We live in a time of momentous changes. Yet there’s no doubt about it, most people are resistant to change. Change moves people out of a comfort zone of established performance norms and behaviors, and can change the balance of input and reward. In business we’ve all heard the 2013 statistic from Gallup – 70% of change initiatives fail. This figure is used by consulting companies, product companies, training companies and people in organizations across the globe. But what does it really mean? What is the context of failure? In whose eyes do the initiatives fail? And what can be done to improve outcomes?

The failure of a change initiative can be for varied reasons, though a common one is that not all stakeholders affected by it were involved in the process beforehand. This can be staff, customers, suppliers, partners, or even regulators or investors. Or maybe they were involved but in isolation they didn’t really grasp the changes that were in the pipeline. Or they didn’t give a full or honest response to begin with. Or they subsequently changed their mind and didn’t share that with anyone. It may be rather naïve to expect all parties to iterate with the same levels of openness and with a common agenda.

This can become a problem not only for the change initiative being proposed, but also as an indictment on a deeper-rooted company morale, culture and perhaps lack of adequate overall engagement to prevent the development of self-interests and a less co-operative silo-mentality.

Gallup defines engagement based on several key workplace elements including:

  • Having an opportunity each day to do what you do best
  • Having someone at work who encourages and can facilitate your personal development
  • Believing your opinions count at work

There are multiple benefits of positive employee engagement. Gallup found that companies with higher employee engagement have 10% higher customer metrics, 21% more productivity, 22% more profitability, and 25-65% less turnover. On the flip side of that, a study by HR research and advisory firm McLean & Company, found that a disengaged employee costs organizations $3,400 for every $10,000 in annual salary.

How can such expensive disengagement be avoided? Employment contracts exist in two parts. The written contract sets out statutory fundamentals including working hours, remuneration, vacation time and so on. The second part is a psychological contract, an unwritten set of expectations of the employment relationship that includes informal arrangements, mutual beliefs, common ground and perceptions between the two parties.

The psychological contract should develop and evolve constantly based on communication between the employee and the employer. It’s the give and take that encourages employees to adopt an affirmative commitment go the extra yard in pursuit of the company’s aims both for their own sake and for anticipated respect within their team, rather than for personal financial reward.

So a business leader who can create a team attitude of affirmative commitment is going to out-perform one whose team works to the strict letter of their written contracts, with a commitment to doing only just enough to maintain their position and avoid censure. Giving employees a voice that will be acted upon is an important step for this to happen, and the way those voices are heard can further influence the degree to which it is successful.

That ‘voice’ can involve asking a team for suggestions and comments on specific issues, and perhaps include their leader’s perceived performance. The first helps to create a shared ownership of innovations that are put in to practice, encouraging adoption and reducing resistance to them. The second helps to create a two-way assessment of personal performance and reduces the friction of a stricter hierarchy. These aspects of being listened to in a less tier-structured organization are particularly important to Millennials, who research shows are the least engaged generation in the US: 71% claim to be either not engaged or are actively disengaged at work.

Crowdsourcing platform POPin has developed an online process that enables speedy and anonymous replies to questions, with the opportunity for team members to collectively grade their thoughts as a group – also anonymously – before sending through the collective response. This element of working in a team rather than as an individual is also a strong preference among Millennials, and the guaranteed anonymity throughout the process encourages honesty and frankness at each stage.  

Improving Leaders’ Performance Through Team Engagement

Each person’s response to the question can be seen and voted on by the group. The voting creates a report of the best answers on how to improve a company’s products, services, operations or management style that is created in a collaborative manner driving buy-in and adoption for ensuing improvements. And this can include upward management of team leaders.

The process can also be used externally among clients or partner organisations, with similar benefits of improved perception of the organization for giving them a voice and acting on the shared consensus of replies. And with a start-to-finish time of under 15 minutes for the person who sends a question to receive the results it doesn’t lose momentum or divert people for too long from their main responsibilities. And the value of the crowdsourced insight and results to the team leader and the organization could be invaluable.

POPin is a Premier Partner of our CSW Global 2018 conference running 24-28 October in Washington D.C. Their CEO and Co-founder Hayes Drumwright will be on-stage to cover how their SaaS mobile and web solutions empower organizations to leverage crowdsourcing to source pain points, build trust and create buy-in for initiatives in order to scale a business. A full agenda is here and some tickets remain available. We hope you can be there to see and hear over 60 top speakers from fifteen countries, and meet the CSW team plus many peers within our North American community.

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