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Community Contribution

Three Ways to Keep Employees Engaged and Improve Development Outcomes: Collaborate, Learn, and Adapt

Sep 03, 2019
Monalisa Salib, Kristin Lindell, Kat Haugh, Ilana Shapiro

What does it take to increase income, decrease incidence rates of malaria, and reduce childhood malnutrition? Behind these ambitious goals lies a dedicated cadre of staff who work toward achieving these outcomes every single day. Regardless of the rigor of our theory of change and our monitoring, learning, and adapting, without an engaged team, reaching these goals becomes nearly impossible. In other words, people matter. A lot.

So, how can we ensure that staff consistently show up to work motivated and engaged, ready to produce at the highest level and support the achievement of development outcomes? Findings from five years of building the evidence base for collaborating, learning, and adapting (CLA) reveal that CLA is part of the ‘how.’

We recently produced a briefer that synthesizes the evidence from our multi-year, mixed methods evidence building efforts about CLA’s contribution to organizational effectiveness and development results.

Here are three things you need to know from our review:

  • Collaborating improves employee innovation, loyalty, and performance. When we intentionally collaborate, we can also create strategic alliances that generate savings in operating costs and increase productivity.
  • Learning efforts, such as learning agendas and communities of practice, support evidence-based decision-making and data-driven adaptations in organizations for improved development outcomes. Business sector research demonstrates that when learning is embedded in our organizational culture and processes, our organizations are more innovative and our team and organizational performance improves.
  • CLA is strongly and positively linked to indicators of organizational effectiveness including employee engagement, empowerment, and satisfaction. These findings fit within a growing body of evidence from both private- and public-sector research that recognizes employee engagement and empowerment as critical to successful organizational performance.

Now, you may be thinking – that’s great, but so what? How can I apply this evidence to myself or my team?

Given the evidence that systematic, intentional, and resourced CLA contributes to employee performance and ultimately improves development outcomes, integrating more CLA into your work is a good place to start. Try out some of the suggestions below to encourage increased CLA uptake in your workplace:

  • Pause and reflect for 15 minutes a day: Strengthen your learning practice by investing 15 minutes of your time at the end of each day to pause and reflect. Even this seemingly insignificant practice leads to improvements in productivity. If you’re a leader, ask your staff to try this practice with you for one week and debrief on the effects. As an individual, test this out and then share the impact it has had on you personally with your boss and colleagues.
  • Facilitate data-driven discussions: Improve the learning culture of your team by hosting a one-hour meeting at the end of each month to look at your program data and ask: where do we stand? What can we change? What should we keep doing? To make these meetings even more useful, make sure they align with pre-existing decision-making deadlines. Also, take your facilitation to the next level with these approaches.
  • Do the CLA Self-Assessment and Action Planning Process: If you want to help your team assess its current CLA practices and what it would like to change, facilitate the CLA Self-Assessment and Action Planning Process. For CLA Self-Assessment facilitation tips, review these resources.

Still feel like you need more? Make sure you check out our CLA Evidence Dashboard for additional evidence. Or, if you want more tools and approaches, don’t forget about the CLA Toolkit.

Remember, implementing CLA approaches to increase organizational effectiveness and ultimately improve development outcomes implies that we need to be willing to make an upfront investment in CLA. The evidence demonstrates that investing in CLA pays off. But, are you willing to invest? Let us know your thoughts about whether it’s worth it for you and your team by leaving us a comment below.