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How to Get (and Keep) Your Team Engaged in Change Projects

Updated: Jan 29, 2023

Have you ever wondered how to get more people to care about implementing a new intervention? Or maybe to go beyond caring and lend their time or expertise to your change project? If so, you're not alone.

Generating engagement amongst your target audience can be tricky for a few reasons. First, change fatigue is very real particularly in healthcare, particularly since the pandemic. Second, the Information Age has shortened our attention spans and created far more competition for our attention. And third, people are busy. With our plates already packed to the brim with to-do's and projects standard to our roles and lives, asking folks to care about and give energy to *one more thing* is a big ask.

However, a change project without engagement is dead in the water. As change leaders, it is essential that we know how to navigate these obstacles. So let's troubleshoot.

Q: How can I get more engagement from my staff members during a change project?

Depending on what stage of the change project you're in, here are 3 strategies to consider to boost your group's engagement.

#1 Solve a problem they care about.

Ideally, we are identifying problems to solve not on our own, but in community with others.

But realistically, sometimes we determine later into a project that we need to engage a previously unidentified group. If you find yourself in this situation, it's not too late to solve a problem they care about. Meet with the group to learn more about what challenges they may face that are related to the problem you're addressing.

Systems change projects - by their systemic nature - solve more than one problem + thus have multiple benefits. Shift your messaging to highlight the benefits that this particular group may care about.

Example: It emerged over the course of my DNP project to redesign our ER triage process that we were going to need to shift the radiology team's workflow. After meeting to discuss our project with the Rad team, we learned that a big concern for them was how difficult it was to locate patients waiting in the lobby. With this new knowledge, we were able to adjust our project plan to enhance the Rad team's experience - and simultaneously get their buy-in.

#2 Involve them in intervention design.

Like with the first tip, our best case scenario is to do this from the very beginning.

Another good option is to bring them prototypes along the way. Show them what you have so far (a blueprint, a workflow, a shopping list, a product mockup) and ask for their feedback.

How would you make this better?

What am I missing?

If we implemented this tomorrow, what would happen?

Invite them into the design process. Take their feedback and actually use it to make the intervention better. Then bring the next iteration of the prototype to them - and repeat.

Example: As a nurse leader, I constantly brought prototypes (downtime forms, checklists, signage) to the providers, nurses, techs, and unit coordinators for feedback. And I never regretted it. The product ALWAYS got better with their feedback. They were the ones who were going to use it, after all. It needed to work for them - and there's only one way to ensure that.

#3 Game-ify engagement.

No matter our age or how ‘serious’ our jobs, most people can't resist the allure of a good time.

Maybe it's a scavenger hunt through the department finding (and taking a silly photo with) the new pieces of equipment.

Maybe it's a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ portion of your live workflow training.

Maybe it's a jeopardy-style quiz about policies, and the winner gets a gift card.

The more fun you can infuse into the process, the more engaged people will be.

Better yet, marry this with Tip #2 and bring your audience into the game design. What do THEY think is fun? What would they enjoy?

Example: Recently, I opened my program Change Maker Essentials (CME) for enrollment. CME is a 10-week online course guiding healthcare professionals to find their purpose and lead lasting change by teaching them the fundamentals of systems thinking, change leadership, and personal mastery. It’s one of my core change projects on my mission to prepare 10,000 nurses to lead systems change.

Last week, I put up a pop quiz in my Instagram stories with 10 questions about the program. There were questions about course concepts, curriculum, price, continuing education credit, and format. At the end of the quiz, people could enter their name into a drawing to win $200 off CME. I had 60 people participate. Why? It was fun! And better yet, there was a prize!

Not only was it helpful for me to assess the clarity of my messaging around the program, it ALSO helped reinforce my messaging as participants went through and saw the correct answers after answering each question. And it was WAY more fun for everyone than a 30-minute meeting.

One of the silliest mistakes we can make as a leader is taking our work too seriously. Yes, you are a professional. Yes, your work is critical. Yes, you must act with integrity. And you can also create a warm, inviting - and yes, fun - environment in which that work can thrive.

This is why ‘Joyful Engagement’ is a core pillar of Nursing the System - along with ‘Lifelong Learning’ and ‘Meaningful work’. Systems change is hard work. And I don't know about you, but I know I'm more likely to keep showing up if I'm having a good time.

This is a lesson I shared with my Systems Sunday email crew. If you'd like to receive weekly stories, lessons, and support for change makers, join us here.

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