You expect employees to be engaged? The first step is to meet their expectations. In order to take this step, you need to know what people at your company find important.
Effective building of employer engagement requires you to invest your time, often money, and to reorganise the flow of information.
Inform on time
Information on time should be a motto hanging on the wall of your internal communication department.
Communication with employees should run like clockwork. It MUST be regular. The recipient gets used to reaching for the company magazine at the beginning of a new quarter or checking the email box on the day when the newsletter comes, and reads the content treating it like a steady source of information about what’s happening at the company. If the communication is not regular (which is a common problem of many companies), the recipient does not get the habit of reaching for it. It’s not a coincidence each issue of a weekly magazine appears on the same day of the week, even monthlies get to newsstands within a two-day time range. Building a habit is a step towards attachment, and attachment is close to engagement.
Just as important as regularity is the pace of communication – for instance, if your employees won an award for their professional achievements, or represented the company in a sports event, if they can read about it while the emotions are still alive, such communication strengthens the positive experience. Someone can show the news in the magazine to their family, someone else will get congratulations from colleagues, and employees who are appreciated feel they are important for the company and their motivation increases. If the information about the award or the sports event appears six months later, not a soul would care about it, as people will be preoccupied with other projects and tasks. Another value of dynamic communication is that people are more willing to report about important events in their departments if they see the reaction is quick, and they know the news will appear next week, and not after two quarters.
Let the employees speak
Another motto the communication department and experts in employer engagement should hand on their wall is: Let the employees speak!
It’s crucial that you not only send messages to employees, but also that you arrange space where they can create content, even if it’s just commenting. Traditional intranet is not enough, as it only allows for reading passively, and you can only comment to someone sitting next to you. If you give your employees space for sharing their opinion, they are likely to do it, thus provoking others to share their opinions too.
For this reason it’s so important that internal magazines are not edited only by the communication department or by journalists and editors cooperating with the company. When an employee e.g. from the logistics department or a warehouse worker tells about what is happening at their department with their own words, what they’ve changed recently, who has won an award, such a story will be authentic and employees will be more likely to read it. It can also encourage others to speak. It is the editor’s role to sense who would prefer to write something by themselves (for many people it is an enormous pleasure and an adventure, and when the text gets published – also a reason to be proud of) and when it’s better to talk to someone and write the article for them. You just need to keep the character of the message and not try to smooth it out too much – I would even say it’s better to leave out certain linguistic imperfections, if they make the content vivid and full of emotions.
A good idea is to form editorial boards, where employees responsible for communication, journalists, editors and employees willing to have a go at writing can cooperate. This is a good way to create stories which are professional and at the same time close to real life, as the information and ideas come straight from the source.
This is a way to strengthen the community of employees, just as it happens on online forums or in social networks. That is why it’s worth taking a step beyond traditional intranet and creating Collaborative intranet (Intranet 2.0) – the word collaborative is key here, it is an intranet expanded by an element of collaboration, which means the content can be enriched by users, e.g. by adding comments. Even more interactive is the ESN (enterprise social network) – an internal social network enabling all its users to communicate in many directions. All network members have equal rights to create content. This is similar to the mechanisms used by Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Naturally, such solutions require more work from the internal communication, like moderating, etc. nevertheless they are a very strong engagement factor. Vide: Facebook – do I need to explain? In the last decade the enterprise social networking has expanded very dynamically, taking over up to 65% of the market. According to McKinsley Global, its reach in 2017 can be up to 70%; it is a convenient channel for sharing knowledge within an organisation, it simplifies conflict solving, business decision making, increases employees engagement and productivity. Even Facebook has noticed opportunities in this sector and invested in Workplace by Facebook – a communication tool for companies, with a communicator, posts, group discussion, video broadcasting, possibility to create charts – all this among the group of colleagues.
Find out, what is valuable for employees
The third motto for employer engagement specialists should be: Know the values close to your employees.
The events organised for employees, CSR and charity events should be compatible with your employees’ personal values. Employees are willing to engage in actions which are meaningful to them, they allow them to identify with the company and influence their attitude at work. In large organisations a lot of such actions are enforced top down by the headquarters; in such cases you need to make sure the initiative is presented to employees in the best possible way, and if it’s possible – give your employees a choice. One of our client companies enables its employees to vote which foundation the company is going to donate. When employees can have an influence on such decisions, they feel their opinion matters and their engagement increases. This is especially important for young generations – “It appears career choices made by the Y Generation are based on personal values. As many as seven in ten survey respondents believe they share their personal values with the organisation they work for. Nearly half of them refused to carry out a project which conflicted with their personal system of values and ethical principles” – according to Natalia Pisarek, co-author of The 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey by Deloitte Polska.
Last, something I maybe should have started with – why does engagement matter in the first place? Because an engaged employee is the best ambassador for your company. Engaged equals loyal – no need to explain how advantageous this is, especially in a market where it is gradually more often the employer who is looking for employees, not the other way round. According to a study by Aon Hewitt, a 5% growth of engagement among employees is enough to increase the company’s results by 3%. Taking care of building your employees’ engagement simply pays off.
Employees who feel they are part of a community, who know they can have real impact on what’s happening in the company and who are listened to when they speak know that they are respected and they act the same way towards colleagues and bosses. They perform their tasks and talk about their work to people from outside the company with respect. This is the most effective and authentic employer branding.