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Engagement 

Below you will find a list of Engagement activities. 

 

Click on those activity titles that suit your needs. 

 

   

Activity Listing:

Adapt these activity ideas to your content and audience

1. Jigsaw Readings--Use this activity to present a variety of professional opinions on a given training topic

2, Rotation Brainstorming--Use this activity to outline the issues surrounding engagement 

3. The Idea Challenge--Use this activity to debate two sides of a professional topic.

4. Posted Professionalism--This activity works to gather the collected thinking of a group

5. Metaphorically Speaking--This activity asks participants to think  creatively

6. Gorilla Tale--This activity uses the power of a story to drive home a lesson.

7. Positive Transformation--Use this activity to introduce the power of positive thinking 

8. Communication Habits--Use this activity to identify the habits of good communicators

9. Clip Art Captions--This activity helps define a topic using clip art and participant creativity

10. Conversation Starters--Use this activity to start a meeting, team building session, or workshop

11. Change Timeline--This activity help focus thinking around workplace change  

12. Stories of Adversity--This activity uses personal stories to introduce the topic of change

13. Postal Reminder--This activity bridges session learning and everyday performance

14. Learning Debrief--Use this technique to clarify participant learning

15. Energized Work Place--An exercise to focus on the positive

16. Starter Quiz--Use a quiz to introduce a broad topic you want a group to explore.

17. List Polling--Two techniques to help a group sort through a list of ideas

18. Parking Garage--A technique to save good ideas that don’t fit the discussion at the moment


Engagement Misconceptions: Twelve misconceptions that undermine successful employee engagement initiatives before they can even begin.

 

 


 

I. Jigsaw Readings

Author: Tom Siebold is a writer and business consultant in Minneapolis.  He is also the owner of Studyingforcollege.com --a site to help college students improve their studying and grades.

Objective (s): To quickly get an overview of the literature on a topic and to initiate a discussion from diverse points of view

How the author has used this activity:  This activity format can be used with almost any professional development topic.  However, it does require some pre-workshop preparation since the facilitator will have to find provocative readings on the workshop topic. Much of the success of this activity depends on the quality of the readings.

Activity DescriptionDivide the full group into small discussion groups.  Each small group receives a short reading (all should be of equal length and each reading should emphasize a different aspect of the topic).  A volunteer in each group reads the reading aloud.  Then each group discusses the key points made by the author.  After a set amount of discussion time, each group writes a discussion question to be addressed by the full group (make certain that the question is discussable).

Convene the full group.  The discussion questions are written on a flip chart or white board.  In turn, a selected person from each group leads the discussion on the group’s question.  After an adequate amount of discussion time the facilitator asks each discussion leader to explain how his or her group responded to the question. (See Options below for another way to structure this activity.)

With this exercise participants can quickly get a multidimensional view of what the professionals are saying about the topic. At its conclusion, the facilitator can use the discussions as a springboard to his or her own material on the topic.

Options:  An option to save time is to have one person from each group use his or her discussion question to facilitate a discussion station.  The small group questions are read to the full group and then participants move to a discussion station that interests them.  This cuts down discussion time.  Participants then engage with two readings--one in their original group and another at the discussion station that they attend. 

Although it requires a lot of equipment and preparation, facilitators can replace the readings with training video clips.

Added thoughts or considerations:  Timing is really important here.  The facilitator needs to cut discussion time before it draws out too long but not cut it so early that the discussions fail to mature.

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II. Rotation Brainstorming  

AuthorAuthor: Tom Siebold is a writer and business consultant in Minneapolis.  He is also the owner of Studyingforcollege.com --a site to help college students improve their studying and grades. 

Objective (s): To secure a working understanding of engagement (or another topic of your choice)

How the author has used this activity:  This activity format can be used with many professional development topics.  I like this activity because it encourages people to participate, it is fast moving, and it gets the participants out of their chairs. I use the activity to "paint" an overview of the workshop topic.

Activity DescriptionList three to five broad questions or statements about engagement (or whatever your topic is).  For an introduction to engagement, here are some possible questions:  What are the indicators that a team or group in NOT engaged?  What causes a person to disengage? Why is it important to work diligently to keep individuals or a team engaged?  What are some strategies or “tricks” that you use to stay engaged? What are some behaviors or strategies that a leader can use to help keep his or her team engaged?  Why is an engaged workforce vital to the success of an organization?

Place a flip chart for each question strategically around the workshop room (allow enough space for movement and small group discussion).   Divide the participants into small groups, one for each question, and place them at the different flip chart stations.  Each group responds to the question by writing down three of their best ideas. At the signal of the facilitator (blink the lights), groups rotate to the next station and add three more key points to the previous group. 

After groups rotate through all the stations, they end up where they started.  Here they review all the responses and identify the three to five best responses.  The facilitator then asks each group to present their conclusions to the full group.  The facilitator can use this information to focus on key learning strategies and content.

