Recently, I became very frustrated with a group of staff forum representatives that I work with.
Staff reps are there to engage in a two-way dialogue with senior managers, where employees’ concerns are raised, and managers’ strategic narrative is shared. It is a very effective way of engaging all employees.
The funny thing is, the morning had started out really well. They had raised very good questions for their board – their questions were strategic, and at a high level. They showed that they understood the business.
I was really proud of them.
A year and a half before, these reps had lacked confidence in their ability to do the role, they were suspicious of the business, and they would have brought issues to the table that would have been better handled by a line manager or a facilities team.
During the day, after the board members had left, they also showed their ability to filter individual concerns to find the strategic questions. For example, a concern about parking led to a strategic question about flexible working.
The next step in a staff rep’s work is to start thinking forwards – in other words, to come up with a yearly plan for what they want to achieve. When I asked them to do this, they didn’t seem to be able to focus on setting goals for the coming year.
This was the point at which I became frustrated.
I felt the irritation creeping into my voice and the patience draining from me.
And then I took a breath. I had suddenly remembered what I had told them earlier in the day: “engagement is not something that you achieve, and then it’s perfect forever. Engagement is a process. You do some amazing work, and then there are the lows, and the times that are difficult, and then it gets better again.”
I had to recognise that they’d gone great work, and had now hit a bump in the road – it certainly wasn’t insurmountable, it would just take time.
This is the thing about engagement. It has a life cycle. It has ups and downs. One organisation I worked with had a great level of engagement – until one man left, who had been central to keeping people engaged. They then had a major dip in engagement, and had to work their way back up.
The real measure of strong engagement is how resilient employees are when change is introduced into the organisation.
So, how can you help your employees improve their resilience?
This month, I just have one tip for you: share your success stories, big and small. If your employees have contributed to the company doing well, share it. Make sure it’s something specific. Show a clear result.
This is something I find myself coming back to over and over again.
Here are some of the benefits of tracking success stories:
- It’s not just managers who want to know that engagement has a real-life impact on the business – staff want to know their work matters too and that their contributions are important.
- In difficult times, when people become cynical or suspicious about management decision-making, it’s important to show that there have been decisions and changes in the past that have been seen as successful by staff. This provides that balance and shows that change isn’t always bad.
- It’s a great way of sharing best practice. If an individual or a team in an organisation have solved a problem successfully, why leave others to figure out similar problems from scratch? Sharing successes provides a blueprint for others to work from
- Related to this, tracking and sharing success stories starts the process of getting employees talking to each other across teams. The more people network and get to know each other, the more engaged they’ll be.
I suggest having a success story log, perhaps in Excel or SharePoint. Some of the companies I work with do this, and it is really useful.