So far, we’ve covered the importance of Sponsorship, Organizational Relevance, and Communication to a project’s success. These elements all come together in the concept of Target Employee Engagement (TEE). You could say you need to “tee up” your project for it to be successful! (okay, bad pun, I know, but I was an English major long ago, and I really enjoy word humor!)
If you’re still with me, then let’s peel back the onion on how to engage target employees, going BEYOND communication…and if you’d like to read the three previous installments, you can click here.
1. Get people involved hands-on with the project. Acting as subject matter experts, participating in requirements definition, reviewing process flows, helping to design the user experience – these are all ways to invite people to help shape the solution they will, ultimately, need to embrace. There’s little room to object to the solution if they’ve had input to it through interviews, workshops, and design reviews. And along the way, you may even create some advocates and change agents who become passionate about the project.
* For a recent client, we brought together a cross-functional team to spend three days designing their future state process flow. With carefully crafted exercises and a tightly facilitated agenda, the group generated four new process flows, assessed the impact of the future flows, and defined the roles and responsibilities most important to the new way of doing business. This group became the nucleus of the change management army because they were highly engaged and hands-on.
2. Create opportunities for people to live in the future…before it arrives. Probably easiest to do with a system-centric project because you have a User Acceptance Testing phase and the chance to create a Pilot group. Find ways to encourage your target populations to explore the possibilities offered by the solution in a pre-launch environment. Not only does it engage their interest, it helps identify any implementation obstacles before you start implementation!
* Years ago, when I was part of a custom policy admin system development team, we designed and held an immersive “expo” in the central atrium of the client’s building. At this expo, we had five desk tops set up with a system prototype so people could get a feel for the new interface. We had a video running on constant loop that showed the highly manual (including people running paper around the building) process “before” and the very streamlined “after.” On one wall, we displayed on poster paper the future state process flows. You get the idea…
3. Train people, not only on the new solution or future process but in any prerequisite skill and knowledge areas. Training demonstrates an investment not only in the technology platform but in the people who have to use that platform successfully. If you’ve got an extended duration because of system selection, vendor negotiations, or hardware acquisition, training is a great way to continue to show progress and deliver value. You can keep people positively engaged with the project by training, and if you’re rolling out training modules, you’re building momentum towards the end goal.
* A recent client selected their software vendor but got hung up on defining their Minimal Viable Product (MVP). They risked losing the mindshare of the employees who had so actively participated in defining the future state requirements and screening vendor options. By partnering with their training team, they began to introduce modules that covered prerequisite skills and concepts. They are setting the stage, if you will, for the big finish by maintaining interest and momentum through carefully designed training.
4. Communicating targeted messaging to defined audiences, and creating a multi-way exchange of information and opinion, is another key to successful employee engagement. I covered communication in a previous installment, which is why I don’t spend any time on it here. But I would be remiss not to at least mention it!
Target Employee Engagement depends on a deep understanding of the various audiences in the employee group. What works for one group may not work for another, so use the audience profiles you create as part of the Communication Plan. The techniques you use should highlight the organizational relevance of the project because that’s what will speak to the employees. And, last but not least, your sponsor(s) should have a prominent role in explaining the importance of the hands-on involvement, exploring the future state, and participating in any training. These first four drivers (Sponsorship; Organizational Relevance; Communication; and Target Employee Engagement) become your change management and implementation readiness plan. When executed well, you vastly increase your likelihood of successful project delivery.