One of my colleagues came in this morning and hid chocolate eggs all over the office in the hope that it would spark an easter egg hunt and get us all into the bank holiday spirit. At lunchtime she realised that we were all still tied to our desks, and the eggs were still untouched (and in fairness, at this point, probably melting onto the back of the filing cabinet) and attempted to rouse everyone to join in.
We may be a team of overenthusiastic workaholic consultants, but it’s our last day before a bank holiday – we want to get our work done and get outta here, just like the rest of the world.
It made me think about the challenges I see clients face on a daily basis in terms of engaging staff and motivating them to get involved in change – and the lessons we might be able to apply from this situation.
My colleague’s first mistake? Assuming it would be intrinsically fun enough to need no further selling to a sceptical audience. Sometimes, I see organisations trying to sell change programmes and transformation to staff using arguments like “it will help us meet our budget reductions” or “it will make our processes more efficient” and wondering why the message doesn’t sink in. Just because something is a good idea, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea for the individual you’re selling it to. If L’oreal’s slogan was “because it’ll help us meet our profit targets” I probably wouldn’t use their shampoo every day. Messages that start by understanding what is driving the behaviour of the individuals are likely to have a higher impact, for example “you won’t have to waste the first half an hour of your day filling out that form that you hate” or “your customers will get their benefits processed faster” or “you’ll really appreciate that crème egg at 3pm when you’re peckish and no one else found one…”
When it comes to engagement, timing is of the essence. Trying to start the hunt post-breakfast rather than pre-pub was always going to be a challenge. It reminds me of the time I arrived to run a workshop on innovative ideas for delivery of a service, and the client had forgotten to mention the team had been told half an hour before I started that their jobs would become redundant as a result. It wasn’t the most productive session I’ve ever run.
Failing that we could also have thought through what really motivates this particular group of people and taken advantage of it – for example if there’d been a competition to collect the most eggs they’d have been found in seconds (by me, obviously). If you have a team who pride themselves on their levels of customer service, focus on the elements of the change that will enhance that. If you have a team who pride themselves on knowing their service inside out due to many years service, capitalise on that service knowledge and support them to think of the innovative solutions, rather than starting with a proposed solution that they will then feel duty bound to defend.
Finally, don’t forget the basics – clarity is key. When did the hunt officially start, what is the scope (how widely have the eggs been hidden?) and most importantly, what do you need me to do right now to be involved? Be clear with staff about what you want from them – are you actually asking them to engage with something, or are you just communicating with them?
Anyway, egg hunting complete, the BDO Public Sector team are off to the pub, and we hope you are too – Happy Easter!