Engagement happens when…

You know what’s always good to share? Stories of actual success. Both are mine.

The first is a success story of engagement. The second is also a success story of engagement.

You see, engagement is a range of things. Engagement happens when you do the right things with your people. And it’s those right things that make the difference.

So let’s get the first thing out of the way. I was happy with my role – the basics were all in play. My salary was a fair one for my role. I was clear about the work I was responsible for. I had autonomy to do the actions I thought necessary. I had clear expectations of what I needed to do. I understood the consequences of not acting in a way which was beneficial to the organisation, the team, and to me.

This has been true of my last two jobs. I was respected by my manager from the off for having the knowledge, skills, and attitude to do the job well. From there it was a matter of letting me get on with it. A series of things helped keep me on track. Regular conversations with my manager about things happening in my workflow. The freedom to try new, creative, innovative ways of delivering learning. I was coached where my performance was going awry of expectations. My ideas and opinions were sought on things that were important. There was the flexibility to work the hours needed for the organisation, and to work from home or adjust working hours where appropriate. I was given regular feedback about my performance. I was allowed to explore how I worked best, and talk with my manager about making this happen.

I handed in my notice in my most recent role, and worked my notice period. All along that time my manager kept the same approach – and I appreciated that greatly. My team were highly supportive of my time left in the role, and helped me to figure out what I needed to do to leave the role and workload in a state which was meaningful and useful for the future person. There was no animosity, or maliciousness, just genuine support and empathy. Right up until the last day I was working on things which I was not going to see put into action, but will help the team achieve things later.

These were things which may have been backed up by some policy somewhere, but I was never told about it. My manager understood these were ways to engage me because we talked about them.

I’m about to start a new role with a new employer. I am seriously excited by this. All because the recruitment, and candidate experience has been excellent.

My interest was piqued about a role I saw advertised. From the moment I applied, within a period of ten days I had been through the recruitment process and been offered the role. To say I was impressed by this is an understatement. It was seriously impressive. They understood I needed to work my notice period and we agreed to stay in touch.

In the two months leading up to my first day I’ve had regular conversations with my new manager. This has been awesome. I have a sense of the organisation I’m about to join from these conversations. I have an idea about the culture of the place and how receptive they are to the role I’m going to do. Some of the ideas they have in place to engage staff have been shared with me, and I’ve been allowed to offer my tuppence about what I can do to support them. I’ve connected with some of the new team members ahead of joining which gives me a sense of the attitude they have to social media. Information about upcoming work has been shared with me and helps me to get a sense of what the expectations are of me.

I feel welcomed and motivated to do well in the role, before I’ve even stepped in the front door, or met the team.

So there you have it. Two success stories about how to put engagement into practice. Both offer a different sense of how to make it happen. Both offer some insight into what worked to engage me. Because at the end of the day, I’m just like you. Someone who wants to work, do it well, and feel positive about the contribution I can make.

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Uncharted Waters

So it’s been a few days since HRD 2013 finished hosted by the CIPD, and here’s my final set of thoughts on the conference and the L&D profession.

The L&D profession is essentially driving itself into complacency. The other day I asked the question if L&D has stalled, and this has been bugging me. Why have we stalled? As one of the speakers at the conference said, this is the time for L&D (and HR) to shine, to really let loose within our organisations, and drive change. Except, this is an ambition only a few will ever realise.

There’s some important things to consider in my statement.

The economy continues to be fucked. Spending is still down, people are unsure of what’s happening tomorrow, and the government has narrowly escaped a third recession. This means organisations are in uncharted waters. They don’t know how to navigate this uncertainty, and don’t know where to get their inspiration from. There aren’t any experts or ‘gurus’ who can provide the much sought after guidance. No-one knows what the answer is. This has the potential to ignite a fire in some and create an awesome set of opportunities. For the vast majority they’re just trying to tread this water until they find shore when they can regain their footing and do what they always did. Except what most don’t realise is that shore they land on will be in undiscovered countries where the same old things are obsolete.

