CIPD: Highly satisfied employees will remain proactive at work for several years, while those who are unsatisfied quickly lose their can-do attitude, new research has revealed. After following 75 workers over two years, the study by Warwick Business School found that proactive employees with high levels of job satisfaction maintained that behaviour over a long period of time.
Conversely, those with low levels of satisfaction were found to display proactive behaviour only in the short term, and despite efforts to become more satisfied, this did not last over the two-year period.
This could be down to workers either succeeding in changing their work environment and no longer needing to proactively seek transformation, or failing to change it and becoming frustrated and less willing to work, the research suggested.
The study also found that highly satisfied employees do not necessarily advocate change, after examining one group of workers who had high job satisfaction but did not want to ‘rock-the-boat’ in their organisation throughout the two years.
The findings suggest that change could be the motivation many employees need to become more active in the workplace.
The researchers also looked at how workers adapted to situations and found that the easier they adapted to change, the more likely they would remain proactive over the long term.
“Proactivity is important for innovation and implementing organisational change,” said Dr Karoline Strauss, one of the study’s authors and part of the organisation & HR management group at Warwick Business School.
“So it is important to sustain a proactive workforce and we have found that job satisfaction is important, not just as an instigator of proactivity, but as a force for maintaining momentum.”
A separate study, published in the Journal of Business and Psychology, found that proactivity and adaptability among the workforce is essential if effective organisational change is to be maintained in the long term.
“If employees do not adapt to change, they are consequently unlikely to support proactivity,” added Dr Strauss. “This research found a significant positive link between a worker’s adaptivity and proactivity.
“Those who fail to adapt to change seem to be less likely to initiate change in the future as they may see change as threatening and may lose confidence in their own ability to be proactive.
“Irrespective of their past proactivity, we found that employees’ proactivity may decrease if they fail to adapt to change and that may impact on a company’s performance and profitability.”
Lynne Hardman, CEO of change specialists Working Transitions, said that employees need to feel in control of their personal situation in order to be adaptable and open to change.
“This is strongly linked to how self aware they are, how confident they feel that the outcome of any change will be positive and also their levels of personal resilience.
“Helping people to understand just what is in their control, the range of options available to them and creating clarity about what a good outcome for them would be, can often change mindset significantly,” she said.