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Engagement Strategies that Bring Out the Best

in Employees and Workplace Communication


Lauren Bedell, CAO & COO, Avenues: The World School
Linda Dulye, President & Founder, Dulye & Co.
May 19, 2015 PRSA Connect 15

Why Stay for This Presentation? Because

Percent of U.S employees engaged in their jobs.


May 7, 2015, Gallup Research

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Whats Ahead: Break-Through Engagement Strategies

Part 1: Coming to Terms

Background

Business Case for Change

Engagement Approach: Action Team

Part 2: Making an Impact


A work in
progress with
transferable
techniques

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Action Plan

Measuring Impact

Staying Focused

Background: Avenues: The World School


Chelsea, NYC-neighborhood
private school, pre-k - 11
1,240 students, 201 faculty,
122 staff, 1/4-person
Communication Department
Immersion program Mandarin/
Spanish
Now in its 3rd year
Largest independent school
opening in the US
First of visionary, global schools
in Avenues: The World School
network
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Business Case for Change

Start-up culture
Fast and furious growth
Fire-fighting mode: focus
on day-to-day tactics vs.
strategic systems

Start-up
challenges elevate
the need for
effective
communication.

Big fatigue! Need to


motivate staff

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Where to Start? Let Data Be Your Guide

Feb. 2014: Communication assessment


May 2014: Instant poll

A data-based approach!
Real-time research sets
priorities

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Data Point: E-Overload


Results indicate level of agreement
Employee group
Manager group

3.1

We rely more on
email than on
conversations

2.9

Strongly Disagree

4
Strongly Agree

Yet, in-person conversations most preferred.


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Data Point: Message Alignment (Walk the Talk)


Results indicate level of agreement
Employee group
Manager group

2.8

Our words and


actions align (we
do what we say)

2.3

Strongly Disagree

4
Strongly Agree

Mixed messages being sent


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Data Point: Workforce Knowledge


Results indicate level of agreement

Our organization's
policies/procedures are clear and
concise

2.9
Employee group

2.3

Manager group

2.9

When policy changes occur, I


understand the underlying reasons

2.3

Decisions about the organization are


made with relevant facts and team
input

2.9
2.3
1

Strongly Disagree

4
Strongly Agree

Manager ratings cause concern


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Data Point: Level of Commitment


Results indicate level of agreement
Employee group
Manager group

Effective
communication
is regarded as a
priority

2.8

2.5

1
Strongly Disagree

4
Strongly Agree

40% of written comments focus on the need to


improve workplace communication.
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Need to Take Action

Dual Responses to the Data

Engage
Managers:
Communication
Skills Training

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Engage
Employees:
Action Team

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Dulye & Co. Spectator-Free Workplace


Employee Engagement

2-Way Communications

Polls, Surveys & Measurement

Leadership Development

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Inversion Approach: Bottom-Up Change Drivers


Stop relying on management to own problems,
solutions and roll-out initiatives
Empower employees to face and fix issues, and
be involved in strategic decisions
Invest in training, tools, time
No helicoptering!

Engage and trust employees as partners.


Go spectator-free!
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Engagement Roadmap: Action Team Program


Plan
Identify
priorities
Analyze root
causes
Develop
improvements
Create formal
action plan
Review and
refine plan with
leaders

Do
Communicate
action plan at
all levels
Integrate
improvements
into ongoing
operational/
organizational
initiatives

Check/Act
Develop
metrics and
measurement
program
Conduct polls
to assess
progress
Adjust based
on data

Model operational excellence structure with a


formal plan for disciplined problem solving.
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Provide Coaching Support


New way of working requires leaders to learn to:
Get comfortable with being uncomfortable
Receive direct feedback
Ask probing questions
Listen to understand
Be patient
Act as partners, not superiors
Let go and trustpeople and the process
Significant change and development challenge.
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Sell the Benefits: Whats In It For You


Extensive training in project management,
communications, team building and problem solving
Access to senior leaders for formal and informal
discussions/ meetings
Networking across departments, levels and positions
Learn the business from a strategic viewpoint
Be heard
Make something happen

Jackpot: Major professional development!


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Action Team Selection Process


Actively involve senior leaders to:
Review nominations

Select and notify members and their managers


Thank candidates who werent selected
Plan and dedicate resources

Ensure diversity. Members represent 10 departments


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Launch the Team in a Big Way


Involve senior leaders
Invest in professional training,
workbooks, laptops and web
access
Create a dedicated workroom
with supplies
Communicate to everyone that
the team is important and
underway

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Meeting Notes with Action Items

Prepare real-time by
team member
Document accountability
for meeting engagement
and follow-up actions
Post on cloud
immediately after team
meeting
Another powerful
communication tool with
senior leaders, team
sponsors and team
members boss and peers.

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Key Messages
Key Messages to Communicate about our Meeting/Team:

Team-developed at
meetings

Guide in-person
conversations with
peers and boss

Message #1

Message #2

Trigger disciplined
feedback process
(collect, review, respond)
Message #3

Promote peer-to-peer
communication and
message consistency .
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Our action team met for the first time for 2 days, with
our 12 members from 10 different departments. For
many of us we were meeting and working with each
other for the first time. We worked cohesively and with
enthusiasm about our task.
Our task is to help to improve the communication
among the staff at Avenues New York, within and
between departments. The issue of communication
was identified by interviews the team has conducted
with other staff members, the communication survey
done in March, the professional development session
from May, and personal experience of team members.
Weve identified one common issue that needs to be
addressed and improved that affects all of us. That
issue is there is a breakdown in work-tools and
behavior that threatens effective communication.
Using a proven methodology, over the next two
months we will develop recommendations for
improving how we communicate.

