Human Resources

Don’t settle for engagement, strive for involvement, says change expert

Don’t settle for engagement, strive for involvement, says change expert

HR professionals who aim for “return on involvement” when orchestrating organisational change can expect far better outcomes than those who focus on return on investment, says change expert Donna Meredith.

Meredith, the managing director at Keystone Corporate Positioning, says “employee involvement” describes a commitment that’s “a level above engagement”.

If employees are genuinely, actively involved in an organisation, their commitment becomes “palpable”.

Instead of just coming in, signing on and doing “a good job, or maybe a great job”, they put in even more effort to do “their best job”, she says.

Unlike cost-cutting or revenue-raising, employee involvement is not easily measured, but like great art, “you know it when you see it”, Meredith says.

Involved employees bring “their own personality, self, and extra abilities to the organisation”. If an outsider comes into an organisation and interacts with staff who are involved, that person will hear people’s passion and “feel” their commitment.

In most cases, “active, involved staff – staff who trust their leadership and believe that they’re being told the truth… tend to find really innovative ways of getting better outcomes for the organisation”, Meredith says.

One question she often asks her clients is, “How involved are your people, and how involved are you choosing to make them?”

She says HR managers who are making a case for increasing employee involvement in the change process need to start by understanding what outcomes the business is looking for.

“Interrogate the question. Be an internal consultant to the business. Understand the scope of what the business is trying to do” – and how senior management think it can be achieved, she says.

Push decision-making down

Once HR managers understand the scope of a project and have a real understanding of what the business issues are, they should “work with the business right from the start to build agreement on what success is going to look like”, Meredith says.

“What follows from that is making sure, as much as you can, that you ‘push decision making down’.

“Get the maximum appropriate level of involvement from everybody to try and contribute,” she says.

“There’s a powerful strength in the human mind, and [not] all of that strength is held at the leadership level… People can surprise you at how innovative they can be at solving problems.”

Other important questions she encourages clients to ask in relation to change management include:•What are you changing from, and what are you changing to?

•What will success look like? and

•Can you describe that vision of the future to yourself and to your people, so you all have some idea of where you’re going and why?

Inspiration can be taught

Meredith says that throughout the change process, having leaders who can share an inspiring vision is critical, and that this is a skill that can be taught.

“An inspiring vision always reflects a high standard of performance, tends to describe a unique attribute, talks about future accomplishments, conjures up an image or picture, and appeals to shared values – so there are some real elements you can use to help you build your vision,” she says.

How to build a vision, when to share it, and how to set direction are all steps that can be learned.

Talk of the vision should be aspirational – but it should also be couched in accessible language that is “aligned with the language of the organisation”.

Sharing an example from her days at Qantas, Meredith says that when former CEO James Strong spoke about the company, “you knew he passionately believed in the airline, and he spoke about things we understood to be important”.

Be honest and optimistic

“The nexus of this belief in ‘involvement’ and ‘vision’ is the concept of trust,” Meredith adds.

Leaders must be honest, even when things aren’t going according to plan, she says.

“When a leader has the courage to stand up and say, ‘Things are tough – we may lose people along the way, we may lose business, we have to make some hard decisions,’ [and] they are open about that, but still believe in themselves and genuinely believe that there is a way forward, my experience has been that people try and dig deep.

“When I talk about aspirational vision stuff, the core of it is, it needs to be believable. So don’t get out in front of people and say, ‘It’s all going to be great and it’s all going to be perfect and we’re all going to live happily ever after…’ if that’s not going to happen.”

Optimism is, however, advisable. Quoting Colin Powell, Meredith describes hope as “a force multiplier”.

Where there is hope, a leader’s ability to influence and capture “that incredible energy that your people can bring to an organisation or a situation” is multiplied, she says.

Article from HR Daily