I started my marketing communications career handling internal communications for an international hotel company. Although my position was part of the Marketing Division’s Communication department, I often worked closely with the company’s Human Resources personnel when communicating organizational changes and other related news. And while of course it’s critical for a company to keep its employees apprised of news and take the temperature of employee satisfaction, this is a static, one-way process. Creating a two-way conversation offers an opportunity to more actively engage employees in your company’s business goals so they become your brand ambassadors.
In Internal Communications: Everybody’s Doing It (or Should Be), author Erin Sabo says, “Engaging with employees at all levels of an organization is a critical leadership function. Employees who are informed about the direction of the company and organizational goals will be more engaged in their daily activities. Understanding that business leaders are working together toward a targeted, strategic goal(s) — and that each employee’s position is an important part of fulfilling identified objectives — will lead to a more dedicated, productive workforce. A sense of purpose in the corporate “big picture” will go a long way.”
Research shows four out of 10 workers are disengaged globally. In the U.S., the situation is worse. According to the latest State of the American Workplace Report, 70 percent of U.S. workers don’t like their job, creating an environment where many workers are emotionally disconnected from their workplace and less productive than engaged counterparts. (Source: BlessingWhite’s 2013 Employee Engagement Report).
And in How the Best Places to Work are Nailing Employee Engagement, Sylvia Vorhauser-Smith says, “HR leaders bang the employee engagement drum with good reason; employees engaged in their work are likely to be motivated, to remain committed to their employer and to stay focused on achieving business goals and driving the organization’s future. Disengaged employees can drag down others and impact everything from customer service to sales, quality, productivity, retention and other critical business areas.”
Vorhauser-Smith cites programs by companies named as Best Places to Work in Glassdoor’s Employees’ Choice Awards as examples of how engagement is impacting their bottom line. Companies including business powerhouses REI, Google, Facebook, DHL Express, SAP, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Cummins, and Southwest Airlines are innovating the once static practice.
How are they doing it? By following the following seven steps:
- They understand what employees are thinking.
- They create an intentional culture.
- They demonstrate appreciation for contributions great and small.
- They commit to open, honest communication.
- They support career path development.
- They engage in social interactions outside work.
- They know how to communicate the organization’s stories.
But this type of cultural shift must come from the top. Mary Knight said it well in her article, Three Strategies for Making Employee Engagement Stick, “The ultimate goal of any engagement effort must be to transform the culture, so the primary goal of a company’s engagement efforts should not be creating an impact plan. An impact plan is a starting point, not a destination. It should serve as an instrument that documents best intentions that team members will act on to boost their engagement. Leaders, managers, and team members who integrate engagement into how they think, speak, and act will successfully boost and sustain engagement.”
Instead of a hierarchical culture where information is pushed out (and down) on a need-to-know basis, companies who trust their employees and openly share company values, show sincere appreciation and encourage questions, feedback, and ideas, are the ones who will enjoy the greatest success.