Lacking a Little Engagement “…is like being a Little Pregnant – it tends to get worse” Part 2
(Quote from Molly Ivins)
The most common point for discussion at the start of a project is lack of employee engagement. It seems to be that the, ‘them and us’ culture is still rife in industry, right up to the point where the two sides meet.
What we are normally told is the workforce is very ‘anti’! I for one am never sure about what they are anti as staff normally have no knowledge of what is happening, and/or the workforce is heavily unionised. Really? Has anyone actually sat down and explained what you are trying to do? How can a union stand in the way of changes for the better when you are looking to improve safety and longevity of employment? Most feelings of ‘anti’ management program are down to lack of an understanding,
I still remember being part of a meeting with a team of welders who were determined that by collecting a list of their issues and trying to fix them was an underhand attempt to do something bad! They didn’t know what the something was, but it was going to be bad!
So how do you take that negative energy and make it productive?
First you need to communicate well what you are trying to do. This is best done in smaller group sizes because that way you can look everyone in the eye and tell them exactly what is going to happen and how they can get involved, and also what the expected benefits are. If you chose to take a larger group your message will be lost to some and ignored by others.
Your message needs to be clear and communicated with a passion which ignites your audience because if you fail to be passionate you may as well have no message. This is the big opportunity to get engagement from all levels of your organisation and to set out the vision for the future.
I have seen the message delivered several ways but for me having a flip chart and talking through the key bullets then tailoring your message to your audience adds the personal touch and increases the attention of your audience, which will result in a more positive discussion.
If you go down the PowerPoint route you will find that even you become tired of repeating the same thing and the interaction will be missing, this reduces the likelihood of winning over anyone new to the vision.
At this time have in mind what success looks like for the project, make sure that it’s clear to everyone and is of a size and scale which will allow for a few lessons to be learned but is such that the overall project still can deliver. This is an important point as taking on too much and diluting your team and their knowledge at the start will only lead to problems. Get one area right and prove that it’s hitting targets, maintaining and improving and also more importantly now owned by the area management and team. This will then lead to internal pull from the business because everyone wants to be involved in success; it’s just that most people find it hard to step out of their comfort zone.
The key to engagement is communication and this needs to be regular and meaningful. Set up a good communications zone which shows your project master schedule, status and actions. Include the problems encountered as well as the wins (both planned and unexpected). Use the area to show how people outside of the implementation team have helped and give them the credit they deserve there will be lots of hidden gems in your organisation who are really up for up change and want to be involved as much as possible.
You will then find how change programmes start to get a life of their own because once you have the engagement of your employees and you marry this with a driven leadership team anything really is possible.