About the Author(s)

Zulkarnain Zulkarnain Email symbol
Department of Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Faculty of Psychology, Universitas Sumatera Utara, Medan, Indonesia

Sherry Hadiyani symbol
Department of Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Faculty of Psychology, Universitas Sumatera Utara, Medan, Indonesia

Eka D.J. Ginting symbol
Department of Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Faculty of Psychology, Universitas Sumatera Utara, Medan, Indonesia

Fahmi symbol
Department of Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Faculty of Psychology, Universitas Sumatera Utara, Medan, Indonesia


Zulkarnain, Z., Hadiyani, S., Ginting, E.D.J., & Fahmi. (2024). Commitment, employee engagement and readiness to change among oil palm plantation officers. SA Journal of Human Resource Management/SA Tydskrif vir Menslikehulpbronbestuur, 22(0), a2471. https://doi.org/10.4102/sajhrm.v22i0.2471

Original Research

Commitment, employee engagement and readiness to change among oil palm plantation officers

Zulkarnain Zulkarnain, Sherry Hadiyani, Eka D.J. Ginting, Fahmi

Received: 16 Oct. 2023; Accepted: 19 Jan. 2024; Published: 26 Feb. 2024

Copyright: © 2024. The Author(s). Licensee: AOSIS.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Orientation: Organisations must continually adapt to the external environment to remain competitive. However, employees often resist change because of fear and uncertainty.

Research purpose: This study has two objectives. The first is determining how commitment and engagement influence employee readiness to change. The second is to identify the most significant predictor of readiness for change, using aspects of commitment and dimensions of employee engagement.

Motivation for the study: Change is vital for an organisation’s survival, and employees are central to this process. Overcoming employee resistance to change is critical. By understanding the factors that influence employee readiness, organisations can better manage change and increase their chances of success.

Research approach/design and method: The study involved 206 oil palm plantation employees. It employed a hierarchical regression analysis to assess the influence of commitment and engagement on employee readiness for change.

Main findings: The study reveals that commitment and engagement have a significant impact on employee readiness for change. Employees who demonstrate higher levels of commitment and engagement are more likely to be prepared for and open to change.

Practical/managerial implications: The study findings provide practical insights for organisations aiming to implement successful change initiatives. Encouraging change, creating a climate of readiness, and addressing resistance are essential components of effective change management.

Contribution/value-add: This research contributes valuable insights into the dynamics of employee readiness for change in organisations. Prepared employees are more likely to view change as a challenge, rather than an obstacle, which is a significant value-add in organisational change.

Keywords: commitment; employee engagement; identification; involvement; readiness to change.


In the context of the economy, oil palm plantations play a pivotal role, contributing significantly to employment opportunities and generating substantial tax revenues. However, a pressing issue confronting this industry is persistently low productivity levels, presenting a significant challenge that requires strategic consideration for the sustainable development of oil palm plantations in the foreseeable future (Zulkarnain et al., 2023a). Addressing the challenge of persistently low productivity levels in oil palm plantations necessitates a critical examination of organisational change. To tackle this effectively, organisations in the palm oil industry must undergo comprehensive transformational processes. These processes should encompass reevaluating operational strategies, implementing innovative technologies, enhancing workforce skills, and fostering a culture of continuous improvement. Such organisational changes are imperative for unlocking the potential for heightened productivity and ensuring the long-term viability and sustainability of the oil palm industry.

Change is a crucial aspect of building effective management (Hussey, 2000). A myriad of variables, such as the rapid rate of global expansion, newly identified business risks, exciting opportunities, innovation, and evolving leadership systems, can trigger organisational changes (Madsen et al., 2005). The management of change requires both short- and long-term perspectives (Robbins & Judge, 2009).

