In a post last week, we studied the experience of Holly Spoth-Torres, an Alaskan Park Superintendent, as she transformed her workforce into a nimble, collaborative, problem-solving team. Now it’s time to apply her lessons learned to workforces in general.
Why does engagement matter?
The bottom line is that engaged employees are not only good for workplace morale: they’re good for your business’s bottom line. By creating a culture and workplace of engagement, collaboration and flexibility, you’re attacking not only the "soft" issues of your employees’ attitudes and feelings about their work but the "concrete" issues of productivity, customer service and ultimately, profit.
Holly transformed a team from just a functional group of coworkers to a community of practice who continually refined their work. “I believe making a sincere and fundamental effort to engage your employees in setting the agenda and strategy for their work has a higher impact on productivity than any other strategy,” Holly said.
How to Put the Anchorage Experience to Work in Your Office
Diagnose the problem you’re trying to solve. Ask for input. Make sure you’re actually listening to and considering the input and advice from the stakeholders.
Set clear and reasonable objectives, and specific milestones for change.
Create a structured approach, but give your employees the freedom to solve problems their way within your structure.
Tweak, collaborate, revise. Foster the creation of a community of practice as your employees attack the new goals. Encourage them to talk through obstacles with their peers.
Reward & recognize. Evaluate your employees and work with them on a one-on-one basis to support the evolution of new practices and desired outcomes. Reward people with more responsibility when possible, and create structured expectations.
What’s Next: Securing the Knowledge Base
“My biggest regret is that we’ve neglected the process of recording and documenting our decision making and discoveries,” Holly said. “The next step will be creating lasting resources to record and share the practices we have developed.”
And that’s how I heard this whole story. Knowing that OpenSesame is working on creating a marketplace full of dynamic learning resources, Holly came to me for suggestions on how she could easily create some elearning courses to improve the training process for new employees and reinforce her organization’s progress over the last few years.
I’ve suggested that she start by creating video interviews with subject matter experts in her own organization, and build a wiki to share these videos and other materials. Perhaps she can find some bloggers in her team who would like to document the evolution of their work. Other ideas we have talked about include encouraging employees to access videos while on the move through their mobile devices and supporting employees’ efforts to develop their own personal learning networks by connecting with their peers in other organizations through social media. Any other suggestions?
You Don't Have to Spend a Lot of Money
In conclusion, you don’t have to spend a lot of money, buy a lot of new equipment or start over with new employees to create an engaged workforce. I share this case study because Holly’s success is inspiring. She found new ways to do more with less, and reinvented her team during this age of slashed budgets and pressure on government employees with free tools and a patient, creative approach.
Now that Holly has built a strong foundation and a strong team, she’s able to spend more of her time developing reusable resources (soon to include elearning courses) and solving bigger problems, like reorganizing the org chart to match the jobs that her employees are actually doing. In turn, Holly’s continued commitment to her team and their success has earned continued engagement. I’m inspired by her success, and I hope you will be too.
You can reach Holly on Twitter at @AncGreenParks.
Image of the Chugach Range from Goose Lake Park courtesy of Anchorage Convention & Visitors' Bureau on Flickr