Afiniti client TAQA is highly commended for employee engagement

We are delighted that our client TAQA has been highly commended for employee engagement at the CorpComms Awards 2014.
employee engagement programme

Angus Murray from TAQA with Afiniti MD Corrina Jorgensen

TAQA’s Harding Platform transition was shortlisted for the Best Employee Engagement programme and Best Corporate campaign, for the CorpComms Awards, hosted by CorpComms Magazine on 26th November 2014.

When TAQA acquired the North Sea BP Harding platform it had three months to help the platform and its people change hands and stay productive. They enlisted Afiniti’s support to deliver the change to the people on the Harding platform. Overnight, a remote and largely non-computer-based workforce was to become part of a new company with new hardware, software and ways of working.

We supported TAQA in building positivity, commitment and skills amongst existing platform employees to ensure that there was minimal disruption on the day of the transition. A tailored combination of change readiness assessment, change management, learning and communications prepared and engaged people.

The CorpComms Awards celebrate the best of corporate communications. The awards are in their ninth year and are attended by a host of big brand names, large corporates and large agencies.


How to inspire people with business change

We all know that a business’s long-term success often comes down to its people.

It’s the employee’s belief in a cause, their dedication and their passion to carry forward a vision, that takes a business into the future. How do you keep them excited? You inspire them.

This is easier said than done. Bound by business etiquette and corporate processes, it often seems difficult to inspire people on a personal level. Nevertheless, that was exactly our goal when we organised a recent conference in Denmark, where 100 of our client’s global stakeholders came together to collaborate and shape future business operations.


Empowering your workforce

The key goal of the conference was for people to learn something new, and to feel empowered enough to take away their new-found knowledge, integrate it into their everyday work, and truly make the business’s vision their own. As was the purpose of the conference, it was essential to turn momentary excitement into conviction – in turn creating true employee engagement and a sustainable campaign.


Learning and sharing knowledge

One of the key elements of our conference was giving people some food-for-thought in the shape of concrete business examples from their global peers. We highlighted different ways of working, ideas, processes and behaviours, which we saw as best-practice examples and which attendees could ‘take home’ with them and use in their own streams of work. It was important to us as well to show people that these things are possible; take away some of their fears and reservations, and empower them.


There’s always something for everyone

Something else we wanted to bring across to people was that there isn’t just one way to do things. The communications channels we used throughout the conference reflected exactly that. We made used of a diverse range of presentations, speakers and hosts, much video content, and of course engaging print materials. As different attendees tend to respond better to different communications channels, we wanted to make sure there was something there for everyone, and every participant had the chance to find inspiration in the content.


Creating a can-do attitude

Most importantly, we wanted to make sure attendees could create their own content, shape their own stories, right then and there. And so we involved everyone directly. We made use of collaborative work-shops and team-building exercises, and we used hand-held electronic voting devices, through which everyone could discuss and feed back thoughts and ideas immediately. Having worked closely with participants to create conference materials in the first place to give them involvement and ownership, we also featured people in pre-filmed video footage and published materials. This made for more personal discussions, but also created a ‘can-do attitude’ amongst people, showing them that whatever they want to accomplish, it is indeed possible.


I hope this gives you some ideas for your conferences and events. What have you tried that’s got good feedback from people?

Measuring the right thing in performance management

Ever feel like your performance management is a bit of a box ticking exercise?

You’re not on your own. A Towers Watson survey of 100 UK businesses in December 2013, revealed that 96% believed that Performance Management is important for their organisation, yet only 64% reported having either an effective or very effective approach.

People and their ongoing performance and development are crucial to profit. A growing understanding of this means a tick box approach to people appraisal and management isn’t going to cut it anymore.

What is performance management?

As defined by Michael Armstrong of the CIPD: “Performance management is a process which is defined to improve organisational, team and individual performance and which is owned and driven by line managers”.

Performance Management (PM) practices have been an integral part of most business models for decades and were traditionally a one-dimensional and isolated system managed by Human Resources.

Why is it so important?

CEOs now have a keen eye on how robust our PM systems really are and how closely linked they are to the overall business strategy.

