The more things change, the more they stay the same
April 3, 2014
Last week, I had the pleasure of presenting Brilliant Ink’s Employee Experience research to a group of 70 internal communications and HR professionals at The Business Development Institute’s Internal Communications and Leadership Forum. The forum included presentations from several industry leaders and a lively panel discussion on the convergence of internal communications and social technologies. While the session certainly raised some important questions around how companies can engage employees in a rapidly changing world, I left with a feeling that what’s always mattered in terms of employee engagement, still matters. What do I mean? Although there’s no doubt technology is changing the way companies and employees engage, it’s still the basics that count:
- People want to hear from their leaders: Our research found that a whopping 84% of communications from leaders are read, and that there’s a clear link between inspiring leadership communications and employee engagement. Hearing from senior leaders regularly, and in an inspiring and believable manner has ALWAYS mattered, and I don’t believe that’s ever going to change. AIG’s Ted Nevins talked about how his company’s senior leaders are using the company’s “Contact” video forum to share updates directly with the company’s 64,000 employees around the world. It’s amazing how something as seemingly simple as filming a leader talking off-the-cuff into the camera of an iPad can make such a difference in employees’ experience.
- To really reach people, use multiple channels: Sure, in years past, communicators didn’t have quite as many options for reaching employees. But it’s been a long-known fact that people need to hear things many times, in many ways, to really absorb information. J.P. Morgan Chase’s Barbara Calderoni talked about how the financial giant ensures its employees pay attention to HR communications by breaking through the clutter with varied channels, including basics like intranet content and broadcast emails, as well as newer channels like employee testimonial videos, quick polls/surveys and gamification.
- Help people feel connected: In the world of employee communications and engagement, we as communicators are always trying to answer a fundamental question on behalf of employees: “What’s in it for me?” Helping employees feel connected, involved and invested in their work is the key to unleashing their productivity and performance. That “WIIFM” questions remains at the core of our work, but now we have a broader set of tools to help provide the answer. Social technologies like Jive and Chatter are enabling employees to more easily connect with the people and information they want, when and how they want. While social technologies like these are helping employees feel more connected, a surprising number simply are not using them. In fact, our research found that fewer than half of employees with access to internal social media platforms are actually using them. The takeaway for communicators? If you’re going to invest in an internal social media platform, ensure you have a strategic purpose for doing so (“because it’s cool” doesn’t count), and then make sure your people understand how it will help them feel more connected to their work, and ultimately work smarter.