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/Jackie Jamieson Maintaining employee engagement in times of uncertainty

Whether your organisation is still recovering from the global financial crises or reeling from the recent Brexit result, nearly every business in Britain is feeling the effects of the current economic and political turbulence and uncertainty in some way.

Many organisations are already entering a climate where doing the same thing is not an option anymore, and are responding by introducing strategies left right and centre aimed at reducing costs, downsizing or restructuring. Doing more with less is without a doubt becoming accepted as the norm for 'business as usual'.

Man _Sign PostNearly everyone is feeling the effects of impending change, and in some instances this change will be complex. We all know that this can cause feelings of fear and anxiety even for seasoned veterans of organisational change, but we live in uncertain times and the consensus is that there's nothing we can do about that.

But could the current climate of uncertainty provide us with as many opportunities as it does challenges?

“Hardships often prepare ordinary people for extraordinary destinations.” CS Lewis

So how do organisations and leaders create an engaging environment and foster motivation during times of uncertainty? What can leaders do to keep employees engaged during the ups and downs of change? 

Finding the right answers to these questions can take time, because every organisation will require a different answer. It will depend on culture, environment, size and effect of change and how secure your people feel.

Helping your employees

But, what can you do right now that will have the biggest impact for your employees?

Start by putting yourself in their shoes - by doing this you’ll find it easy to see why they have an instant desire to know what is going on. The usual mantra in times of change - 'communicate, communicate, communicate' is so true. Complex change and uncertainty can have a significant impact on the direction of travel for the organisation and indeed the team. This is the time for leaders to communicate with clarity and direction. This is time to share insights as to what the organisation's new vision and strategy may be as changes unfold. 

Hold regular forums for open and honest dialogue where you can share current information, clarify any misinformation and respond to rumours promptly. When you are willing to admit what is still unknown, follow-up with everyone quickly when new information becomes available and keep people in the loop. This way you will start to build trust in the information being shared by you and the organisation, and it's no secret how important trust is in creating a motivated and engaged team.

Next, consider how you can role model the change you need to embed within your team. What behaviours do you need to adopt in order to be the change you want to see? For example, how often do you:

  • Suggest new ways you can use the expertise in your team to drive change and make people feel valued?
  • Involve the team in creating the ‘new world’ by defining what success will look like?
  • Choose to have conversations about a positive future?
  • Use your questions to motivate and engage individuals to own their own future?
  • If appropriate, share your personal thoughts on the change

The principle of Appreciative Inquiry, developed by David Cooperrider over 25 years ago, gives leader/managers a useful frame of reference for how to have conversations that a create positive change.

Be an appreciative leader

The appreciative leader sees people as being as important as the process and considers time to think as important as time to do. They create time and space to nurture positive conversations using dynamic questions to make connections that are meaningful and collaborative, whether face to face or via mobile conversations. 

The underpinning philosophy is based on the belief that everyone has greater potential than they currently show, including the potential to be creative with ideas for change or improvement. This approach has been widely used to introduce and embed complex change.

So what do Appreciative Inquiry questions sound like?  Here are just a few examples, but please note, they may not be the 'right' questions for your situation:

  • What could you do to move this forward if you knew you couldn’t fail?
  • What is the one thing you would do differently if your success was guaranteed?
  • If you were to make a success of this, what would that look like?
  • If you were to be really ambitious about the future of our team/organisation, what do you picture?
  • What is the biggest idea you have about improving our service/product/team/organisation?
  • What is the boldest idea you have about improving our service/product/team/organisation?
  • What does excellence mean to you/our team?

Could this be the way we redesign the architecture of a team/organisation?

I think Peter Drucker sums this up perfectly:

‘The best way to predict your future is to create it’.

So, let me ask YOU - what’s the one thing you could do differently to create engagement if your success was guaranteed?

 Jackie Jamieson

Jackie Jamieson, Learning Professional

My main focus is best described as 'Inspiring Managers to be Inspiring Managers'. In my blogs I’ll discuss topics such as Employee Engagement and Leadership Development.

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Copyright © 2016 Bray Leino Learning


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