There are no new advancement in the understanding of the human condition – not significant enough to challenge the way we think about human learning and development. When we are still using Maslow’s hierarchy of needs as a basis for talking about motivation, this is evidence enough of how complacent we are in the profession. Quite possibly the only new piece of thinking we can rely on is in the area of neuroscience, as technology allows us to discover more about the intricacies of the brain.

At the same time, there are a lot of theories about human learning and development, and in particular about organisational learning and development. For the modern L&Der to be skilled enough, knowledgeable enough, and able enough to be jack of all trades, and master of all is mission impossible – yet it’s what’s being asked of us. Which are we supposed to invest our efforts in? Which are we supposed to disregard? Which are going to help our organisations move forward? Which are going to be obsolete tomorrow? And most importantly – who has the answer to any of that?

Engagement is a topic that isn’t going away any time soon. There’s a lot being said about discretionary effort, and it’s causing some people to be turned off to the concept and conversation. What happened to just treating people right and doing the right things? When did it become about policy and management and protocol?

Technology continues to progress at a greater speed than the late majority will get to grips with. Take the world of movies as an example. No-one these days sells VHS cassettes. DVDs, blurays and online streaming are the world of today. Give it a few years and DVDs will become obsolete. How do we keep up with these advancements? How do we harness what the technology enables us to do and use it to aid learners needs? Do we even know what learners needs are anymore? I’m of the growing opinion that we are becoming more clueless about what the learner needs in order to be effective in their roles we hire them for.

Social technologies in particular are causing a lot discomfort and anxiety for people who don’t know how to harness it. They can (and are) being used in all manners from learning to marketing to the glib to the insightful. And there are so many to use to connect with others, how are we supposed to navigate that? The question of need is redundant, it has to be done. The questions become centred around using them for useful and progressive purposes. Holy mama, I’m getting tired now.

The skills of the L&Der need to be more. Save a few people, most of what I heard from various speakers is that we are treading water to keep alive. We’re not allowing ourselves to thrive and act with intention and positivity. We have the opportunity to do this, but we lack the creativity to find what that means. How does this make you feel? Are you inspired to act differently? Do you want to fight about this and argue your case?

I, for one, refuse to be part of this complacency. It’s a rotten place to be.

Managing delegate expectations

I’ve missed posting a Q&A post for a couple of weeks, so let’s get them back into gear.

How do you go about managing expectations in a learning context? Is it important to do so? What does it do?

On Friday, I delivered Assertiveness training. The first exercise I asked the group to do was tell me why they were there, wrote it up, and posted the flipchart onto the wall. This is like Training 101 type stuff, but here’s why it’s important to do so.

In most instances you won’t have met your delegates in any meaningful capacity before the event, so it’s important to understand why they are there. Are they mandated to be there? Has it been suggested by their manager? They thought the subject looked interesting? They want to learn something new? They have some downtime and need to do something productive? You get the answers to all these from the initial question. As a L&Der, this gives you a quick and initial insight into the groups needs and individual requirements.

At a secondary level, this also helps the L&Der to make a quick assessment about the attitude of the respective delegates. What terminology did they use to describe their reason for being there? What was their energy level like? How descriptive were they? How particular were they about their objective? This is important for any L&Der to take a measure of at the beginning of a session, as at the end you want to be able to identify in yourself that you have noticed an improvement in your delegates.

You are also able to quite quickly assess if you will be covering the content in your session. Hugely important for managing the delegate expectations. If they are attending a session on ‘Management Essentials’, they may be expecting to learn about employment law as part of the session, but you may have no intention of covering this at all.

By writing it up, you immediately capture the attention of the group and allow them to see how collaborative the session is likely to be. This is vital. In any training environment, the group need to build rapport and establish a ‘power’ relationship with the L&Der quickly. By inviting the group to submit their thoughts, you have created an informal 2-way discussion at the very outset, and from that point on, given permission to the group to be vocal.

By posting the flipchart to the wall, this quite simply creates a visual way to check in with the group and yourself as the session goes along. Are you keeping to their expectations? Have you addressed particular points? Did everyone contribute? Are you encouraging them to check back in?

It’s a common methodology used by L&Ders and one that will be used by countless others. Today’s question then is:

How do you capture the delegates expectations? And if you’re a delegate, when have you seen this done well?