Why is this? In the last 20 years or so, applied psychologists and professionals have been able to prove a direct link between people management and profitability.

Increasingly, many firms are moving toward rewarding development and innovation as there is now a realisation of just how important and influential employees can be to an organisation’s growth and ultimately its bottom line. PM systems are no longer a simple HR activity.

Subsequently millions of pounds have been invested into revamping organisation-wide PM approaches. The idea is if you invest in your people, you will gain a competitive edge, as well as benefit from increased profitability.

Updating your approach

In the past, most companies measured their employee’s performance based on their hard skills such as sales targets, volume of work etc. Generally any type of skill that could be tangibly measured and produced hard data. This was quite easy for line managers to appraise, you either met your targets or you didn’t. But now there is growing appreciation of soft skills and other less quantifiable behaviours and their role in performance.

It’s trickier to assess the more intangible or soft skills such as teamwork, cooperation and generally any trait that can be associated with Emotional Intelligence. How do we ensure that these skills are fairly and objectively appraised?

Although not as exact as the data produced by measuring hard skills, there are ways in which you can provide the most consistent and objective feedback possible as an appraiser:

360 degree feedback

Gaining feedback from the employee’s peers, customers, direct reports and superiors gives a well-rounded view of the individual and may provide valuable information on their competencies and soft skills and how they work.

Goal setting

Creating goals and milestones with the employee not only motivates them throughout the year but it is also a way to obtain data from the development of soft skills. For example, if there is a need to develop teamwork skills, you could create a goal with the employee to get involved with a least two team based projects a year. Linking some of these goals to the overall business strategy ensures that every person is ultimately working towards the same objectives.

Regular meetings throughout the year

Not only does this build a good rapport between you and your appraisee, it also increases their motivation to perform well. It is important to always ask them to send you the topics they would like to discuss in your meeting, as well as sharing yours. Having a combined agenda such as this brings structure and an appropriate level of expectation to the meeting.

Performance Appraisals and Performance Management systems in general are very complex yet desirable subjects to understand, especially by senior executives. As managers and appraisers, it is difficult to master the appraisal process. However, with increased self-awareness and consistency, along with some of the tips mentioned, you’ll not only make the process more efficient for you and your appraisee, but also hopefully more enjoyable!

Social Learning: ‘A Course without an End’

In my previous blog I talked about Social Learning and knowledge-sharing as a facet of an organisations culture and identity; something that needs to be promoted and encouraged throughout the organisational hierarchy.

In the learning industry our role ‘outside the classroom’ is evolving. 

As a learning practitioner, it is easy for me to see the benefits of Social Learning. The majority of learning is done outside of the classroom / the eLearning module / the coaching session when a learner is working problems through on-the-job and practically applying learning (70/20/10).

Social Learning is about learners taking back control: learning is now about interaction and autonomy.

Effective learners are those that feel more empowered to take control of their learning, whether they are looking for skill change or performance support. They are realising they can find answers for themselves rather than waiting for something to happen. It is our job to provide an interactive knowledge-bank for learners to dip into when they need to… so how do we do this?

Make learning memorable: firstly our agenda should be focussed on learning that is short, sharp and relevant to our audience…but also learning needs to be memorable. Utilising different devices of conveying learning such as podcasts, vodcasts, how-to videos (the success of YouTube as a learning platform is remarkable!) and gamified content can all create a buzz in your community and get people talking…which is exactly what social learning is about!

Make learning sustainable (cultivate your social garden): social learning communities need to, especially in their infancy, be cared for; negative or incorrect content needs to be moderated and modified, valuable content needs to be encouraged and rewarded. This task falls at the feet of the learning community within an organisation.

It is our task to curate and administrate our social learning forums, theming content, ensuring content is up-to-date and relevant.

Social learning relies heavily on user-driven content and discussions. Our promotion and encouragement of users, as well as leading our community with examples of the correct types of content and behaviour will be a huge success factor in making a self-sustaining social learning network.

Market your learning: campaigns to remind and endorse learning and change can accelerate adoption within our communities. Combining strong internal communications and learning expertise can bring clarity and consistency in promoting an open, transparent, knowledge-sharing culture within your organisation, which is the bedrock of social learning.

