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Staff engagement models for change projects

Elissa Farrow
April 29, 2013

There is a broad range of engagement techniques that can be used in change projects. Some are designed to:

  • Share information to staff
  • Receive information from staff
  • Involve staff in change formation
  • Involve staff in decisions around change

The important first step is to plan the engagement approach as part of your broader change management plan.

Each engagement needs to have a clear set of objectives as well as metrics to determine what the appropriate level of engagement needs to be. Engagement approaches often are based around decisions of power and control.

Deciding on the level of engagement, which staff are to be involved and the issues to be considered takes detailed consideration. It is best that decisions to engage staff are planned early. This enables adequate time to prepare but also moves people up the engagement curve from hearing the message to owning the outcome.

I find that using an engagement model such as the OECD’s engagement model of information, consultation and active participation is a useful model (www.oecd.org). This is a like a RACI (responsibility assignment matrix) often used in stakeholder management practices but instead challenges the levels to active participation rather than just consultation that can be left to misinterpretation. Identify the staff or groups of staff to be engaged. Then identify the level of engagement.

The three levels

1. Information: It is about provision, a one-way relationship where information is disseminated to staff. It can be active or passive and a range of channels can be used (phone, social media, email, website, publications, education and awareness etc). Best practice approaches focus on where you can go for more information.

2. Consultation: This is a two-way relationship where there is an active seeking of views from staff where they have a strong interest or in a subject area that directly affects them personally. When consultation approaches are used there needs to be a clear understanding of what the information gleaned from the process will be used for, that is, avoiding putting it into a black hole. The limits and boundaries also need to clearly be identified.

3. Active participation: This involves engagement approaches where staff members have a key role in solution making. Engagement processes are high and active and often the end result is a jointly owned product. This active approach takes time and resources to do effectively. The final decision maker must be clearly identified up front.

Each engagement level can happen at multiple times throughout the course of the change and needs to happen regularly. The techniques to support the selected approach need to be appropriate to the objectives sought.

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Elissa Farrow
Elissa is a founder and lead consultant for About Your Transition and has extensive experience in strategic organisational adaptation design, facilitation and delivery. Elissa has supported organisations to define positive futures and then successfully transform to bring lasting benefits. She has proven adaptative capacity and can successfully transfer her skills to different contexts. In 2018, Elissa commenced her doctoral studies through the University of the Sunshine Coast. Her published research is exploring organisational adaptation to the evolving field of artificial intelligence using qualitative and participatory research methodologies. Elissa is an experienced board director and considered a thought leader in her field having won a number of national and local awards for contributing to Women in Project Management and for Change Management Research.
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