Think about the last time you visited a restaurant, department store or even a concert. You would probably rate the experience as much on the quality of the food, product or performance as you would on how it was delivered. If those serving you lacked adequate attention or enthusiasm, you would know – and be none too happy. For businesses, this malaise can affect the bottom line. But for public service agencies, the stakes are higher. It becomes a matter of engagement, trust and the ability to deliver critical services to people.
I’ve spent the last 15 years helping public service organizations achieve alignment, so they can better serve their constituents. It’s no secret that focusing on the user is the top priority. But in my experience, public service organizations often disregard a key audience when undergoing organizational change and applying human-centered design – the employees.
It’s easy for an organization’s leadership team to become detached from everyday operations. But your employees are at the forefront of service delivery. If their needs are not met, they can become unmotivated and unable to properly serve constituents. Therefore, how organizational change affects their work processes should be a key consideration. As organizations redesign around change, it is imperative that employees be consulted throughout the process. They should facilitate and participate in design-thinking sessions, test new processes, play a role in key leadership selection committees and, above all, serve on the board with voting rights.
This last point may be controversial, but in times of change, creating an environment of transparency, engagement and even meritocracy is crucial. Real change requires staff members to feel a part of the process. Much like a restaurant review, their experience mirrors the customer experience. Knowing why they do what they do and giving them the tools to be effective and efficient will go a long way in improving service delivery. Failing to do so can lead to frustration, despondency and eventually, burnout. These factors coupled with overwhelming workloads risk a high degree of staff turnover, a common problem among human service case workers across the country.[i] When this happens, organizations lose the people who know the organization and work better than you do as well as the trust and confidence of those you serve.
When embarking on a change journey, it’s useful to work hand in hand with employees to ignite a three-tiered transformation:
- Experiential—give employees more immediate access to better information so they can make better decisions.
- Technical—harness system and process intelligence with insight from employees to break down silos, improve prioritization and identify relevant services.
- Cultural—change the organizational mindset by identifying where and how best to support employees so they can deliver better outcomes.
An organization’s success at meeting the needs of its constituents is highly dependent on how employees implement your mission. By identifying public service employees as a key stakeholder group, in addition to the community served, you can truly differentiate the change journey. So, would your agency achieve a “5-star” satisfaction rating?
[i] Barrett, Katherine and Richard Green. November 17, 2016. “Where are all the Social Workers Going?” Available online at http://www.governing.com/columns/smart-mgmt/gov-social-workers-turnover.html