One of the key factors (or probably THE key factor) in the success of your programme, is how engaged your stakeholders are in what you’re trying to acheive. If you don’t have some really key people at all levels actively supporting your planned outcomes, you’re doomed to failure. So how do you go about really understanding where people are and if they love or hate the changes that you’re making?
How to Measure Engagement
A great tool for checking this is the Engagement Ladder – this one shamelessly borrowed from andpartnership https://www.andpartnership.co.uk/ from a leadership course I attended a few years ago.
Clearly you want to get as many people near the top of the ladder as possible with Enrolled and Committed as the targets. Here you have real ownership of project by those people who are actively involved in it, and if things start to go off track, they’ll make every effort to get it back on track as there’s a sense of ownership. Now getting everybody into this space is tricky, but if you can identify key people and influencers that you need to get to here, you significantly improve your chances.
Willing Compliance and Grudging Compliance then come next. Whilst these are not active supporters of the change, they’ll go along with the change as long as it’s going well. However, if things start to take a downward turn, they could quickly slip down the ladder into the next bucket.
Apathy, Resistance and Unaware are the danger areas. If you’ve got key stakeholders or more than a few people sitting in here at the point that you put your changes in, you’ve got a rocky road ahead!
When to Measure of Engagement
This may sound obvious, but it’s rarely done – you should be measuring engagement throughout your programme or project. You’ll find that it’s also highly likely to mirror the change curve in that people’s engagement changes based on where you are in the lifecycle.
At the early part of the project, you’ll find your stakeholders quite low on the ladder as they don’t really know much about the project, so you can’t expect much in the way of commitment on day one, expect for those who are very close to the project kick-off process.
As you communicate the idea, hopefully people will become enthused and hopeful, and will move up the ladder – the success of this is down how and what you communicate! Then the reality of the project and the work that’s required might set in and they move back down the ladder. Finally you land the changes, things start to bed in, and people become more and more engaged.
But how do you actually know how engaged people are feeling at any point in time?
Understanding engagement is a bit like feedback. People are frequently afraid to ask for it, for fear of bad feedback. But if somebody is going to think it anyway, aren’t you are better knowing it so that you can actually do something about it? You need to to do this across all of your stakeholders as well. Sometimes senior leaders can be completely championing your change, but if they haven’t actively managed this all the way down the chain, you might never know until it’s too late.
A great way to measure feedback is to get people into a room, stick a big engagement ladder onto a wall, and ask them to put a sticker on the relevant rung of the ladder. You can step out of the room while this takes place, or stay in the room – whatever works for your organisation. This gives you some quantitative measure of engagement.
To add some qualitative measures, ask people to tell you why they put their sticker where they did. Again, this can be post-its or a discussion. Anything that helps you to understand what isn’t working, gives you the knowledge of what you need to change in your approach to get people up the engagement ladder. The key to this is then following through on those actions.
What’s A Good Engagement Score?
I found that aiming for 80% of people either Committed or Enrolled at go-live to be a good target to aim for most changes. Depending on the change that you’re making, how much it impacts people and ‘what’s in it for them’ will determine if this is an easy target to hit, or something altogether more challenging.
However, if you don’t set yourself a target, there’s not much point in measuring engagement as it won’t drive any action.
Equally, if you have a target and only measure it at the end, you’ll have no idea if you’re going to hit it or not until it’s too late!
So my top tips for measuring and improving engagement are:
- Use a quantifiable scale so you can track progress from one point to the next, and use it regularly
- Ask people why they feel the way they do at each point, so you have some qualitative data to drive actions
- Follow through on those actions to help improve engagement throughout the programme