The workplace is an integral aspect of an employee’s life and has a profound impact on their well-being (Zulkarnain et al., 2023b). Organisations must exercise caution in implementing regulations; failure to do so can harm the organisation in both the short and long term (Petterson, 2009). Short-term negative impacts felt by employees may include wasted resources such as money, time, and energy, the failure of planned objectives, moral judgment, and the emergence of job insecurity. Meanwhile, long-term negative impacts may encompass the failure to achieve the company’s strategic plan, diminishing confidence in leadership, increasing resistance to change, and a belief that the next change will also fail (Petterson, 2009).

Changes often lead employees to experience uncertainty and fear the possibility of failure in adapting to new conditions (Vakola & Nikolau, 2005). The uncertain and pressing conditions of change can impact employee attitudes towards both the changes and the organisation as a whole. The change process itself plays a critical role in shaping employee attitudes towards change (Oreg, 2006). For organisational change to succeed, employees must undergo effective changes, and these changes need to be carefully planned in advance (Madsen et al., 2005). Employees’ refusal or resistance to change is identified as a key factor contributing to the failure of organisational changes (Kotter & Cohen, 2002). Therefore, organisations should prioritise increasing readiness for change among all employees as one of the most effective interventions (Cunningham et al., 2002).

Employee readiness is a critical factor in the success of organisational change as employees play a pivotal role in bringing about these changes. Recognising the significance of employees, they stand as the most vital aspect of organisational success (Berneth, 2004). Organisational changes elicit various reactions from each member, with perceptions of change as a challenge resulting in a positive response, while viewing it as a threat triggers a negative response (Ford & Ford, 2010). Organisations undergoing change require open support from employees to effectively prepare and embrace the change (Eby et al., 2000). Desplaces (2005) identifies employee readiness to change as a key success factor in organisational change, where beliefs, attitudes, and behavioural intentions towards change efforts are reflected in their readiness to change.

Organisational change hinges on changing individuals, as without their active involvement, the change initiative is likely to fail. Employees, being both the source and tool of change, play a pivotal role in the change process (Smith, 2005). The transformative nature of change can enhance the quality of life by providing adequate resources and jobs that align with employee expectations (Zulkarnain et al., 2024). To effectively contribute to the change process, employees need to be open and well-prepared for change (Hanpachern et al., 1998). Those who are unprepared may struggle to keep pace with the organisational changes unfolding. The willingness of employees to embrace change becomes a determining factor in whether they accept or reject changes (Holt et al., 2007). Change agents can enhance motivation by influencing beliefs, attitudes, and behaviours to increase readiness for change (Appelbaum & Wohl, 2000).

According to Visagie and Steyn (2011), commitment plays a pivotal role in influencing the willingness to change. Commitment is defined as the desire to remain a member of the organisation, trust and acceptance of the organisation’s ideals and aims, and the readiness to work as hard as possible for the benefit of the organisation (Mowday et al., 1982). Iverson (1996) asserts that dedication is a strong determinant of organisational success, as committed employees tend to work more diligently on change projects, fostering a positive attitude towards change.

Vidal (2007) explains that employee engagement is integral to the successful implementation of organisational change. Engaged employees are more likely to support organisational change and demonstrate readiness for change (Shaw, 2005). According to Hewitts (2004), engaged employees exhibit greater readiness for change compared to their counterparts who are not engaged. Schaufeli et al. (2002) emphasise that engaged employees display a strong dedication to the organisation, actively participating in the organisation’s progress efforts, and demonstrating tenacity in pursuing their goals. These qualities align with the organisation’s requirements when undergoing changes, as engaged employees are highly committed to the effort of transforming the organisation and demonstrate persistence in implementing these changes.

Commitment stands out as a significant factor determining the success or failure of an organisation in achieving its goals. According to Petterson (2009), a lack of commitment among the people involved is the most critical aspect that can impede organisational transformation success. Employee acceptance of change is intricately linked to their level of commitment (Yousef, 2000). Iverson (1996) contends that commitment is indispensable for organisational change.

