Open Data Institute focuses on individual engagement through regular communication

At the Open Data Institute (ODI), engagement among its 50 employees is achieved via regular, all-company communications and meet-ups, and providing a sense of purpose at work.

As a small employer, the ODI uses the nature of its work, which is to advocate for the use of open data to support innovation and research, to engage and retain staff. Denise Sanderson-Estcourt, head of people at the ODI, says: “While there are benefits to being a small organisation, there are also challenges. Our people are engaged with cutting-edge, dynamic work.”

The organisation ensures all employees are kept invested in the work, as well as the direction of the business, with regular meetings. Every morning, for example, staff come together for a ‘stand up’ to discuss plans for the day.

“At the stand up, everyone is required to speak,” explains Sanderson-Estcourt. “It gives employees an opportunity to hear what other people are doing, and engage and share themselves.”

Each month the organisation holds a learning and update meeting, which again encourages employees to share something they have learnt, or give a general update on an ongoing project. At these meetings, the ODI encourages the use of a ‘say box’; employees can add a note to the box as it is passed around during the meeting. This might be a thank you, a welcome to new team members, or a question, which is then read out or given to the relevant individual.

The ODI also runs four off-site meetings a year, during which it discusses major updates; at Christmas, for example, it reflects on the year just gone, while in January it covers the corporate objectives and how employees can be involved.

Looking at the future challenges of keeping a workforce engaged and motivated, a key factor will be the focus on the individual, rather than the workforce as a whole, says Sanderson-Estcourt. “We are going to have to be much more mindful of individual needs and not group people together,” she says. “The fundamental thing is that each person is going to need to have their engagement needs met individually.”