Where Were You 10 Years Ago? Anne Wilsdon 

10 years ago, I was at work reading a piece of communications inviting colleagues to express an interest in joining “the engagement team”… my organisation was looking for volunteers to create a champions network to help them understand our recently launched survey. They wanted help and insight to understand the story about what the results were telling them. I thought that sounded right up my street and decided to apply then and there.

Fast forward a couple of months, not only was I a member of the first engagement champions network in our organisation, but following a vote I had also been asked to chair it. Although this was on top of my “day job” it was work that so interested me and it also gave me a real sense of personal fulfilment.

In 2012, I bagged myself a ticket to the Engage For Success inaugural conference at the QE11 conference centre. One presentation really stood out for me, it was entitled “Nailing the Evidence” and it was presented by Tanith Dodge from Marks & Spencer. The business case to engage your people couldn’t have been any more compelling. I left feeling thoroughly energised, motivated and more determined than ever to bring the learning back to my organisation.

A couple of years passed, and thanks to an amazing group of champions and support from colleagues, we were beginning to make a real impact. Our leadership and management change scores had significantly increased by 18% in two years, and our engagement index had increased by 10%. I had been nominated and won the leadership award at our People Awards ceremony, and my CEO had asked me to lead engagement as my full-time job. Things surely couldn’t get any better?!

Mid 2015, and I was given the opportunity to go on secondment, to provide me with opportunities for flex and development. I couldn’t believe my luck that one of the first opportunities I came across was a Secondment to Engage For Success as its Community Director! I was part of the Core Team for almost 18 months, and it was a truly an amazing experience. I developed great friendships and grew a network of engagement enthusiasts all over the UK. It was a really worthwhile learning experience for me having previously only been used to working in the public sector. I discovered that leading volunteers is a completely different experience to leading people who are paid to do a job (more on this later).

Fitting back into my organisation was challenging following such an inspiring secondment, but fast forward to 2017, I was now engagement lead for my entire department. I am still an active volunteer – I’m an Engage For Success regional ambassador for Northern Ireland and for the past five years, I’ve also been a member of the EFS TAG Steering Group. I find it’s a really useful way to stay informed about the latest thought leadership in the space which is invaluable for me as a full time engagement practitioner.

Reflecting back over the past 10 years you forget how far you’ve travelled – I’ve made a career literally from expressing an interest! It’s made me wonder if I found engagement, or if engagement found me?! I’ve been so lucky coming into contact with so many great people, who inspire me every day, while we continue working towards a common purpose.

Let’s see what the next decade has in store…

Author: Anne Wilsdon – EFS Steering Group member, and Engagement & People Survey Lead, UK Home Office

Photo credit: Frank Leuderalbert on Unsplash

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