Highly committed employees, not only experience a high level of psychological well-being but also exhibit a preference for actively participating in change projects. Additionally, they are more inclined to adopt positive attitudes towards organisational change. This underscores the importance of commitment as a driving force in fostering employee engagement and readiness to embrace transformative initiatives within the organisation (Annisa & Zulkarnain, 2013).

According to Mowday et al. (1982), commitment takes shape when individuals cultivate three interconnected attitudes within the organisation. Firstly, identification involves the comprehension or awareness of organisational goals. Secondly, involvement is the sense of being engaged in a job, experiencing it as enjoyable. Thirdly, loyalty is the belief that the organisation is a good place to work and live. Meyer et al. (2002) found that commitment is correlated with the intention to stay in the organisation and the level of support for change initiatives. Commitment is perceived as a positive action and attitude that contributes to fostering favourable employee perceptions of change (Shah, 2009). However, Vakola and Nikolau (2005) note that highly committed employees may resist change if it poses a threat to their perceived benefits. Vakola and Nikolau (2005) also found that committed employees generally exhibit a positive attitude towards change, underscoring the nuanced relationship between commitment and responses to organisational change initiatives.

According to Guy and Beauman (2005), the critical factors for successful change management encompass organisational competence, alignment, engagement, and competitive pressure. They emphasise that engagement stands out as a pivotal category in achieving successful change management. Some researchers posit that employee engagement serves as the primary antecedent influencing the success of organisational change initiatives (Saks, 2006). Moreover, Lucey et al. (2005) suggest a significant correlation between employee engagement and lean sustainability, a large-scale organisational change strategy adopted by many organisations. Vidal (2007) supports the notion that employee engagement holds a substantial correlation and impacts the success of implementing organisational change, especially when it involves comprehensive changes across all elements of the organisation.

According to Marciano (2010), employee engagement encompasses five dimensions. Firstly, the organisational dimension involves employees feeling proud of the company they work for and having respect for their co-workers. The organisation’s vision, mission, values, goals, policies, and actions contribute to the overall perception of how much the company cares for its employees. Secondly, the leadership dimension pertains to employees feeling that their supervisor is prepared to take on leadership responsibilities for the team and the organisation’s benefit, and can advocate for their subordinates. Thirdly, the group members dimension, involves employees respecting their colleagues and contributing to the overall improvement of their work. Fourthly, the job dimension emphasises that employees find their jobs challenging and meaningful, leading to tangible results. Challenging tasks that align with the company’s goals provide a sense of pride and meaning to employees. Lastly, the individual dimension focusses on employees feeling valued, respected, and considered valuable. Employees desire to work in honest organisations, where they are treated fairly, respectfully, and with consideration.

Hewitts (2004) discovered that engaged employees exhibit greater readiness for change. Schaufeli et al. (2002) explained that engaged personnel demonstrate a robust dedication to the organisation, actively participating in organisational advancement activities and displaying resilience in carrying out their work. These characteristics are crucial for organisations undergoing changes, as they necessitate active participation and resilience in change efforts. Engaged employees, in addition to being highly dedicated to the organisational change process, exhibit a remarkable ability to persevere in implementing these changes.

Shaw (2005) contends that numerous studies emphasise employee engagement as the primary antecedent for the successful implementation of organisational change initiatives. Elevating employee engagement or unleashing employee potential in business performance is crucial for effective change management and overall success. Engaged employees exhibit a willingness to adapt and actively support organisational transformation (Dicke et al., 2007). Participation in the organisational change process is a characteristic of engaged employees, reflecting their high level of energy and resilience. These employees are not easily fatigued and are eager to invest their energy in the transformation process while actively participating in it (Dicke et al., 2007). This highlights the crucial role of employee engagement in fostering organisational change, fostering both adaptability and a supportive environment for transformational initiatives.

