How to tap into the full force of employees’ skills
Having motivated and involved employees is important to most organisations. A work environment and corporate culture which stimulates innovation can reap huge benefits. Our experience tells us one thing – that it is the employees who possess the most knowledge about how a work situation looks and what can and should be done to improve it.
All organisations can involve employees in the development process, even organisations with strict rules and regulations to adhere to. Systembolaget (who has a monopoly in supplying alcohol in Sweden) is one example, Försäkringskassan (The Swedish Social Insurance Agency) is another one. Both organisations constantly involve their employees in their organisational development plan. Systembolaget’s way of working is regularly highlighted in the media, and their customer satisfaction rate is higher than 84%. Försäkringskassan’s way of working hasn’t been acknowledged as much – yet, but confidence amongst the public is steadily growing.
We asked Försäkringskassan, who -like Systembolaget- work with Agerus, what their organisation looks like and how they tap into the full force of their employees’ skills.
Everyone should feel that they are treated fairly
Försäkringskassan’s employees make some 20 million decisions every year. Their work is complex and demanding. In order to reach their goal that “everyone who comes in touch with Försäkringskassan should feel that they are treated fairly regardless of ruling”, they’ve been working with constant improvement work involving all employees, for the past few years. Their work pays off. Both customer satisfaction and confidence is increasing.
“When employees experience clarity in what they are here to do, and managers are interested in ensuring that they have the right prerequisites to do it, performance is improved”, says Martin Runefelt, manager of Leadership and Strategy within Försäkringskassan’s HR department.
Important for improvement and development work
Since 2014, Försäkringskassan has worked with Agerus’ model and support for sustainable performance. Employee participation was voluntary to begin with but, starting this year, it is a mandatory part of all managers’ work. As always, change is a challenge. “It is finding the time that is the struggle, but to avoid problems in the future you need to invest in this initial time”, says Martin. Agerus is part of our development process and is really important in our improvement and development work.
Prior to 2014, Försäkringskassan used a traditional employee survey. When they looked over a few years’ results to evaluate if there had been any improvement, they didn’t really see any positive trends. One of the reasons why the traditional employee surveys weren’t working, according to Martin, was that they often resulted in free associations about whether or not employees enjoyed their job. “It rarely, if ever, resulted in the dialogue which is necessary for employee participatory development work. The employee surveys weren’t contributing to actual organisational development, the results were just observations. Using Agerus’ method is a way of exercising leadership, both in terms of creating clarity about the assignment and by providing the right prerequisites for executing the assignment.
“One of the strengths of Agerus’ method is that it relates employees’ “how I feel about work and at work” with “why am I at work?”, namely because I have an assignment. We’re measuring the prerequisites for performing well in relation to what needs to be performed, not in general.
It is crucial to tap into the full force of employees’ skills
Having a manager to present the results in front of a passive and silent team is pointless. “We don’t believe that we can get a better result than constructive dialogues and Agerus forces employees and managers to have more dialogues about their assignment, what the expectations are, and results from the surveys. Being part of the process creates a responsibility which is in line with our views on employee empowerment. There can of course still be situations where a manager has to highlight certain questions and where decisions are made by others” Martin says.
Employees experience the new way of working as a positive change. They are given the opportunity to discuss their work in a constructive way. When they do a survey as a team, the results are instantly visible on screen. They don’t need to wait for a report but get instant access. And that means you also can’t shriek away from the results. “As an employee you share responsibility for this process. Most people want to be able to influence and take on this responsibility. For Försäkringskassan it is crucial that employees are involved in development” Martin concludes.