When implementing change, organizations commonly struggle with a variety of issues that can stem from a lack of effective engagement with employees, including:
- Not understanding or accepting the need for change.
- Having a limited appreciation for the benefits that are expected.
- Distrusting or resenting the changes being implemented and those leading the process
Conversely, there are a wide range of benefits that effective engagement can generate for both the program and stakeholder groups involved as described below:
Carefully crafting a complete engagement plan will be an important step toward securing employee buy-in and commitment. An engagement plan is simply a plan for communicating with stakeholders and meaningfully involving them in the change process. A strong engagement plan is about more than just relaying information; it should ideally provide a variety of mediums for individuals to learn, share their opinions, help with, and participate in the changes to come.
Identifying Methods of Engagement
There are a wide range of methods that can be used to engage individuals in different ways. We can segment these methods into two groups based on the direction information is allowed to travel.
One-Way Methods of Engagement
Two-Way Methods of Engagement
Involve information being developed and directed only from the change management team to employees.
Allow information to be communicated to and from both the change management team and employees.
Consider that methods involving face-to-face dialogue are often the most effective but more and more commonly overlooked in a world dominated by technology.
For a list of free tools to help your organization with ideas for both one and two-way methods of engagement click here
Different methods are better suited to different messages, stakeholders, and situations. It is prudent to carefully assess how well-suited each method of engagement is for disseminating or collecting information. One thing to keep in mind is that it generally works to leverage methods of engagement that people are familiar with and accustomed to using.
Profiling Stakeholder Groups
An important rule essential to generating meaningful engagement is to know your audience. To tactfully address the diverse collection of individuals that make up an organization, it is helpful to identify key stakeholder groups. Stakeholder groups may include employees, customers, suppliers, volunteers, NGOs, and more. Employees (which we have limited our focus to for this section) can be further broken down by their area of focus, department or level of hierarchy, for example. Of course, not all the people within a stakeholder group will share the same needs, but in creating groups, we are looking to balance customizing our approach with efficiency. It can be quite valuable to identify the champions and naysayers, described in earlier in the section, as part of further targeting engagement efforts.
For free tools to help your organization identify stakeholder groups click here
After the key stakeholder groups have been identified, it is important to profile each. The relationship of a stakeholder group to the program should be defined as part of establishing the expectations stakeholders’ are likely to have. By understanding the relationship of each group to the program, it should become easier to determine the most effective way to engage them. The following matrix describes four different approaches to engagement that are more or less useful depending on the level of influence and interest of a stakeholder group:
Answering the following series of questions can help to map each stakeholder group onto this table.
- What stake or interest does the stakeholder group have in the program?
- How will the stakeholder group be impacted by the program?
- What influence does the stakeholder have regarding the program?
- How much noise would they make if their views/concerns were not taken seriously?
- What is the existing relationship with the stakeholder like?
To move a step further, the table below describes which engagement methods align to the five approaches to engagement outlined above. Using it will help to identify the specific engagement methods that are best suited to each stakeholder group, given the engagement approach that was deemed to ideal.
The Engagement Planning Process
Once each key stakeholder group has been profiled and the potential engagement methods have been assessed, the messages to be disseminated should be prepared. Some messages will be for everyone, while others will be more group-specific. Of course, new messages will need to be shared on an ongoing basis so planning will be a continuous process.
Create your engagement plan so messages remain current, thoughtful, and strategically delivered in a consistent, manageable and digestible fashion. To support the planning involved in engaging each stakeholder group, the table below may help to organize relevant information:
Be sure your plan also reflects the stage of change each stakeholder group has reached, whether Awareness, Commitment or in between.
A good engagement plan will include plenty of opportunities for two-way communication and feedback from employees. Soliciting feedback from the various stakeholder groups is not only inclusive; it will serve as a gauge for understanding what people are experiencing. That connectedness will inform how communications and the program itself should be focused and evolved over time. Carefully addressing the following questions will help to deepen engagement levels over time:
- How might we ensure each stakeholder group is thoughtfully engaged and on-board?
- How might we create opportunities for openly discussing questions and concerns, especially engaging those who are resistant to change?
- How might we create opportunities for anonymous feedback?
- How might we incentivize feedback?
- How might we demonstrate we have sincerely considered the feedback received?
In finalizing an engagement plan, be sure to remain flexible and responsive since many factors may influence the information that needs to be exchanged, the timing, and the method through which it is shared.
Evaluating the Engagement Plan
It is important to periodically determine if the engagement planning process and efforts themselves, were effective. It is critical to evaluate the real impact the engagement plan has had. The objective is to measure the success of the engagement process and outcomes achieved. The kind and source of data required will need to be determined in addition to how it will be collected. Further, to ensure plan evaluation happens consistently it is important to assign responsibility and set clear timelines along which the data is collected and analyzed.