Research problem and rationale

The research aims to investigate the interplay between commitment and employee engagement within the framework of organisational readiness for change. Specifically, it seeks to unravel the interconnectedness of these constructs and their collective impact on the successful implementation of change initiatives within an oil palm organisational setting. Studying commitment and employee engagement in the context of readiness for change is crucial for enhancing organisational effectiveness, promoting employee well-being, and offering practical insights for leaders grappling with the complexities of change management. This research addresses practical challenges faced by organisations and contributes to both academic and managerial understanding of these critical organisational dynamics.

Objectives and research questions

Firstly, to investigate the nature and strength of the relationship between employee commitment and organisational readiness to change. This objective aims to provide insights into how committed employees are to embracing and supporting organisational change initiatives. Secondly, to assess the influence of employee engagement on organisational readiness to change. This objective seeks to understand how engaged employees contribute to the organisation’s preparedness for and successful implementation of change. Thirdly, to identify and analyse aspects of commitment and dimensions of employee engagement contributed to organisational readiness to change.


Quantitative research employs statistical models to elucidate the relationships among commitment, employee engagement, and readiness for change. The use of Pearson correlation allows for the assessment of the connections between readiness to change, commitment, and employee engagement. Additionally, hierarchical regression analysis is applied to delve into the determinants of commitment and employee engagement concerning readiness for change. Data collection for this study utilised a questionnaire, with all participants required to complete the provided survey.


The measuring instruments used in this study are readiness to change scale, employee engagement scale, and the commitment scale. The readiness to change scale is based on four dimensions: appropriateness, change-specific efficacy, management support, and unique valance (Holt et al., 2007). The results of the factor analysis are shown in Table 1. Based on factor analysis, the Measure of Sampling Adequacy (MSA) for all variables ranged from 0.569 to 0.899. The eigenvalues were found to be in the range of 49.529% to 51.211%. Larger eigenvalues suggest that the associated principal components capture more variability in the data. Meanwhile, factors loading is used to identify which variables are most influential in representing each factor. The study found that the factors loading ranged from 0.593 to 0.854. According to Hair et al. (2019), an acceptable factors loading value is more than 0.5, and a value equal to or above 0.7 is considered good for one indicator. The alpha coefficient of reliability is 0.928.

TABLE 1: Result of factor analysis of readiness to change scale.

The employee engagement scale was based on five dimensions: organisation, leadership, group members, job, and individual (Marciano, 2010). The factor analysis results indicated that the MSA for all variables ranged from 0.631 to 0.910. The eigenvalues varied from 49.368% to 51.282%, suggesting that the associated principal components effectively capture more variability in the data. Additionally, factors loading ranged from 0.553 to 0.904, indicating a strong relationship between specific observed variables and latent factors. The alpha coefficient of reliability is 0.951. Table 2 displays the overall results.

TABLE 2: Result of factor analysis of employee engagement scale.

The commitment scale is based on three aspects: identification, involvement, and loyalty (Mowday et al., 1982). The result of factor analysis found that the MSA for all variables ranged from 0.645 to 0.872. The eigenvalues ranged from 49.831% to 50.632%, signifying that the associated principal components effectively capture more variability in the data. Moreover, factor loading ranged from 0.626 to 0.925, indicating a strong relationship between specific observed variables and their corresponding latent factors. The alpha coefficient of reliability is 0.902. The result can be seen in Table 3.

TABLE 3: Result of factor analysis of commitment scale.
Data analysis and results

The oil palm plantation lies in North Sumatera, Indonesia. This organisation categorises its workforce into two distinct groups; white-collar and blue-collar. White-collar employees, identified by grades IIIA to IVD, hold executive positions, and indicating their involvement in middle to upper management levels. On the other hand, blue-collar employees identified by grades IA to IID, indicated roles in lower management. This study involved 206 employees, all holding positions as executive officers. The description of the participant characteristics showed that most were men (166, 80.6%). The participants were mostly 35–45 years old (92, 44.7%). Based on tenure, most participants have worked between 5–15 years (90, 43.7%). Detailed information can be seen in Table 4.

