. This model’s approach is based on three developmental phases: the preparation, acceptance, and finally the commitment phases. Unique stages are associated to each of the three phases. These stages represent key points in developing commitment according to the organization’s culture.
Perceiving change in a positive manner is the primary need to fulfill in order to be able to advance and pass through all identified levels. But change itself is a long term process and within it, as employees, they come to learn more about the change cycle and what it requires. In this context, employees may regress, consciously or less, voluntarily or not, to some earlier stages within the process. In order to avoid such yoyo effect, a successful transition to the next stages is assured through ensuring a pleasant, remarkable experience of the previous and current stages.
- The Preparation Phase – sets milestones for a later development of support for change, if achieved successfully. Otherwise, this phase generate resistance to change, which is highly counterproductive.
In the Preparation Phase, there are two stages:
Contact stage – designates the first encounter employees have with the aspect that a change within the work place requires them to partially or totally shift a set of behaviors or thoughts. There are a variety of methods in which contact may be initiated, from messages that go from memos, formal or informal meetings to personally contacting the respective employees.Beyond methods, this stage of the commitment process has the main purpose of bringing awareness for change. Along with the method chosen to deliver the message, the chosen moment to deliver the message is relevant as well, in order to ensure both a successful change and a change for success. The right moment of an announcement can lead to the right investment of energy for realization.
Awareness of change stage – is defined by the stage in which individuals become aware of the fact that modifications are occurring and are affecting them. Awareness implies that the messages regarding change has impacted the employees in the desired and targeted manner. Awareness does not also imply a complete understanding of the upcoming change or the implied consequences. Therefore, before inaugurating a new stage within the preparation phase, the company must also ensure a full understanding of the scope, impact and implications of the occurring or future changes.
- The Acceptance Phase – is marking the shifting from seeing the change as an incoming action to regarding it as a relevant, occurring action.
There are two stages for the Acceptance Phase:
Understanding the change stage – has multiple aspects that may produce positive and negative reactions at the same time. Employees exhibit positive and negative reactions in order to form an overall judgment upon the change.
Positive perception stage – where employees are forming a constructive opinion about the actions, both taken and necessary, within the organization. This process is not done in isolation, people sharing their thoughts and, depending on their personality, influencing one and other.
- The Commitment Phase – shows the transition from plan to actions.
There are four stages for the Commitment Phase:
Experimentation stage – is based on taking actions to test the new conditions. For the first time, employees actually try out the new conditions and acquire a sense of how it affects their work routine.
Adoption stage – is reached once individuals have successfully passed the initial trial period. The relevancy of this stage consists in how well the working personnel, or for their majority, adapts.
Institutionalization stage – is the point at which the conditions are not new anymore, but they represent a way for the employees of operating within the organization. Based on the changes and conditions, a restructuration can be made in order to include updates and modifications within the working cycle.
Internalization stage – represents the highest level of commitment demonstrated towards organizational change. It entails an intrinsic motivation aligned with the organization’s culture, where there is a high level of consistency between an employee’s mindset, behavior and the organizational requirements.
A successful implementation is reflected through having committed employees, which show enthusiasm, high-energy investment, and also persistence. Ideally, this type of commitment should define the majority of employees. This type of energy and behaviors tend to be contagious, spreading to an overall positive change within the work group.
Time allocated for each phase and between phases will vary according to the employees, the organization, and the nature of the imposed conditions. Changes that are mandatory, can become institutionalized quickly but not also pleasantly or internalized.
- Conner, D. (2011), The eight stages of building commitment
- Saldana, N. (n.d.), Strategies for leading through change: People matter
- Clayton, M. (2011), Falling off the curve: Six ways your change project can fail