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Progress Polls
Evaluate accountability,
engagement and team
performance
Conduct bi-weekly and
online

Review results at team


meetings and with senior
leaders/ team sponsors
Use data for immediate
course corrections
Surface and mitigate
issues that derail
the teamquickly.
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Results indicate level of agreement


Work Session 1

Work Session 3

I believe Avenues
Leadership is
committed to
support the success
of the
team/program

Work Session 5

2.9
2.9
3.5

I believe that my
immediate manager
will support my
active participation
on this team

3.4
3.1
3.4
1

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Progress Discussions with Leaders


Live exchanges at
lunch, program reviews,
hallway chats, team
meetings to discuss
whats going well and
whats not
Enhance relationships

Reaffirm value of the


teams work

Seeing engaged leaders keeps team members engaged.

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Red Flag Issue: Communication and Collaboration

There is an absence and lack of clarity


on procedural discipline, roles,
responsibilities and expectations
supporting effective communication
and fostering respect
within and between departments
at Avenues New York.
Improve the processes and structure supporting
CROSS-DEPARTMENT communication.
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Research-Supported Root Causes


1. In the rush to open the school, and with the continued rapid
rate of growth, formal requirements, procedures, and
responsibilities have not been established to support effective
communication.
2. There is segregation between departments that results in a lack
of shared information and breakdown in communication.
3. There is low morale or decreased excitement about the
direction of the school among many staff members.
4. Cross-department interactions and communications between
staff and managers are limited.
5. Many departments do not set goals or measure success at the
departmental and individual levels.
6. The defined policy and protocol at Avenues New York is not
widely known and not well communicated.
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Action Plan: Four Key Improvements


1. Staff Chats: Implement a cycle of networking/exchange events for
staff members and senior leadership to share information and ideas.
Coffee with HQ Executives
Lunch Hook-ups with School Executives

2. Portal 2.0: Create an awareness and usership campaign for the new
Portal 2.0 that includes an ongoing feedback loop for improving content
about school-wide organizational and operational programs.

3. RevamPD: Revamp the current professional development


programming to engage staff members feedback and participation in
workshops, online learning, and collaborative opportunities to develop
skills and increase departmental exchanges.

4. Career Check-Ins: Develop and implement a consistent process


and standard tool for helping staff prepare for and conduct regular
career development discussions with their manager.

Focus on in-person interaction and communication.


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Critical Data Points

September 2014: Action Team Poll


April 2015: Staff/ Manager Poll

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Sept. 2014 Measurement: Action Team Poll


Results indicate level of agreement
I believe Avenues NY
Leadership is committed to
support the implementation of
recommendations

3.8

I believe that my manager will


support my active
participation during the
implementation phase

3.7

Strongly Disagree

4
Strongly Agree

Engagement at all levels.


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Sept. 2014 Measurement: Professional Development


Has your experience changed you professionally?

100%
YES!!!!
It has helped me to really enhance my professional
career by learning new strategies and ideas
that I can implement.
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April 2015 Poll: Areas of Measurement


Collaboration
Manager and co-worker relationships

Communication
Effectiveness and impact of Action Team-developed
communication practices introduced since Fall 2014
Senior leader and manager communication
effectiveness
Knowledge of important workplace matters

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Changes in Relationships/ Collaboration


Compared to a year ago, how have your work relationships
changed in the following areas:

With staff in other


Departments/Programs

With co-workers in your


Department/Program

Results
indicate
changed
for the
better

With senior leaders

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Changes in Knowledge/ Engagement


Compared to a year ago, how have you changed in the
following areas:

Your overall knowledge


about Avenues New York

Your engagement in day-today job responsibilities

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Results
indicate
changed
for the
better

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Staying Focused: Research-Backed Recommendations

#1 Improve
conversations
Refine message
content and
relevancy
Create consistency
in leaders
communication so
key messages are
reinforced, over
and over

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#2 Grow leader
capacity
Improve skills,
capabilities and
accountability
Boost
relationships,
exchanges and
professional
reputation
Align actions with
new Chief Talent
Officers initiatives

#3 Upgrade current
practices
Form and activate
sub-teams for each
practice with staff
volunteers
Use ideas from
April polls to
improve each
practice
Expand polling to
each practice

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Summary: Return on Avenues Investment


Identified new talent for projects/ positions
Personally developed relationships with team members in
different departments
Staff feels recognized, listened to and valued
Shared ownership and accountability to keep momentum
No check the box: Staff stepping up and being accountable
Relying on new networks to share information between
groups
Heightened focus on continuous improvementconstantly
tracking and measuring

Change requires continuous attention and patience!


No letting up.
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Summary: Are You Ready to Roll?


Engagement essentials for getting started
Get comfortable with being uncomfortable you, senior
leaders, action team members
Generate a steady supply of measurable data AND rely on
quantitative support to make decisions
Steer leaders out of the way and coach them to convey
trust in your action team
Keep leaders focused and patient
Tremendous career development for you
as a change consultant.
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Comments? Questions?

Lauren Bedell: lbedell@avenues.org


Linda Dulye: ldulye@dulye.com
Excerpts of this presentation available at PRSA Connect 15 website.
The contents of the presentation are considered proprietary to Dulye & Co.

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