Added thoughts or considerations:  Timing is really important here.  The facilitator needs to keep things moving from flip chart to flip chart.  It is also vital that the facilitator select station questions that are discussable and lend themselves to a variety of responses.

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III.  Idea Challenge

Author:  Tom Siebold is a writer and business consultant in Minneapolis.  He is also the owner of Studyingforcollege.com --a site to help college students improve their studying and grades. 

Objective (s): To understand a challenging professional idea by defending it.

How the author has used this activity:  This activity asks participants to talk directly to one another.  It gives them an opportunity to structure an argument for or against a thought provoking topic.  I especially like this format because the participants talk directly to one another rather than through the facilitator.

Activity Description: With this activity participants hear a provocative statement and then decide if they want to work with others to support the statement or challenge it.  The facilitator reads a provocative statement, defines terms if necessary, and clarifies the scope of the discussion.  Participants then move to two different preparation areas.  One group builds a case in support of the statement and the other questions it.  Participants  clarify what the statement means to them and offer support and examples either for or against it.

After a set amount of preparation time, the two sides present their case and challenge the opposing point of view.  The facilitator must closely monitor the way the discussion unfolds so each side has equal time.  After the “debate” participants physically change sides if they have changed their minds.

Although this will work with many different topics, I have included a few "debate" statements  that focus on organizational culture and motivation:

  • The major determining factor in an employee’s effectiveness is the culture of the organization

  • Organizations work better if they view themselves as communities rather than institutions 

  • The key factor in employee morale is the nature of relationships that employees have at work 

  • Essentially, change is an act of will 

  • People are only motivated when they are engaged in the process of knowledge building 

  • The driving force behind morale is whether an individual feels valued or not 

  • The organization’s culture shapes how an individual thinks and acts

Options:  One option is to have the two groups select a spokesperson to represent each group.  

Added thoughts or considerations:  I think it is wise not to use this too early in a workshop, wait until the participants are feeling comfortable with each other.  In a full day workshop, I like to save this for the afternoon session because the lively debate tends to perk people up.  Be careful not to overuse this format.

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IV. Posted Professionalism

Author: Tom Siebold is a writer and business consultant in Minneapolis.  He is also the owner of Studyingforcollege.com --a site to help college students improve their studying and grades.  

Objective (s): To have participants summarize their thoughts on different aspects of a topic

How the author has used this activity:  I like to use this activity to create a doorway to more detailed information. It also is a good way to collect the thoughts of the entire group and synthesize their collective thinking. 

Activity Description: In this activity participants react to three professionalism statements by jotting down short responses on sticky notes.  Note that this format will work with a variety of topics—simply write statements that support the topic.  The facilitator sets aside three wall spaces for the notes to be posted—one area for each statement. 

After the notes are posted, participants are divided into three teams, one for each grouping.  Each team  then combines, synthesizes, rearranges, and/or groups their notes.  It is each team’s job to draw three to five conclusions based on the notes.  At the facilitator’s signal, each team reports their conclusions.

Below are three statements that I have used in a climate workshop:

  • As a professional, I expect to be treated in the following manner at work. 

  • As a professional, I feel the following values should drive the work site. 

  • The following words or statements describe my ideal work climate.

Options:  To save time you can give the group a few minutes to roam around the room reading the different notes.  Then with the full group reconvened you can ask them to draw generalizations from the posted information.

Added thoughts or considerations:  I like to use this activity as a spring board to my own presentation material.  I make an effort to refer to the conclusions throughout the workshop so that the participants understand that it was an activity with meaning.

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V. Metaphorically Speaking

Author: Tom Siebold is a writer and business consultant in Minneapolis.  He is also the owner of Studyingforcollege.com --a site to help college students improve their studying and grades. 

Objective (s): To tap the creative side of the group to see a topic in a new way

How the author has used this activity:  Sometimes workshops feel like a regimented linear march.  I like to break up the rhythm of a workshop by asking the participants to think differently about their professionalism.

Activity Description: Sometimes creating a metaphor can help trigger insights.  In this activity the participants, working in pairs, discuss metaphors provided by the facilitator and relate them to their work situation or organization.  In addition each pair creates one or two metaphors to add to the list.  Each pair is given an opportunity to explain one of their metaphors to the full group. 

Of course the metaphors will focus on the topic of the workshop or training session.  This is a very adaptable exercise.  Below are five metaphors that I used with a group of middle school teachers:

  1. Teaching is like building a pyramid.

  2. A school is like an ocean-going ship

  3. Teachers are artists

  4. Students are like bumper cars

  5. Education is a mosaic

Options:  I have used this activity as a pre--workshop assignment.  Participants read their metaphors at the outset.  It can be an enjoyable way to begin.

Added thoughts or considerations:  Keep in mind that some people may find that this exercise takes them out of their comfort zone.  Be prepared to offer suggestions.  I also like to use this exercise as a "rapid fire" activity.

