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People make the difference

Does how people feel about their organisation really matter? Research seems to suggest very strongly that it does. I spent five very happy and instructive years at the Crown Prosecution Service. But when I joined in 2002 the CPS faced enormous changes. It had a troubled reputation as an employer and a workforce with limited confidence. It was difficult to attract and retain the best talent.

To discover how staff felt about working for the CPS we ran focus groups and staff surveys. The answers we received were concerning. 
 
The staff were unhappy. These views manifested themselves in their relationships with customers, stakeholders and opinion formers. There is such a cost when staff feel that they work for an organisation that they cannot respect. You have to stop what can also become a habit of complaint, dissatisfaction and sometimes whinging. Something had to change.
 
If we could start to get our own staff to believe that they were capable and competent, that we believed in them and trusted them and that they and we were clear about organisational goals then we would have a chance.
 
We knew, based on research by academics in the field, that it was not money that made the difference for people; the biggest motivator was being able to contribute, to be able to go home at night knowing that you made a difference, that your effort was not wasted.
 
So what did we do?
 
We delivered on our promises. There is no point in spin without substance – we had to be good at the basics and we delivered on all our government targets.
 
The CPS changed day by day, the reputation of the organisation went from a reactive, poorly perceived employer to a modern, fair organisation that people wanted to work for. This was done through clarity about what we expected our people to deliver, improved communications, simplified processes that freed people to get on with their jobs, listening to staff and those who wanted to become our staff. We needed our people to be proud of what they and the organisation stood for and if they couldn’t be then they needed to go to another organisation where they would be happier. 
We invested considerable resources in the development of our staff and their health and wellbeing. We believed their success was our success.
 
We introduced a legal scholarship scheme to train some of our own admin staff to become lawyers and we valued and accelerated the success of those equally as much as the increased new blood that we brought into the organisation.
 
We introduced a race equality scheme that has been recognised as a model of good practice by the CRE. We took the view that you could not put people into categories and assume that they were all alike. Our relationships, life experiences, preferences and values are not all the same and organisations that make misplaced assumptions about staff by clumping them all together will run into some real problems.
 
Internal communications were significantly improved. Staff wanted face-to-face communication and we had to train our managers to communicate with staff directly. With this working well the other mechanisms (videos, email, notice boards, intranet etc) have their place. 
 
Two years on what did staff say about the CPS – there were really big improvements. We were not fully satisfied and there was much more to do and the results got better and better.
 
It can be summed up in 5 simple things:
 
1. Employees must be ambassadors rather than assassins if you are to succeed.
2. How people feel about their organisation has a significant impact on their performance.
3. People want to contribute and be proud of their organisation, employers need to facilitate this.
4. Communication both internal and external is key to driving commitment.
5. You need to know what employees really feel about your organisation. Truth or dare time. 
 
Take a risk you just might find it pays off!
 
 

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