Five ways to supercharge your employee engagement

2nd July 2024

Last week, I joined other internal comms (IC) specialists, both in-house and agency-side, to consider some of the latest innovations, and challenges, facing people like us whose job is to be the conduits – or ‘super-connectors’ as one of the speakers put it – between the businesses we work for and their employees.

It was a genuinely fascinating day with fab speakers, lots of great story telling and some pretty scary facts.
Who knew – for example – that 90% of employees feel disengaged from their jobs?! Thanks for that one, McKinsey!
On the plus side, that does leave plenty of room for improvement. So here are my top 5 takeouts on how to step up your internal comms:

1. Be the eyes and ears of your organisation

It’s a universal truth … every business is just made up of a bunch of people, who – even if they’re not that engaged with their job – are (mostly) incredibly nosy about other people.
As IC experts, our role is to be ‘Chief Nosiness Officer’ – using the deep connections we build across the businesses we work in and with to find interesting stories, and the people who can tell them.
An individual’s story or perspective will always be more interesting and engaging than a corporate announcement … and therefore more effective at communicating a policy, issue or benefit.
So a big part of our role – whether in house or as a consultant – is to listen, ask questions and recognise the people and stories that will bring your business comms to life.

2. If you can’t turn down the volume, at least make it relevant

It’s a problem we’re all familiar with – when there’s so much stuff being communicated, how do you make sure the important bits cut through?
When we’re fighting for colleagues’ time and attention, we HAVE to make sure the messages we share are useful to them, and easy to use, if we want them to be used!
And working with colleagues themselves to develop that content – what they want to know about, and when and how they want it served up – is often the best way of figuring that out.
The reality is that it’s not always possible to turn off the tap – especially in large organisations – but as comms gatekeepers we must question the purpose, audience and execution of every piece of comms to make sure it’s not just adding to the noise.

QUOTE: Anthony Ashton, former Head of IC at HS2: “Speaking to managers around your business can give you qualitative insights that will help shape your comms: what conversations are taking place in different teams? What questions are being asked of directors? Use these insights to guide content creation.”

3. Use ALL the data at your disposal

Internal comms is a really important tool to build culture and boost retention – no doubt about it.
But whilst analysis of your comms can go a long way to help you work out what appeals to your audience – and how it makes them feel – knowing what turns them off is just as important.
If you’re looking to build a more inclusive and diverse culture – which most of us are – studying the demographics of the people leaving your business can be vital by helping you identify issues that needs to be addressed and groups that feel disenfranchised.
And help you develop content that will specifically appeal to those groups, and address their issues, will help bring them back into the fold.

4. Ask your leaders to set the tone

We all know that the holy grail of comms is to find people to share their personal experiences that highlight something the business is doing – whether that’s to support the launch of a gender transition guide, or someone who’s pioneered a green initiative.
But persuading people to open up, especially about personal issues at work, is easier said than done.

QUOTE: Faye Sellier, engagement and activation lead at Pfizer: “Leaders need to speak up bravely … it will enable others to see that everyone has a bad day and it’s ok to be vulnerable.”

Leaders can make a huge difference, not only by sharing their own stories but by engaging with others. Research suggests that if a business leader likes or comments on an employee’s blog, the author is almost twice as likely to write another one.So, if your leaders want a more engaged workforce, they can start by actively participating in the process themselves … because by showing that they have time to read about, and respond to, issues that matter to their people, it gives everyone else permission to do the same.

5. AI is your friend

Hold the front page … AI will not take your job! And it can be a great work ally.
I know this because I recently asked ChatGPT to help me write a speech about Taylor Swift’s business acumen … but as well as creating low-cost content, AI can also help plough through huge volumes of colleague feedback and distil the key themes, as well as creating quick and cheap visual assets.
But like any creative partner, it needs a carefully considered brief: if you put rubbish in you get rubbish out ! AI can still ‘hallucinate’ – presenting you with surprising tangents and unexpected biases.
So don’t be afraid to experiment and see what’s possible … but be ready with your big red pen to manual-correct some of its wackier ideas.

QUOTE: Jessica Tompkinson, Global Head of Communications & Corporate Affairs, Operations at Unilever: “AI allows you have a two-way creative conversation, and it does generate some great ideas (and a lot of tosh!). So one of our principles is … there will always be a human in the loop!”

More details on the event can be found here.

By Lizzie Roberts, Specialist Director (Internal Comms) 


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