November 8, 2012
Today’s business climate calls for communications professionals who can lead and counsel to build strong employee engagement.
For many organizations, the challenging economy has led to a reduced work force, increased workload and greater responsibilities — without commensurate salaries.
As the economy continues to recover and companies add jobs, loyalty will wane for employees pushed to their limits and the fight for talent will intensify.
According to Kenexa research, 72 percent of American workers are not fully engaged, which means that these employees are not aligned with organizational goals, their productivity is lower and attrition is likely. Employees may leave as soon as an opportunity presents itself, taking valuable skills and knowledge with them.
Kenexa reported that engaged employees offer 71 percent less voluntary turnover, 60 percent higher performance quality and are 29 percent more productive. Organizations with a highly engaged workforce are 6 times more profitable and bring more than 16 times the value to their shareholders. Organizations cannot afford to stand by while talent runs out the door.
This is the best time for communications professionals to deservingly earn a seat at the table by influencing the strategic direction of our organizations.
As communicators, we innately understand how to influence perceptions and move people to action. We are the uniting force behind brand positioning and core values to our business proposition. Who better to connect the dots for our employees?
And here are five tips to help you get started:
1. Evaluate your current tools. Do you have the right people on your team and the right resources in your artillery to be a change force in your organization? Sometimes we must ask ourselves these difficult questions in order to move forward.
“Communicators should take inventory of their resources. Recognize the gaps. If you are not prepared with the right business case, a strong depth of understanding, current research, the right team of professionals and the necessary communications tools, you cannot influence change. Be prepared to advise and council in a meaningful way,” said corporate communications thought leader David Grossman, APR, Fellow PRSA, and the author of “You Can’t Not Communicate.”
If there are tools that you need to move forward, then develop a business case and show their value to management.
What a great opportunity to showcase your ability to strategically think of solutions to move your organization forward.
2. Connect employees to values. Values are more than what is printed on a poster in the break room. You must act on values every day — they must be authentic to what is said and done in an organization, both externally and internally. Clear organizational values help employees develop an emotional connection to the greater cause. At the moment of truth, employees must be prepared not only to understand the values, but also to live them.
Earlier this year, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., saw a $2.15 billion market value decrease after Greg Smith, a former employee, authored a scathing op-ed piece in The New York Times about the company’s management and treatment of clients. He exposed a disconnect between what the company touted externally and what it actually practiced internally.
This example illustrates a valid connection between business results and corporate values. People need to feel good about where they work in order to be fully engaged.
3. Open the lines of communication. Challenge the way that you think and open the lines of communication. We live in a 2.0 world. Don’t be fearful of what you might hear. Sometimes the most challenging information to hear is necessary to evoke real change.
“There is too much talk and not enough listening occurring in today’s work,” says Grossman. “Listen to what employees have to say and act on feedback provided. Always close the loop so that employees feel that they not only have a voice but that their voice is heard by leadership.”
4. Live the brand. Organizations spend a great deal of time, money and resources on external branding. But what about the people who make up the brand? Employees are, without a doubt, our greatest brand ambassadors.
Southwest Airlines founder and former CEO Herb Kelleher routinely publicized that Southwest Airlines’ success was based on the concept of treating employees the same way as customers. He recognized that employees were the driving force behind their success.
Remember, organizations don’t deliver results, people do.
5. Remember that your message matters. In an age of information overload, what you say matters more than where you say it.
“Communicators often put far too much emphasis on platforms. Get into the mind of the employee. Focus on things that matter to them. Once the desired message is clearly articulated, then select the platform(s),” says Jason Frank, a director with U.K.-based SAS, an agency that focuses primarily on talent and corporate communications.
After you carefully consider the content, then determine the most appropriate and relevant medium for reaching employees. Make sure that you communicate over multiple platforms to ensure that you reach your audience.
Add impact to your message by following up with face-to-face meetings, which incorporate two-way dialogue.
Alice Grey Harrison, APR, leads internal communications for Dixon Hughes Goodman LLP, a U.S. top-15 accounting firm with more than 1,700 employees. Twitter: @alicegrey.
Email: alicegrey.harrison at dhgllp.com