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Client success story: How to engage employees when facing change and uncertainty

Lessons learnt from a leading Australian NFP

During times of great change and uncertainty, maintaining and enhancing employee engagement is more important than ever.

This is the story of a leading Australian not-for-profit organisation that managed to lift employee engagement while facing challenges to its very survival – including the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, managing rising costs and flat revenues, dealing with the complexity of multiple services, and promoting diversity and inclusion, to name just a few.

In this downloadable case study, you can learn how this NFP not only maintained employee engagement but improved its results from previous years.

Five Factors for Lifting Employee Engagement

The CEO and the Director of People and Culture have reflected on five factors that underpinned their organisation’s ability to engage employees during these difficult times.

1.  A clear and engaging direction for the organisation

With the advent of a new CEO, the organisation took a significant amount of time to refresh and update its strategic plan, with the following notable features.

  • The vision, purpose and values are clearly congruent with each other
  • The plan focuses on both helping the disadvantaged (service delivery) and dealing with the causes of disadvantage (advocacy)
  • Fresh and engaging ideas and words were developed through employee consultation
  • The stated direction is inspiring while also being achievable
  • The consultation process helped team members understand how the plan impacts their role and how they personally contribute to the plan

2.  A united and diverse leadership team

Highly engaged leaders set a great example for employees reporting to them and helping create a positive environment. Here are just some ways this NFP created a united leadership team.

  • Good continuity in senior leadership ranks, underpinned by good succession planning
  • Key roles, including that of CEO, have been filled by internal candidates, reinforcing continuity and confidence
  • The organisation has different personalities in the leadership team and therefore has a certain amount of creative tension that allows for issues to be debated from different viewpoints

3.  A transparent and authentic approach to managing change

Before conducting the survey, the organisation had to implement a difficult change process. Despite concern that this would negatively impact employee engagement, the way in which the change was managed made a big difference, and engagement improved slightly.

  • They made it very clear why change was necessary They didn’t hide or massage information
  • They did their very best to increase funding levels as the first resolution to the challenge, rather than manage wages downwards
  • They were very clear about the process that was being followed and how decisions would be made.  Keeping jobs was a priority.  They also sought to minimise harm to individuals.

4.  A big focus on workplace wellbeing

Organisations need to place a large amount of focus and effort on maintaining employee’s workplace wellbeing. This NFP places a high priority on diversity and inclusion and goes to great lengths to make employees feel welcome and accepted through the onboarding process. Here are just a few of their onboarding practices:

  • Before the new employee starts, the line relevant line manager is prompted to send out a welcome text to the new employee - (Dear Mary, we are so glad to have you coming on board tomorrow.  Our office opens at 8.30 am.  Jane at reception knows you will be coming in.  Just so you know, our dress code is…You can park… By the way, what’s your favourite snack…)
  • When the person arrives, their desk, technology (including log-ons) and other required resources are all ready, together with a sign welcoming the person to the organisation
  • The CEO personally calls each new employee to welcome them to the organisation and learn more about them

5.  A consistent and ongoing effort to improve communication

This NFP puts a high priority on communicating well with employees. To continue improving communication they seek ongoing feedback on the effectiveness of the communications as well as people’s preferred channels.


This organisation managed to not only maintain employee engagement but increase it from 70% in 2019 to 73% in July of 2020 (results in the top quartile of Insync’s NFP benchmark). Key indicators of improvement include:

  • 90% of employees are proud to be working for the organisation (up from 86% in 2019)
  • 83% of employees are satisfied with their jobs (up from 80% in 2019)
  • 82% of employees would recommend the organisation as a workplace to others (up from 79% in 2019)

Next steps

Continuous improvement never stops – people need constant communication, connection, development and recognition to continue achieving high performance standards.

This NFP will continue implementing their strategy and nurturing their strengths. They are responding to employee feedback on where improvements can be made in areas like communication, technology, recognition of staff and maximising staff potential.

Insync is very grateful to this organisation for sharing their experiences so generously and authentically.

Download the full case study here to unpack exactly how this organisation engaged employees when facing uncertainty.












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