Changing where we work for the better

We would love to you to tell your stories about what you have been doing and to build up a collection that will be of interest and practical help to others keen to change where they work for the better. Please email your story to content@engageforsuccess.org marked ‘interested employee story’.

Rob’s story

“I am passionate about employee engagement and for some that is an understatement. I’ve always been passionate about encouraging employees to engage with their work, even before the term itself, Thinking through and applying innovative ways of encouraging each and every one of us to bring all of our talent in to the workplace excites me every day and I am motivated by the positive difference I can make to the working lives of myRob Neil-1 colleagues.

I’ve had the privilege of launching and developing two large staff engagement networks in my organisation as well as leading another across the entire civil service. Whether promoting the cause of BAME colleagues or developing a pioneering network of Employee Engagement Champions across the MoJ family of businesses in my organisation, I am totally convinced that employee voice is a key enabler of engagement

Employee engagement is transformational when it is spread throughout an organisation ‘top-down’ and ‘bottom-up’. Engagement is embedded best where leaders are enthusiastic, setting the expectation, role modelling engaging behaviour, and actively driving the organisation to think and behave differently. Equally necessary, and potentially more powerful, is the nurturing of an approach where all employees, regardless of grade/status, are encouraged to collaborate and work together to create a new culture of engagement which amplifies each voice, encouraging others to do the same, and fits a tap to discretionary effort to positively influence changes in the workplace.

In any large organisation, where multiple cultures are at play, the people who are best placed to read, interpret and shape these cultures are those people who work in them and on the front line. It is with those operational people where the culture is felt as an intrinsic part of the work they do. Where an organisation wants to change, it can truly demonstrate that when it encourages, supports and invites the identification and recruitment of agents of change in those cultures – “tempered radicals”, “change agents”, ”engagement champions”.

Many come to this agenda with enthusiasm and passion to bring about change, and those attributes are both desirable and important. However, without the tools, materials, and knowledge to support implementation even the most ebullient of champions faces the prospect of burn out. Here is where the organisation can play a vital role by offering timely and appropriate tools as well as investment in time and space, to promote the sharing of good practice, encourage innovation and support the expansion of the network. Ultimately, to be effective in a sustainable way the organisation needs to facilitate the development of a pool of champions with a strong engagement community, aligned to Corporate goals and purpose. Members of this supported network will exhibit a sense of belonging through a clearly defined role and set of behaviours, possess an armoury of relevant skills to draw on via periodical L&D activity, enjoy access to role models from which they can gain additional learning and participate [as well as facilitate] plenty of practical, challenging and fun activities through which to develop e.g. eventually launching their own local Hub.

Our most effective networks have been created where we have developed criteria for local champions about what they can do, why, and what happens if they don’t, competences to meet in how they act and behave, an accreditation gateway so they are recognised in their role by the organisation, and crowdsourcing hubs to share knowledge, energy and innovation with others. Repeating shared messages and creating shared experiences through face-to-face events, role-modelling, developing self-governance, giving permission to be different, have fun, never tiring of saying Thank You, and surprising people with rewards and awards. These are the internal hallmarks of a mature network. Externally, network members feel and perform like valued equals on a shared journey in positive change and senior managers regard these champions as critical partners in delivering transformational change.

Creating a dynamic, vibrant and sustainable network like this in any organisation requires high ambition, hard work and a clearly shared vision. The rewards e.g. seeing colleagues blossom, watching teams develop and embracing positive organisational culture change, are both ample and a force multiplier.”

To find out more about creating a network of change agents in your organisation, you can email Rob at rob.neil@justice.gsi.gov.uk