At Trueman Change, staff engagement is vital when it comes to driving change. Our Senior Project Manager Paul Norris reflects on its importance and how to get it right.
Where is staff engagement on your ‘to do’ list? Answer – It shouldn’t be there at all
Staff engagement should not be a ‘thing’ or an item on a checklist. It is part of everyday good practice. As part of the organisation’s culture and DNA, the benefits of true engagement should be seen by its effect on the employee and the organisation.
An employee who is truly engaged has a higher level of self-esteem, is more in control of their work situation and feels that their contribution is making a positive difference. At Trueman Change we are great believers in the benefits to the individual and the organisation that emerge from this.
On a day-to-day basis the benefits we have identified include:
- People feel informed – Nature abhors a vacuum and a lack of accurate information will result in damaging rumour and scaremongering pervading the organisation. Don’t forget that communication is a two-way street and organisations can learn a lot from their workforce.
- Problematic issues are addressed at source – Managers and employees can work out problems together, as they emerge, rather than be faced with difficult, and perhaps insurmountable, questions further down the line.
- Staff retention is improved – Apart from the obvious impact on service provision and the individual’s livelihood, an organisation that cannot retain staff can suffer from significant reputational damage and skill loss.
- Sickness absence is reduced – With average absence in the public sector at 8.5 days (CIPD Health and Wellbeing at Work) it is incumbent on the manager to create a sense of value in the employee. Whilst I am not saying that lack of staff engagement is the only cause of absence, there is “clear evidence that [organisations] with higher engagement levels have lower levels of sickness absence among staff, and also have lower spend on agency and bank staff” (Jeremy Dawson and Michael West, The King’s Fund 2018)
As transformational change becomes a staple of life in the public sector, it is vital that all staff are fully engaged both on a day-to-day basis and as an integral part of the change programme.
Principals of Staff Engagement
- Understand the organisation – This can only be achieved by including the views and experiences of the people who do the work – at every level of the organisation. In order to develop this understanding, we need an appreciation of the dynamic between individuals, departments, external suppliers and customers, which can only be achieved at this level. Staff engagement allows us to understand the real, rather than assumed issues and dig to the root causes of a problem rather than tackle the symptoms.
- Work as a Team – Engagement within the change programme fosters team working, contributing to the sense of belonging and appreciation of the individual’s place in the wider group. It reinforces the value of their input and demonstrates the greater effectiveness and better results that a team can realise. We always try to engage with people at a group level to strengthen relationships across teams.
- Dispel the fear of change – It is commonly the fear of change that concerns the employee. rather than the change itself. Management guru Phil Crosby said ‘Slowness to change usually means fear of the new”. The natural urge is to remain firmly in a comfort zone, away from the unknown. An engaged employee will better understand the reasons for and implications and benefits of the change.
- Give people control – As an integral part of the change programme, all affected people should be part of the solution, designing the change together, and not be powerless to influence the change.
- Equip people with skills – Engagement within a change programme demands a range of skills such as analytical and logical thinking, assessment of priorities, clear communication of ideas and concepts through report writing and presentations. Many employees can increase or develop these skills through exposure to regular engagement, giving them a clear advantage in their professional and personal lives. They can go on to develop knowledge of specific change management tools and techniques opening future career paths! At a more immediate level, this knowledge transfer will give the organisation a valuable internal resource of home-grown change agents.
- Develop champions – I have seen many examples of engaged employees becoming strong advocates for their newly designed service. Their ownership of the problem and ultimate solution makes them an effective and persuasive voice both within the organisation and flying the flag to wider, external audiences.
Employee engagement has many benefits for the individual and their employer. On a day-to-day level it should be second nature, encouraging full participation and fostering pride and ownership in the life of the business. During the change programme, employee engagement and co-design is an essential resource that we ignore at our peril.
How engaged do you feel as an employee? How engaged do your employees feel? Although true employee engagement is a growing practice what do your metrics and your staff say about you?
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