Employee Relations

Understanding Employee Commitment to Change

Organizations are under constant pressure to change. Employee commitment to necessary changes is of paramount importance for such changes to be effective.

Understanding commitment to change (C2C)

Commitment to change (C2C), an essential component of a successful change implementation, is best described as a state of mind that ties a person to a particular course of action. C2C is influenced by organizational commitment, and can be thought of as being comprised of three components:
  • Affective commitment (AC2C): feelings of attachment to the organization, and desire to support change initiatives.
  • Normative commitment (NC2C): sense of obligation to be supportive of the organization’s plans for change.
  • Continuance commitment (CC2C): fear of costs of leaving or resisting organizational changes.
These three components interact with other important antecedents that can affect employees C2C. The quality of an employee’s relationship with his/her manager, level of job motivation, fit with the organization’s vision, and the level of role autonomy experienced can influence how committed an employee is to change initiatives.

How components of C2C influence success

Each of the components of C2C relate to the antecedents and outcomes of change initiatives. The three components of commitment to change have real and robust relationships with important organizational outcomes such as improved performance, learning, and implementation success, which are all important for presenting a positive view of the particular change to customers.

Overall recommendations for improving C2C

Understanding and managing C2C is crucial to successful change implementation. Some of the most important steps an organization can take to improve commitment to change include:
  • Illustrating to employees how change implementations relate to the “big picture” or overall vision and direction for the organization
  • Making efforts to help employees understand the relationship of the change initiatives to the overall success of the organization
  • Maintaining strong relationships between employees and management helps employees feel more attached, which makes them feel more obligated to support change initiatives
  • Motivating employees in anticipation of change initiatives should be included as part of an implementation plan

Kathleen Melcher


This was a summary of the research and practice implications from: Parish, J.T., Cadwallader, S., & Busch, P. (2008). Want to, need to, ought to: Employee commitment to organizational change. Journal of Organizational Change Management, 21(1), 32-52.