TABLE 4: Participant characteristics.

Pearson correlation analysis showed that commitment and employee engagement correlate significantly with readiness to change. Furthermore, aspects of commitment and dimensions of employee engagement also correlated significantly with readiness to change. The overall results can be seen in Table 5.

TABLE 5: Result of correlations among variables.

Afterward, hierarchical regression analysis was conducted to determine commitment and engagement’s contribution to change readiness. The hierarchical analysis results showed that commitment and employee engagement were positive predictors of readiness to change. Based on the first step, commitment positively influences readiness to change (β = 0.601; p < 0.01; F = 115.343; p < 0.01; R2 = 0.110). In step 2, commitment and engagement significantly influenced readiness to change. It can be concluded that commitment is the best predictor of readiness to change. Further information can be seen in Table 6.

TABLE 6: Result of hierarchical regression analysis.

The hierarchical regression method was used to determine the factors of readiness to change based on aspects of commitment. It discovered that identification and participation, two characteristics of commitment, played a substantial role in explaining willingness to change. Table 7 shows the outcome.

TABLE 7: Result of hierarchical regression analysis based on aspects of commitment.

The results also showed that two dimensions of engagement of employees positively influence readiness to change. Both dimensions are individuals and jobs. The results can be seen in Table 8.

TABLE 8: Results of hierarchical regression analysis based on dimensions of engagement.


The study reveals a positive impact of both commitment and engagement on employee readiness for change, emphasising their pivotal role as essential factors in achieving successful organisational change. Effective and successful change is characterised by encouragement for change, the cultivation of readiness for change among both managers and employees, and efforts to overcome resistance to change. Readiness for change is manifested in members’ beliefs, attitudes, and intentions regarding the necessity and feasibility of changes within the organisation (Armenakis & Harris, 2009). Mowday et al. (1982) explained that employees committed to their organisation demonstrate strong beliefs, accept organisational goals and values, exhibit a readiness to work hard, and possess a strong desire to thrive. Such employees are inclined to develop positive attitudes toward organisational change, demonstrating attentiveness to their duties, responsibility in task execution, and loyalty to the organisation (Iverson, 1996).

The willingness of employees to commit and remain loyal to the organisation is closely tied to their perceptions of how well the organisational climate, salary, appreciation, and opportunities for personal and family growth align with their expectations (Annisa & Zulkarnain, 2013). Lew (2011) suggested that commitment is forged through an exchange theory relationship, where there is a recognition of a reciprocal connection between addressing employees’ needs and contributions made to the organisation. In this context, employees who exhibit loyalty to the company expect appropriate rewards. Rewarding loyalty encourages employees to persistently strive for better performance, fostering commitment. Additionally, employees are more likely to embrace the change process if they believe that the proposed changes will enable them to fulfil their requirements while also contributing to the success of the company.

Employee engagement plays a crucial role in supporting organisational change initiatives. Engaged employees, actively involved in their work, exhibit a positive outlook on organisational development (Zulkarnain et al., 2023a). The high level of engagement directs employees to strive for optimal performance and adapt effectively to various organisational changes. Their dedication to their work, desire for continuous improvement, and overall job satisfaction contribute significantly to the success of processes associated with implementing change.

The regression analysis revealed that two aspects of commitment, namely identification and involvement, exert a positive influence on readiness to change, with identification emerging as the strongest predictor. Employees who comprehend and align their actions with the organisation’s goals are more inclined to actively participate in organisational change at physical, mental, and psychological levels. Visagie and Steyn (2011) explained that employees actively engaged in achieving organisational values and objectives tend to exhibit higher readiness for change. Madsen et al. (2005) suggested that identification and employee involvement are positively linked to readiness for change. When employees feel engaged in decision-making processes, their ideas are acknowledged, contributing to achieved results, and they are more likely to accept decisions (Armstrong, 1999).