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VI. Gorilla Tale

Author:  Tom Siebold is a writer and business consultant in Minneapolis.  He is also the owner of Studyingforcollege.com --a site to help college students improve their studying and grades. 

Objective (s): To introduce the need to stay open to change

How the author has used this activity:  I like to use this activity to discuss the power of unseen forces in organizations.  

Activity Description: Don’t neglect the power that parables, metaphors, and analogies have to make a point.  In this activity, a short story entitled The Gorilla Story is used to emphasize how the status quo frequently keeps organizations from making change or approaching things differently.

I usually ask a volunteer to read the story out loud to the full group.  Here is the story…

The Gorilla Story

This story starts with a cage containing five gorillas and a large bunch of bananas hanging above some stairs in the center of the cage. Before long, a gorilla goes to the stairs and starts to climb toward the bananas. As soon as he touches the stairs, all the gorillas are sprayed with cold water. After a while, another gorilla makes an attempt and gets the same result—all the gorillas are sprayed with cold water.  Every time a gorilla attempts to retrieve the bananas, the others are sprayed. Eventually, they quit trying and leave the bananas alone.

 

One of the original gorillas is removed from the cage and replaced with a new one. The new gorilla sees the bananas and starts to climb the stairs. To his horror, all the other gorillas attack him. After another attempt and attack, he knows that if he tries to climb the stairs he will be assaulted. Next, the second of the original five gorillas is replaced with a new one. The newcomer goes to the stairs and is attacked. The previous newcomer takes part in the punishment with enthusiasm.

 

Next the third original gorilla is replaced with a new one. The new one goes for the stairs and is attacked as well. Two of the four gorillas that beat him have no idea why they were not permitted to climb the stairs or why they are participating in the beating of the newest gorilla.

 

After the fourth and fifth original gorillas have been replaced, all the gorillas that were sprayed with cold water are gone. Nevertheless, no gorilla will ever again approach the stairs. Why not?

“Because that’s the way it has always been done.”

After the reading, I simply ask the group to discuss the lesson of the story by applying it to situations that they have encountered in their organizations.  Here are some other questions that have generated related discussion: Why is change so threatening?  What is the power of the status quo?  How can a leader help break “gorilla” thinking? What motivates people to move out of their comfort zones?  In organizations, how is the status quo perpetuated?  Why do people react so defensively to proposed changes?

Options:  If you have the right group, you can ask them to break into small groups or pairs and write their own illustrative story.  It is great fun to have the participants read their stories to the full group.

Added thoughts or considerations:  Be careful not to overuse this kind of activity.  For some participants too much of this style of learning feels unproductive.

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VII. Positive Transformation

Author: Tom Siebold is a writer and business consultant in Minneapolis.  He is also the owner of Studyingforcollege.com --a site to help college students improve their studying and grades.   

Objective (s): To introduce the power of positive thinking

How the author has used this activity: When confronted with a challenge or issue people frequently frame their thinking in negative terms.  This exercise asks participants to transform negative statements into positive ones. 

Activity Description: Ask participants to identify commonly heard negative comments.  These may be general in nature or focused on a particular topic.  Write these on the board so everyone can see.  Divide the group into pairs or small groups and have them transform the negative statements into positive assertions.  Have them share their work.

Example: The negative mindset… “We’ll never trust each other enough to have productive team meetings”   is transformed into a more positive assertion…“As we increase our trust level our team meetings will be proportionally productive.”

This is a good activity to set up discussions about organizational culture and the power of positive self-talk.

Options:  You may want to use  negative comments that you have prepared before the workshop.

Added thoughts or considerations:  If I plan to use this activity, I like to interview a sampling participants before a workshop to gather a few good examples that the group can relate to.

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VIII. Communication Habits

Author: Tom Siebold is a writer and business consultant in Minneapolis.  He is also the owner of Studyingforcollege.com --a site to help college students improve their studying and grades.   

Objective (s): To identify the habits of good communicators.

How the author has used this activity: Any investigation of good workplace communication should begin with some type of communication profile.

Activity Description: In this activity pairs or small groups explore eight dimensions of communication by listing both bad and good habits for each.  Have the participants define and discuss each of the communication practices and then complete the chart below.  After the participants have completed the chart, ask them to make a list of the key habits of excellent communicators.

Communication Practice

Bad Habits

Good Habits

1.       Listening

 

 

2.       Reading people

 

 

3.       Delivery style or attitude

 

 

4.       Paying attention

 

 

5.       Asking questions

 

 

6.       Message responsibility

 

 

7.       Message clarity

 

 

8.       Adjusting the message to the audience or situation

 

 

 Options:  If you have a group that likes to role play, you can set up a dandy scenarios portraying bad communicators. 

Added thoughts or considerations:  To make this activity work, spend some time defining the communication practices before you ask participants to work on their own.

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