The ability to manage complex and parallel changes, and the ability to predict and handle different responses to change among employees, are key management skills. As previously stated, 74% of APS employees reported experiencing a major workplace change in the 12 months before the employee census. The impact of such extensive disruption on workforce performance is examined in the next section.
Change management and engagement
It was, perhaps, reasonable to expect a decline in employee engagement this year as a result of the substantial change that has taken place across the APS. Potentially, change fatigue and rising employee cynicism could result from longer working hours and work intensification due to downsizing and delayering organisations. As reported in Chapter 5, however, this has not occurred and employee engagement levels across the APS are slightly higher than last year and show a positive trend over the past three years.
Similarly, significant restructuring and downsizing in the United Kingdom (UK) since 2010 has seen little impact on the employee engagement index developed for the UK Civil Service. Figure 6.2 shows that employee engagement in the UK Civil Service remained relatively steady between 2011 and 2013.7 Applying the UK employee engagement index to the APS (as opposed to the APS Employee Engagement Model) shows an increase in APS employee engagement from 56% in 2012 to 62% in 2013 and 2014.
Figure 6.2. UK Civil Service employee engagement index, 2011 to 2014
Source: Employee census, UK Civil Service People Survey
Employee engagement at a whole-of-service level, however, tells only part of the story in relation to the impact that organisational change has on employee engagement. Figure 6.3 shows that, at an individual level, experiencing change has a negative effect across all four components of the APS employee engagement model.
Figure 6.3. Employee engagement for employees experiencing major change, 2014
Source: Employee census
However, this negative impact of change on employee engagement may be moderated by employees' perceptions of how well change is managed in their agency. Figure 6.4 shows that employees who believe change was managed well (the left hand side of the figure) have higher overall engagement scores than those who believe that change was not managed well (the right hand side of the figure), regardless of whether they experienced a major change or not.
Figure 6.4 also shows, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, that the negative impact on employee engagement of experiencing change (the difference between the two columns) is only slightly smaller when employees believe change is managed well in their agency than when they do not.
Figure 6.4. The relationship between employee perceptions of agency change management and employee engagement, 2014
Source: Employee census
In terms of what these results mean, it may be that when employees are generally more positive about how change is managed in their agency, this has a slight buffering (or moderating) effect on the experience of change when it occurs. This may also suggest that the conditions that contribute positively to employee perceptions of change are established both over time and in direct response to a specific change.
Change management and intention to leave
Intention to leave is an important lead indicator for assessing the capacity of the APS workforce. For example, a high intention to leave in a work area or agency may indicate potential difficulties in delivering on objectives.
Figure 6.5 shows that employees who believe that change is managed well in their agency are more likely to indicate they want to remain with their agency for at least the next three years. Conversely, employees who do not believe change is managed well in their agency are more likely to report they will leave their agency within the next two years.
This year employees were also asked if they wanted to leave their agency in the next 12 months but felt that the opportunity to do so was unlikely given the current environment. Interestingly, Figure 6.5 shows that employees who believed that change was not managed well in their agency were also more likely to perceive a lack of opportunity to leave, despite wanting to do so (18% of employees who indicated change was not managed well in their agency compared to 7% of employees who reported it was).
Figure 6.5. The relationship between employee perceptions of agency change management and intention to leave, 2014
Source: Employee census
Similar to the results for employee engagement, employee perceptions of how well change is managed in their agency may also buffer (or moderate) the effect change has on employee career intentions. Figure 6.6 shows that when employees perceive change is managed well, regardless of whether they have experienced a major change or not, they are more likely than those employees who do not agree their agency manages change well, to want to stay with their agency for at least the next three years. Conversely, employees who believe change is not managed well in their agency, regardless of whether they report having experienced change or not, are more likely to indicate they want to leave their agency in the short-term.
Figure 6.6 also shows that employees who reported they had experienced major change in the 12 months before the employee census and who also believed change was not managed well in their agency, were the least likely to want to stay with their agency for three or more years and the most likely to report they wanted to leave within the next 12 months.
Figure 6.6. The relationship between employee perceptions of agency change management, the experience of change and intention to leave, 2014
Source: Employee census
Overall, while employee engagement has been trending positively across the APS, experiencing a major change in the workplace has a negative impact on employee engagement. Most importantly, perceptions of how well change is managed in an agency can have a substantial impact. If employees perceive change is managed well, then it seems to provide a buffering effect such that the impact on employee engagement is reduced. If employees perceive that change is not managed well in their agency, the effect is negative in terms of both its impact on employee engagement and also on employee career intentions.
7 The UK employee engagement index is calculated as a weighted average of the responses to five employee engagement questions. The index ranges from 0% to 100%, where a score of 0% represents all respondents giving a rating of ‘strongly disagree’ to all five questions; and a score of 100% represents all respondents giving a rating of ‘strongly agree’ to all five questions. The APS employee census includes the same five questions from the UK Civil Service People Survey. United Kingdom Civil Service 2013, Civil Service People Survey 2013: Civil Service benchmark scores, GOV.UK, London, viewed 9 October 2014,