Employee-Led Change: Our Signature Approach
The Resources department at Brent Council was formed two years prior to the delivery of this project and although structures and leadership have been brought together, there was no specific focus on the target operating model which had knock-on impacts to joint working between teams. Resources was seen as the ‘custodian’ of the council’s assets and therefore had the aim to improve the way it interreacted with itself (between teams), internal customers (other departments) and external customers (schools, residents, businesses) so that it is co-ordinated and efficient.
There was a series of problems identified and most linked to poor employee engagement. There were pockets of poor employee engagement and, as a department, Resources had the lowest overall engagement scores in the council. In addition to this, there was a sense that staff did not feel a sense of belonging to the department. This has manifested into poor execution of end-to-end processes where these span across teams, causing delays, lack of ownership and, ultimately, impair the customer journey and customer outcomes.
The department had a number of target areas for improvement across process improvement, communication, customer services and demand management. To deliver these projects and initiate an increase in employee engagement, senior leaders placed officers at the heart of the projects. Teams were asked – ‘what are your problems and how would you like to solve them?’
The Human Engine team delivered a series of six improvement projects using our signature Improvement Drive methodology, designed to deliver fast and sustainable employee-led improvement. These projects bring together teams of officers who are not normally involved with project work and focus on giving them the opportunity to identify and solve a problem that impacts on their day-to-day work.
The Improvement Drive is a four-step methodology delivered over 12-weeks to facilitate employee-led change and coaching to leave teams with the skills and tools to deliver continuous improvement. We work with teams, not doing to them, to increase employee ownership and engagement. It is an approach to improvement that avoids ‘change fatigue’ and supports teams to design their own solutions to specific business problems The four stages are:
Discover: Build a knowledge base about the business problems we want to solve. This is gathered through use of data about the service, basic process mapping and using anecdotal evidence / ‘lived experience’ of officers in the frontline teams
Design: Once business problems have been identified, work to design solutions that will help overcome these. Understand the complexity of potential solutions – can these be delivered within 12 weeks?
Deliver: Test solutions with major stakeholders through pilot schemes, focus groups or workshops. Begin rollout testing basis to increase uptake of new ways of working
Determine: Review the impact of each solution. Rollout solutions to all users of the service during this period.
Secondly, the projects had a noticeable impact on employee engagement, ownership and accountability of their service. The opportunity to make a sustainable improvement to their service was central to this. Engagement outcomes included:
Working with over 50 frontline officers who are not usually involved in change projects
Improved levels of employee participation and engagement
Empowering employees through a coaching methodology to take greater ownership of problems they encounter in their day-to-day work and identifying and implementing solutions
New skills learned by client employees. Teams were left with the tools, techniques and skills to deliver an improvement project without Human Engine facilitation and guidance
An ‘Improvement Drive champion’ from the corporate transformation team, who shadowed the Human Engine team during delivery, equipped with the experience and knowledge to facilitate projects and support teams where necessary
‘This has been one of the most productive and enjoyable projects I have participated in’
Project Team Member
Human Engine is a Financial Times top-ranked management consultancy with specialisms in strategy, people and performance.
It was founded by a group of former local government officers who think the public sector deserves better than it gets from traditional consulting firms – more human, more personal and more knowledgeable of the reality of delivering modern public services.
We have worked with dozens of public sector organisations to help transform their strategies, operations and cultures to be more agile, commercial and entrepreneurial in order to achieve financial sustainability and improved outcomes for local people and communities.
We are currently writing our latest report, The Commercial Edge, in partnership with leading think tank Localis, making the case for entrepreneurialism in public services and local investment as a catalyst for economic recovery and growth.