Moreover, two dimensions of engagement emerge as positive predictors of readiness to change, with the individual dimension standing out as the strongest predictor. Employees who feel valued, respected, considered important, and treated fairly by the company exhibit greater preparedness for change. Dirks et al. (2009) suggested that employee involvement in organisational decision-making enhances their propensity to support and embrace change initiatives. According to Marciano (2010), engagement is fostered when employees feel respected and valued, leading to commitment, dedication, and loyalty to the firm, their employers, coworkers, and peers. Engaged employees demonstrate behaviours such as expressing new ideas, exhibiting enthusiasm for their work, taking initiative, and actively developing themselves. In turn, the company benefits by consistently exceeding goals, overcoming obstacles, maintaining focus on duties, and fostering a mutual commitment between the employees and the organisation.

Wanberg and Banas (2000) discovered that individuals with low acceptance of change exhibit lower job satisfaction, increased irritability with the work environment, and higher turnover intentions. The subsequent turnover behaviour not only affects individual morale but also has repercussions on the morale of other employees (Zulkarnain & Akbar, 2013). Weiner (2009) found that organisational readiness for change correlates with a higher likelihood of initiating change, increased effort, and engagement in cooperative behaviour, ultimately leading to effective change implementation. Successful organisational change requires a focus on managing the human aspects of change since individuals are both the source and the tool of these changes (Smith, 2005).


The findings of this study emphasise the pivotal roles that both organisational commitment and employee engagement play in shaping employees’ readiness for change. In the dynamic landscape of today’s organisations, the ability to adapt and undergo transformations is paramount for both individuals and the organisation as a whole. Employee readiness for change manifests in various work attitudes and is a crucial element in the success of organisational change initiatives. Organisational change necessitates the active involvement of its human resources. Recognising that most employees may initially resist change, it becomes imperative to prepare each employee for the impending changes. Employee readiness for change emerges as a critical factor in achieving success in organisational change endeavours. Given the ever-evolving challenges faced by organisations, change becomes a survival imperative. Even large market-dominating companies experience the need for radical changes. Employees, being integral elements of the organisation, must cultivate a readiness for change to ensure the successful implementation of change efforts. Those who are well-prepared perceive change as a challenge. Engaged and devoted employees exhibit behaviours such as expressing innovative ideas, finding joy in their work, taking initiative, actively enhancing themselves and others, and consistently surpassing objectives. The engagement of employees contributes to the cultivation of a healthy work culture, ultimately leading to the success of the organisation.

Practical recommendations

Ensure that commitment and engagement initiatives align seamlessly with the broader vision and goals of the organisation. Establishing this connection reinforces their significance and encourages employees to willingly embrace change. By carefully establishing and reinforcing the link between commitment, engagement, and the overarching vision of the organisation, employees gain a clearer understanding of how their efforts contribute to organisational success. This, in turn, cultivates a positive and purpose-driven workplace culture where employees willingly embrace and support organisational change initiatives.


The authors want to thank the management and employees of the oil palm plantations for their valuable contributions to this research. We also appreciate the support from the faculty of psychology, University of Sumatera Utara (U.S.U.) in conducting this study.

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no financial or personal relationships that may have inappropriately influenced them in writing this article.

Authors’ contributions

Z.Z. conducted the research, authored the article, revised it and submitted the article. S.H. created the theoretical framework and conceptualised the main research idea. E.D.J.G. planned the study and oversaw its progress; F.F. anchored the review, revisions.

Ethical considerations

Ethical clearance to conduct this study was obtained from the U.S.U. Faculty of Psychology Ethics Committee (No. 35/Komet/FPsi/2022).

Funding information

This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

Data availability

The authors verify that the data, which underpins the results of this study, can be found in the article.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and are the product of professional research. It does not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any affiliated institution, funder, agency, or that of the publisher. The authors are responsible for this article’s results, findings, and content.


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