The speed and complexity of the business world means that our employees often face cognitive overload and whilst we don’t want to add to this in any way with clever, memorable (!) campaigns, we can provide motivation to change behaviours and create talking points.

Utilise existing communities: since the boom of social media organisations have been trying to force a crossover into the corporate world. Companies attempting (with varied success) to utilise tools such as Yammer and Basecamp have often hit stumbling blocks with employee-endorsement…I have often heard the exclamation ‘what on earth is Yammer?’ from colleagues and clients alike.

What organisations have often failed to see the benefit of is piggybacking already well-established forums of social media. As learning practitioners we need to think creatively about how we can tap into thriving social communities and shift the mindset (of some of our organisations) away from the ‘dangers’ of YouTube and Twitter etc. and look at some of the opportunities they present – familiar tools for people to find easy ways to engage.

Analytics to prove success: ‘views’, ‘hits’, ‘likes’ and comment threads, are all visual ways of recording successes of social learning but what about the ‘lurkers’… the people within your network who are viewing content but not interacting within the community..? This is the fascinating thing about social media; for all the outwardly confident / outspoken users, there are 10 times (or likely more) that sit in the background watching everything unfold.

Admittedly I have been a lurker. In fact, I would wager that all users of social media have at some point, browsed comments or conversations without putting in their thoughts. So do these users gain the same benefits of the content? Of course they do.

It is in our interest to capture this fact using analytic tools, like market-leader Google Analytics, as proof to our senior leaders of the success of our networks. By extension the challenge for learning practitioners is to bring this ‘read only’, anonymous community into the interactive space and find out their thoughts and feelings… (now there is a thought… anonymous commenting?)

Social learning or learning ‘beyond the formal course’ has always been there but how can we bring it to the forefront of our organisations? Have you thought about a company Wiki? Or utilising Google Analytics? What are your success stories of memorable and effective internal learning campaigns? Have you utilised an internal or external social forum to seed changes in behaviour?

Social World but Unsocial Workplace? Trust in Collective Wisdom

Social Learning has very often been a ‘bolt-on’ to learning. So what’s needed to successfully implement Social Learning?

Forums or chatrooms have commonly created to encourage learner-led discussion post-learning. These have often fallen down through a lack of participation and absence of learner alignment.


How can we encourage higher participation?

How can we build trust in social platforms and learning?

How can we seed quick changes in behaviour?


Supportive collaborative culture

We need to start endorsing a knowledge-sharing attitude. This is easier said than done. Many organisations and individuals strive for that competitive-edge: people are more likely to keep a good idea to themselves for fear that sharing information may give a colleague an advantage when it comes to moving-up in the organisation. This certainly drives the wrong behaviours for social learning, and by extension strong collaboration in your organisation.

Learning in a social context should be short, sharp and relevant. The content should be user-driven but needs a degree of cultivation and curation to ensure the content is sustainable. Most important is that you have a sharing culture at your organisation.


A way of sharing

I was at a conference recently where a lot of my peers in the learning industry were recommending the ‘top-down / bottom-up’ approach as the best way to facilitate Social Learning.

At one of our clients, the CEO contributes his learnings for the week on their internal social media platform: this is an endorsement of social learning at the highest level. It represents shift in the behaviour of the senior leaders by making themselves more visible in their community and also acts to reassure staff that sharing is advocated. It demonstrates a cultivation culture and encourages participation (even for those competitive people in the organisation!)

The ‘bottom-up’ aspect is all about letting people know what they don’t know – i.e. did you know do that we have a brand new X? Or we have developed a Y way of doing things? This combined approach challenges people to keep up with developments whilst raising awareness that the organisation puts stock in this kind of collaboration…


Provide the resources

The curation of a social platform is crucial to its longevity, but this doesn’t have to be onerous or time-consuming. You just need to make sure the right resources are available. Then the results, much like if you planted seeds in your back yard, could result in a flourishing social garden.

So, have you got a thriving Social Learning culture in your organisation? What have you done to cultivate your social garden?

Stayed tuned for the 2nd part of this blog for tips on how to initiate and nurture a Social Learning culture.