There are many challenges facing local authorities, including increasing demand, significantly reduced budgets, expectations of adults and carers, implementation of new legislation, regulations and standards. Key to operating successfully in challenging times is developing a workforce which is engaged, motivated and productive and have job satisfaction. Front line staff have direct experience of key issues and therefore often can suggest workable solutions to identified areas requiring development. There are four key elements to achieving such goals:
- a senior management team with vision, and who sincerely value contributions from staff;
- line managers who empower and listen to staff organisational values and principles which genuinely underpin front line work, leading to a sense of trust and integrity;
- employees who are able to openly discuss their views and concerns, without fear of retribution.
Staff engagement may involve creating and maintaining a cultural shift in the way organisations behave.
In Improving social and health care services, SCIE, 2007 the authors note staff employee involvement and participation is one of the key features of successful organisational change alongside: effective leadership that enables change; stakeholder involvement and partnerships; recognising and supporting diversity; enhancing skills and development; working with resistance and undertaking evaluations that promote value.
In relation to employee involvement and participation they state that employees should be entrusted to take forward improvements in their day to day service delivery and that if staff are involved in the planning stages of organisational change, they are more likely to support and feel part of the improvement process. It is key that staff are consulted, heard, and considered – including those who may not initially embrace change. Below is a summary of their action points:
- allow and encourage employees (or teams of employees) to make some decisions independently;
- allow workers to discuss, question and design improvement activities – the exercise must not be tokenism; listening and responding to suggestions must be visible and actions must be taken;
- use “resistance” to weatherproof improvements and solutions;
- experiment with different types of consultation and involvement to see what works;
- feedback to employees the results of consultation exercises or decisions made on the basis of their input;
- encourage teamwork – both inter- and intra-departmental – comprised of diverse group members;
- offer encouragement, praise and rewards to teams as well as to individuals;
- include all staff in participation efforts;
- expose employees to “hands on” development activities that they had a part in designing;
- give staff adequate time for involvement, participation and developmental activities;
- if people are finding it hard to balance current commitments with time for service improvements, work with them to find a solution’ (SCIE, 2007: ix).