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: Internal communications and employee engagement (‘the big E’)

Internal communications and employee engagement (‘the big E’)


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The article Internal communications and employee engagement (‘the big E’) originally appeared on HR Review

There are some fundamental building blocks that form the glue to stick together everything that’s good about your organisation. These include culture and values. This blog looks at two more – internal communications and employee engagement. Without these in place and working well it’s likely that your diligent and strenuous efforts in other key areas (learning and development, for example) might not yield the returns you’d expect.

Communication must run as a continuous thread through everything you do – for this to happen it has to be the responsibility of everyone in the organisation. Despite the pivotal role it plays, communication can always be improved. If you ask your employees how they’d rate your organisation’s internal communications on a scale of one to ten, you’d probably be lucky to score a five!

We live in a world where information flow is fast and furious - however much effort organisations put into communicating well, what’s conveyed is often lost. The key is consistency and clarity of message, backed up with multi-channel distribution. Suppose you change the structure of your IT team. It’s posted on your internal communications platform and covered in team meetings and one-to-ones as appropriate. Then three months later, people say they were never told about this. Frustrating isn’t it? What you need is a fool proof plan:

  • Start with the why – context and relevance, ‘what’s in it for me?’, ‘why do I need to know?’
  • Make every communication as clear and simple as possible – think visuals such as infographics, bullet points, stories and examples.
  • Communicate the top-line signposting to the detail.
  • Teach people how to communicate well, starting with your leaders.
  • Use uncomplicated, contemporary language and, consider the use of humour (as appropriate).
  • Ban all unnecessary communication (such as ‘multi-ccing’ on emails) – proceed on a ‘need to know’ basis.
  • Make sure people know where to find information as and when they need it.
  • Never assume that if you’ve sent it out, people will receive it.
  • Use multi-channels to communicate the same message (because people learn and assimilate information differently).
  • Check back all important stuff – brief leaders and others to do this in their one-to-ones and group meetings.

Communication is a vital aspect of engaging your employees. According to Towers Watson, organisations with high engagement levels enjoy six per cent higher profit margins, and according to Kenexa, engaged workforces mean five times higher shareholder returns for their employers. There’s still ambiguity around employee engagement (as highlighted in Purple Cubed’s latest research ‘Engage, Enable, Empower: the powerhouse of organisational success’ http://www.purplecubed.com/resources). My clear and simple, tweet-sized definition is:

The right people, doing the right things, exceeding expectations enthusiastically

No matter how much scepticism and ambiguity there might be, if your employees are engaged, they will be more productive, innovative, loyal advocates. Imagine employee engagement as a virtual ‘bank account’ where positives add and negatives take away. If you think of it like this, it’s easy to see how employee engagement has to be ongoing, cohesive and all-consuming if it’s to be achieved.

It’s beneficial to view engagement as a flow, for example:

  • Engagement starts way before people actually commence work with you, even when someone hears about your organisation.
  • Someone sees a compelling and exciting job opportunity online and it encourages them to apply.
  • They research your company and read about your people promise, your values and the opportunities you offer.
  • A really friendly, helpful voice on the phone invites them in to be interviewed.
  • The interview inspires them and they really want to join you.
  • They come to a second interview and you give them feedback from their psychometric test (which they find really interesting and useful – even if they don’t get the job). Also you reimburse their travelling expenses.

The engagement value is now mounting up.

  • They receive an exciting job offer from the friendly, enthusiastic voice. Of course they accept the role.
  • And then – the wow factor – two days later, they receive a well thought-out induction plan full of rich experiences to allow them to really get under the skin of their new organisation. They’re sent the latest company news, asked to do some pre-work so they can hit the ground running and they’re offered the opportunity to choose a ‘settling in’ buddy.

You get the picture…

Or even better – they are invited to download an app containing all of the induction information as well as tips from colleagues on where to pick up the best coffee on the way to the office.

  • Then some of their new teammates drop them a welcome email or post on their LinkedIn page.

And on it goes…

  • You invite your new recruit to next week’s BBQ, cinema trip or whatever your event is happening, or just to meet their colleagues ahead of day one.

Imagine if you didn’t do any of this, what a huge opportunity you’d be missing…

And of course all of your good work will be for nothing if the reality doesn’t match up to the hype once they’ve started. Being accountable for people is a massive responsibility and should not be taken lightly. This is why employee engagement is not something ‘done by HR’; it is the responsibility of everyone within the organisation.

Engagement, however, isn’t just about the first few days of an employee’s experience with you. It is a journey and as such an ongoing thing. It has to be something that’s nurtured, strategised and developed the whole time an individual is with you.

So having made good progress in engaging your people from day one, it’s necessary to keep building on this, ensuring they are both enabled and empowered. It’s great to engage them in the first 100 critical days (when people decide how long they will stay with you, if at all), you then have to keep it up.

This can be tough, though necessary. So make double sure that all line managers and other leaders are fully on board with engagement. It’s a key part of the modern manager’s role. In the same way that a restaurant is only as good as its last meal, your company is only as good as its last touch point with the employee.

If you only do three things:

1. View employee engagement as a marathon not a sprint;
2. Get everyone on board with the virtual ‘bank account’; and
3. Ensure operations understand the importance of their role in engagement.

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