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EMEA employers behind the global curve on change management strategy, finds Towers Watson

Employers in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) have had to deal with more change management challenges than their global counterparts and have struggled to deal with them as effectively, according to a study by HR consultants, Towers Watson.

The Towers Watson study, Clear Direction in a Complex World, found companies around the world have been forced to implement significant change in order to adapt to economic challenges and remain competitive during the past two years.

For organisations based in EMEA, this has meant downsizing at nearly half (47%) and pay freezes at almost a third (31%). EMEA companies' experience of change has been more extreme than in other areas of the world, with figures showing lower instances of redundancies (37%) and pay freezes (24%) across the globe.

Crucially, when faced with change, only a third of organisations in EMEA create an integrated communication and change management strategy, compared to just under half globally.

EMEA companies also fall behind when it comes to being clear to employees about what they need to do differently to be successful. Globally, two-thirds of companies that are highly effective in managing change provide clear direction to employees, compared to only half in EMEA.

In addition, European companies have been less clear at defining their 'employment deal' or Employee Value Proposition (EVP), which lets employees know what the company expects from them and what they can expect in return. Only around a third of highly 'change-effective' companies in Europe believe they have a clearly defined EVP, but promisingly, nearly half are developing targeted EVPs for different employee groups.

The survey, the fifth biennial edition, indicates that the way in which change is managed and communicated within an organisation has a significant impact on financial performance. Companies that are highly effective at both communication and change management are found to be 2.5 times as likely to outperform their peers as companies that are not highly effective in either area.

Nicola Cull, director of communications and change management at Towers Watson, said: "Companies need to communicate a clear story about the business and the changes that occur. Creating greater certainty, confidence and engagement with employees has a significant impact on employee motivation, engagement and retention and this in turn is shown to be fundamental to better financial performance."

The study identified the best communication and change management practices at 604 companies and makes comparison between organisations in different regions.