How to engage with the disengaged

Public participation and consultation are essential for building trust with government organisations.  We spoke with Jason Downs, Leader for Engagement at the South Australian Department of State Development, to find out how government organisations can effectively engage disengaged communities to drive positive outcomes.  Read more to find out why Jason considers trust and genuine relationships to be a fundamental key to enhancing community engagement.

Konnect Learning: How can government organisations best engage with disengaged communities?

Jason Downs: Primarily there is a need to develop a strong sense and understand as to why communities are disengaged, what is the history, what is the issue, is there a background story driving this lack of engagement, generally there is. Once this is understood the next step is establishing a relationship and building a level of trust and understanding, this is often referred to as pre engaging. Once a relationship is developed then a plan of interaction can often be co designed with the group to ensure interaction, or it may be in some cases the group doesn’t wish to be engaged and this must be respected.

KL: Why do some communities become disengaged in the first place?

JD: Generally there is a breakdown in relationships caused by a lack of trust. In some cases communities find dealing with government agencies a waste of time, complicated and of no value. In some instances communities themselves become fractured and strong personalities can drive agendas which cause others to become disengaged as well.

KL: How do you genuinely reengage communities?

JD: Relationships and trust are central to any interactions. The critical success factor to building these is listening to people and understanding their worldviews, not assuming and not engaging to tell or sell.

KL: How do disengaged communities effect public sector organisations as a whole?

JD: Generally these communities often go under the radar unless there is a specific requirement to engage them or a demand to do so.

KL: Why is it important to engage with disengaged communities?

JD: I think this is a case by case issue, as mentioned some communities don’t wish to be engaged and must be respected. It is still necessary to understand why and having honest conversations and building relationships may over time change this. As a practitioner however the more people who can be engaged on a particular matter that impacts upon them the better the end result can be in terms of progressing. Often the disengaged have the greatest knowledge and solutions to issues

Jason Downs will be chairing Community & Stakeholder Engagement for Government 2018 this July In Canberra.  Attend this summit to learn how to effectively engage disengaged communities and innovate your public sector engagement strategy.   

10 Top Tips for fostering a positive company culture

Research is increasingly revealing some scary statistics when it comes to employee satisfaction. Employees aren’t engaged, trust in our leaders is at an all-time low, and employees are on the constant lookout for something new, exciting and more appealing. The fact is the happier your employees, the more productive, loyal and committed they will become.

You cannot underestimate the importance of a positive company culture. Get that right, and so much of your business will fall into place. Follow these top tips to create a more effective culture in your workplace.

Communication is key

We are all starting to realise the value in realising effective communication in the workplace. A tight communication strategy and an open-door policy can make strides in changing the way your employees see both the leadership team and the company. If you have five minutes, we highly recommend taking a moment to view these hilarious videos about communication in the workplace.

Be the right kind of leader

There are some pretty uninspiring examples of rubbish leadership out there – quick to put people down and crush morale. Striving for power and superficial congratulation is the quickest route to becoming a crappy leader. Be an authentic, genuine, effective and trustworthy leader, and your team will follow you to the ends of the world and back.

Know your vision and communicate your goals

When your team understands your wider vision, they are more likely to be invested in it. Create achievable goalposts for all employees and create a direct link back to your wider company vision. This way your team is always connected to your higher overall goal.

Do everything in your power to engage your team

Employee engagement is one of the most important tools in maintaining satisfaction, loyalty and productivity. Don’t be another statistic. Don’t make the same mistakes as so many companies. Your culture is entirely reliant on whether or not your team is engaged with it. Read Dale Carnegie’s 50 Employee Engagement Ideas and Tips for some hands-on advice.

Whatever decisions you make – be transparent with your team

We often talk about the value of transparency in our blog posts, because you really cannot underestimate how valuable it can be. When someone feels trusted they are more likely to trust in return. Your team will be more powerful, more loyal and more engaged when you involve them in the process.

Celebrate when things go well

We are so often quick to criticise when things don’t go to plan – looking for a face to blame in a bid to ensure it doesn’t happen again. What about the wins? Your team has achieved their goals and instead of celebrating, it’s business as usual. Celebrating those wins with your team is crucial to a positive culture and there are numerous ongoing advantages.

Foster health and wellbeing

Employee health and wellbeing are not just buzzwords to repeat in your annual report. If you want to keep a solid, satisfied, productive workforce, you absolutely must actively support their mental and physical health. Following these simple tips, are just some of the ways you can improve your workplace health and wellbeing.

Promote teamwork and camaraderie

As we’ve mentioned your company culture is entirely dependent on the investment of your team. Without them, it’s lip-service for the board. Your team needs to feel that they are part of something – they need to feel like a team. Work on building a feeling of camaraderie amongst your employees by implementing changes such as the recommendations in this Small Business article.

Inject a little bit of humour

We all love to laugh, it makes us happy and builds positivity. In the workplace, there are real and tangible advantages of injecting a little bit of humour into your workplace. Don’t be afraid to throw a little fun into your work. If it is consistent with your wider goals, it’ll only serve to improve your company culture overall. Watch this hysterical Twitter video on workplace culture for a little inspiration.

Support training and development

Nothing shows you’re invested in your team more than when you actively invest in their development. The wise words of Richard Branson are timeless and so true. Create an effective learning and development program, and you’ll reap the rewards.

Culture is a fickle thing. If you get it wrong, you can forever scar your reputation and business overall. Register for the Konnect Learning Fostering Company Culture Masterclass and you are on the path to business success.