Engage Employees for Systems Change


This month’s Live Virtual Workshop was about using HSD to spread new ideas across a system. Leaders around the world are challenged as they try to spread new ideas across organizations or throughout communities. They have found how difficult it is to get a whole system engaged to implement initiatives. Over time, different approaches have been tried to shape deep engagement for change. Most approaches asked each person or team to follow a “recipe” to implement the latest initiative. Often, however the recipe was not enough to bring about lasting change.

On one hand, leaders find that a “recipe” can work well in changing basic procedures and processes. On the other hand, most initiatives ask for more than that. In most systemic change efforts, individuals and teams must make ideas work locally. To do this, they must put aside the recipe to deal with differences that are inherent across organizations and communities. People must work together. They solve common problems. They adapt to local needs. They bring their own ideas and needs into the change work. Full-scale organizational or systemic change brings up new questions of engagement.

So what?

A new approach is needed that goes beyond the idea of a recipe for change. Leaders need to set conditions that engage and support employees or community members in making the change happen. These stakeholders must be willing to participate in spreading the initiative and making it happen. They need confidence that comes from being competent in the work they do to bring about the change. They need to collaborate in creative ways and participate in innovative ways.

Current, widely accepted definitions of “engaged employee” say that an employee:

  • Knows what the job is
  • Has the skills to do that job
  • Understands the contribution that job makes to the success of the greater system

HSD uses that definition to shape an approach to deep employee and community engagement. It offers ways to understand what your employees or community members need to take basic ideas and adapt them to fit local conditions. It allows you and those around you to anticipate needs and adapt as needed in your local context. It focuses on what people need to be committed to the change. So what can you do to engage others to set conditions for these patterns?

Now what?

In HSD, we can explore those patterns to learn more about this definition. Consider how you can engage others to embrace and spread an initiative. How can you use “patterns” rather than recipes to spread and implement new ideas in your organization or community?

  • Make sure each individual and team knows and understands the job(s) they will be asked to do inside the initiative
    • Create job descriptions
    • Make expectations clear
    • Help people know what they can expect from others
    • Help them know what others expect from them
  • Ensure everyone has skills to do that work in the context of the whole system
    • Assess current skill levels
    • Identify skills people need for the jobs they do
    • Provide training and feedback as they take on new jobs
  • Be explicit about how their work contributes to the success of other parts of the system and to the system as a whole.
    • Build opportunities for networking and sharing information and perspectives
    • Ensure sharing of data and performance of the teams and of the system as a whole
    • Establish a short list of Simple Rules that guides coherent decision making

In HSD, we believe that full-scale dissemination and implementation of new initiatives is possible in any organization or community. We rely on the deep engagement of individuals and groups across the system. This is possible in small systems where employees sit next to each other. It is possible in huge systems where people are spread across the globe. The principles are the same. Deep, meaningful employee and community engagement is the key.

We invite you to try this approach and let us know what you find. Be in touch!


Join a global network of learning about HSD!

As a member of the network, you will receive weekly notices of events, opportunities, and links to blogs and other learning opportunities. Additionally, you will have the option to unsubscribe at any point, should you decide to do so.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.