How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
Are Your Communication Strategies Really Engaging Employees?
Guest articles > Are Your Communication Strategies Really Engaging Employees?
by: Marcia Xenitelis
The frequency at which the word "engagement" appears in any discussion about
employee communication has begun to make me wonder whether we clearly understand
what the term means. More importantly, do we understand what it means to our
clients, particularly CEOs, when they talk about engagement? We have engagement
tools, but can we really say that these tools actually engage employees in the
process of change? Or are employees merely engaged with the tool itself?
There is only one question that you need ask yourself to find out whether
your employee communication strategies are going to engage employees, rather
than simply inform. That question is: Can you establish whether the tools and
methods you are using to communicate with employees are changing attitudes and
behavior or providing information?
Employee engagement is a shared understanding of the issues that affect the
business, and that understanding leads to changes in employees' attitudes and
behaviors. Unless employees truly understand the issues and make a meaningful
connection between their jobs and those issues, their attitudes and behaviors
will not change. To achieve engagement, three things have to happen: The
business issue has to mean something to the employee personally, the employee
has to understand the issue (and I mean truly understand it, not just read about
why it is an issue), and most important, each employee must be made to feel a
part of the change process.
As communicators we have the opportunity to become creative in how we
communicate and engage employees. The ultimate aim in employee communication has
to be to create the "Aha!" moment. This is the moment when employees have the
necessary information and can say, "Now it makes sense," "Now I understand, "
"Now I can do something about it."
Tools are important in this process but generally they just communicate
information. What we need to strive for are creative communication methods to
engage employees in the process of change.
There are five steps for identifying what the "Aha" moment is and they
include the following:
So let's look at an example that would be familiar to communicators: the
annual report announcement. Typically an online annual report would be made
available to employees via the intranet. Some employees read it, but most tend
to scroll down to the last pages to check the annual salaries of the senior
executive staff and then close the document.
Let's imagine that the results in this annual report are very poor and the
CEO is determined that employees understand the issues surrounding the poor
results and become fully engaged to help turn the company around. Here's how one
organization accomplished this.
The company held four brown bag lunch meetings over four weeks where
employees could attend for free for one hour and hear from an outside
professional about how to invest in the share market. Importantly, there was no
obvious link between the meeting topic and the organization the employees worked
for. At week three, they were analyzing annual reports and generally deciding
whether they would invest in a particular company based on the information
contained in the report. By the fourth week they were given another annual
report and asked the same question, "would you invest in this company?" The
answer was overwhelmingly no. And of course this last company was the one they
all worked for, which brought them to the "Aha!" moment. Now the organization's
employees understood and were engaged and ready to become involved in turning
the company around through teamwork and new initiatives.
Here are some steps you can follow to ensure that you can come up with
creative ways to communicate with employees and engage them in the process of
To challenge beliefs that your employees have about your organization, you
need to have facts. The marketing department is an excellent source of facts
about the business, with research on brand image, customer satisfaction,
customer and non- customer views on competitors and information about market
segments. Each of these areas provide valuable information on opportunities to
link employees with business issues that can be measured. For example, the
organization should have facts about how customers feel about the service
provided by the organization's call centre. Employees will also have an opinion
about how the believe customers perceive their service. By taking the results of
the customer feedback and presenting it to staff this often creates an "Aha
moment" because customer feedback is typically better than what employees
anticipate. Once you have shared this information, the objective is to then
explore ways that employees can become engaged in further improving that
customer feedback. Focus groups
Key sources of business data are customer experience data, business results
by product or service stream, competitor customer feedback, and measures of the
attributes of your brand. These are sources of data that you can use as a
measure of improvement as a result of your employee engagement strategy.
When selecting business outcomes as a measure for your employee communication
strategy, you need to be quite certain that the strategy you implement can
actually affect the business outcomes you have decided to focus on.
Finally, when it comes to any employee engagement strategy, whether it be total transformation of a business or improvement in one aspect, you can rarely go it alone. Partnering with other areas of your organization including marketing and human resources will ensure that the optimum outcome is achieved for your organization.
About the author: Marcia Xenitelis is a recognized authority on the subject on change management and has spoken at conferences around the world. For access to case studies and more information on the types of strategies you can implement to engage employees visit http://www.marciaxenitelis.com for a wealth of free informative articles and resources.
Contributor: Marcia Xenitelis
Published here on: 11-Jun-11
Classification: Change, Communications
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