By Jason Khoury, Senior Director of Corporate Marketing, Jive
As communication leaders, we can’t do a good job of promoting our company’s success externally unless we effectively drive strategic alignment by engaging employees and making sure they are aware of key corporate updates. And why not? The latest Gallup Q12 employee engagement metric finds that companies with highly engaged workforces are 21 percent more profitable, between 17-21 percent more productive and experience significantly lower turnover than their low-engagement counterparts. In addition, high-engagement companies outperform peers by 147 percent in earnings per share. With numbers like those, it’s no wonder Gallup concludes that “the relationship between engagement and performance at the business/work unit level is substantial.” As the statistics suggest, when it comes to employee engagement, it is no longer an option for leaders to opt out.
Unfortunately, only around a third of U.S. employees are actually engaged at work. Worse, among the remaining two-thirds, 16.5 percent are actively disengaged, costing US businesses between $450 – $550 billion annually in lost productivity alone. With the stakes so high, why do some leaders still struggle to authentically connect with employees? One reason might be the sheer size of the modern enterprise. Many companies employ hundreds, thousands or even tens of thousands of workers that they need to keep aligned, making the task of internal communications increasingly daunting. It’s no wonder leaders who prefer handshakes to hashtags are at a loss as to how to build human connections across their globally-dispersed workforces.
Three Digital Communications Steps for a More Engaged Workplace:
- Get everyone on the same page. There was a time when town hall meetings, email newsletters and the traditional bulletin board-style company intranet were the only way companies could get the message out to all of their employees. But today’s employees are more social than ever. Not only do workers expect two-way conversations with executives, they demand them. An interactive intranet can provide a single activity hub from which leaders can communicate with all of their employees, regardless of location or device. Executives should relay important information including new initiatives, performance updates, workplace happenings and social events. By mixing it up with a combination of blog posts, status updates and videos, along with personal stories and engaging photos, an interactive intranet can humanize leaders to a workforce that’s becoming more mobile, remote and global every day. Another big advantage of this type of solution is that employees are empowered to engage with each other—and everyone across the organization is able to access the content, tools and corporate memory they need, all in a single location.
- Listen. Once the lines of communication are open across the enterprise, the real challenge begins: listening. Experts recommend that execs spend at least 15 minutes a day tuned into the questions, comment threads and blog posts of the most engaged (and, thus, most important) people in the company. It’s a way for leaders to take the temperature of the organization so they can begin the necessary work of aligning the company’s culture with their vision. Again, an interactive intranet can serve as an excellent place to host “Ask Us Anything” Q&A sessions that proactively address outstanding questions from all-hands meetings, conduct organization-wide surveys or provide general feedback. Of course, listening should not only happen online. Some employees are more comfortable communicating in person so, when possible, leaders should accommodate one-on-one requests. Other important ways to connect in person include team-building exercises and offsites.
- Share. To develop meaningful relationships, executives’ digital communications must be authentic, consistent and realistic. If they’re not passionate and transparent in their messaging, people will notice, so it’s crucial to help leaders find their true voice and communications style. It pays when they stick with the subjects they care most about and hit those themes over and over again. When the organization’s strategic goals are reinforced via internal collaboration tools, as well as in live meetings, social media channels, customer communities and external thought leadership content, employees will get the message. Make sure execs don’t skimp on praise either. When employees are recognized for their good ideas they feel validated and are more likely to show up for the company and its leadership—and are far less likely to tear them down—when the going gets tough. It may take some time but, remember, the point of engagement is to make leadership’s vision employees’ mission.
Breaking through digital resistance
While digital engagement doesn’t always come naturally to leaders, it is necessary. Corporate communications and HR teams play an important role in coaching and enabling executives to succeed in this critical work environment. Smart executives are increasingly turning to technology to cultivate more productive and profitable workplaces that put engagement at the center of their culture. By helping each key executive to fine-tune their preferred mix of communications channels and tools to best suit their personality and objectives, you’ll ultimately increase overall employee engagement for the company. And of course, once the organization has a handle on engagement, it can steer more of the team’s energy towards innovating and increasing market share in order to stay as healthy on the outside as it is on the inside.