Engage staff early to build on their know-how
Article

Engage staff early to build on their know-how

Take aways
  • First-hand customer insights from staff are valuable in the design of new services.
  • Peer-to-peer communication eases fear of changes among staff.
  • Making business challenges tangible encourages staff to think beyond their own concerns.

Staff engagement is critical for successful execution of new services. Their first-hand insights on customers and organisational pressure are valuable in the design and delivery of the new services, while productive and bilateral communication eases their fear associated with the change that the new services may bring in. Making business challenges tangible encourages staff to think beyond their own concerns, and mull the future and its possibilities.

For a new service to be successful, staff must be on board and positive about it. But oftentimes, they perceive the change as a threat – it is especially true when they are not involved in developing the change. A design approach offers tools to engage with your staff from early stages onwards.

Mere acceptance is not enough

When an organisation is mulling a change initiative, it must consider how to involve its staff in the journey ahead. Staff involvement is more important than mere acceptance when it comes to executing change. Effective staff engagement also equips them to perform even better after the change takes place.

Involve staff early and productively

Customer-facing staff at the coal face know more about the business than senior executives may think. Their insights on customers and pressure on the organisation are valuable in designing and delivering the change. It is for the organisation’s benefits to involve staff in identifying issues, developing solutions and creating productive discussions.Staff engagement in the change process must be timely. Involving people too late makes it impossible to demonstrate that their insights and suggestions are heard and valued. Early engagement reduces risks too, because decisions are yet to be finalised and the management is likely less nervous about sensitive conversations. An added bonus of involving staff early is that ideas suggested by staff often reveal unexpected solutions.

In terms of the levels of engaged employees, the top 25% organisations are reporting net annual income twice as much as the bottom 25%.

Listen and be open

People tend to be skeptical of working with external parties or the company top management. Therefore, for a change to be implemented successfully, the preferred way is to provide a design toolkit to an internal staff or team which is going to lead the project. It enables peer-to-peer collaboration and more open communication.Oftentimes, a change initiative involves sensitive elements such as the impact on jobs. That makes managers reluctant or even fearful of collaborating with staff, making collaboration and communication almost impossible. Managers are advised to share the business challenges with the staff, with reference to validated information and data. Data is more easily accepted than mere narratives.

I was initially hostile to this process. I liked the fact that the facilitators are experienced staff. I have never been so consulted. I have never spoken so much.

Workshop Participant, London Underground Station Staff

Prototype the future

Talking about the future can be scary. People tend to focus on the loss, rather than the gain. By prototyping the future in a tangible format, the staff have a better idea of where they fit in the big picture. This approach reduces fear and makes discussions more productive. Also, staff appreciate if their ideas get to the prototype stage because that shows you are really listening.

Mull the future

When a change requires high engagement from the staff, the design approach often leads to a structured, creative and productive solution. Making challenges tangible encourages staff to think beyond their own concerns, and mull the future and its possibilities. Early engagement with staff often reveals surprise and constructive solutions.