Stop in the name of love.
It's time to talk about employee engagement. Companies (and, as we all know, economies) are in constant flux. With the growing popularity of hybrid work, colleagues are now found across many locations and time zones. With this shift in the way of working, getting teams engaged in a business and its values is challenging.
And that's putting it lightly. Brands are struggling to connect with their teams. People are detaching from the traditional workplace and becoming indifferent to company culture. They've become hyper-aware of things like authenticity and their own value. More than ever, there's an expected mutual understanding between employee and employer. Effective, flexible working means relationships built on trust, not questionable tracking software.
So... (we hear you cry)...
"How do you build this culture of trust and
encourage more organic accountability?"
The short answer is; through a carefully considered combination of content, comms and connections. An always-on approach is an effective way to foster a sense of belonging and community. It's all about human connection, baby.
Here we will explore key trends and internal engagement strategies. You can use these insights to create a thriving workplace culture.
You're not alone.
The stats paint a troubling picture.
According to Gallup's State of the Global Workplace report*;
With stats like that, it's very likely that most of your employees are not fully invested in their work. *SAD FACE 😪*
An effective colleague outreach should make individuals feel involved in the collective vision. This results in a sense of purpose and an above-and-beyond commitment to their work.
A recent study by Harvard Business Review found* that 81% of executives strongly agree that a highly engaged employee performs better than those with low engagement. And 56% achieved a positive ROI from investment in employee engagement. With the stats pointing to pro-employee engagement, why do only 37% say it's a significant area of focus for their business today? It doesn't make sense.
With the positive impact on the business in mind, let's look at five of the key pillars for an effective strategy.
1. Build a solid foundation of culture.
Company culture has always been important - a nice-to-have feather in the cap. But, in the digital workspace, it's the gold standard for any thriving organisation. Brands facing internal performance challenges need to rethink their priorities. If you haven't already, it's time to put humanising the business at the top of the agenda. Organisations are like people, each with their own personality. And just like people, they need to nurture and harness what makes them unique.
This isn't anything new. Brand storytelling and the power of emotional connection are widely recognised marketing concepts. Brands like Apple, Nike and Google are masters of this craft. You would have seen it all before thanks to countless TED Talks, podcasts, adverts, social media... the list goes on. We're not even going to hyperlink them at this point. What is new, or at least often unrecognised, is the importance of these elements in communicating internally.
Businesses need to channel their inner Brené Brown. Not by merely focusing on showing vulnerability, they need to go one step further and prove their authenticity. A narrative that champions a brand's unique internal community by making them feel seen and heard. This means real, sincere gestures that show true appreciation for the people who make a company what it is. It has to be genuine - Free from BS and empty promises.
2. Use tech to foster community.
Convenience is key. Once your brand has "returned from its gap year" and found itself, technology is a helpful tool to increase engagement. Apps and platforms provide access to important information and are a handy way for employees to stay connected. Use them on any device, and in some instances; you can push notifications for news blasts. More importantly, they effectively encourage conversation and cultivate a buzzing digital community. From shout-outs and incentives to more light-hearted comms such as work-related memes and playlists, there are many ways to get people interacting by sharing the love and making them smile using an online platform.
Use technology to promote inclusivity. Companies can use surveys, polls or digital suggestion boxes to gather anonymous feedback. Then use their findings to make informed decisions and put in place change that resonates. This provides a safe space to speak freely, making everyone feel listened to and that they matter. A by the people, for the people kind of thing.
Digital content is another must-have. Video is a great way to connect with employees and show a business's human side, particularly those working remotely or in the field. You can use video updates to share news, champion people in less-seen areas of the business, or offer a more entertaining approach to training. Setting challenges and fun content is an effective way to connect with disengaged employees better. It's also a great idea to encourage sharing their own UGC (user-generated content). Teams can complete tasks or share their talents and life hacks to build a culture of skill sharing. This participation in creating and posting their content strengthens internal culture and creates an invaluable asset library for the company persona.
3. Create human experiences.
We know that people are more likely to engage with content that resonates on an emotional level. They're more likely to respond when they feel like part of a community. This sense of connection we feel is an evolved survival trait and something often missing in the modern world where materialism and digitisation now reign... And that, dear reader, is precisely why we must make this a crucial part of our engagement strategy. A properly formed working culture can feel more welcoming than the neighbours on our street. After all, who else do you spend that much time with outside your home?
"When life gives you lemons, make lemonade."
This couldn't be truer than in the workplace. Each moment can be bitter and difficult to endure or a satisfying experience that leaves you refreshed and wanting more. There's no better workplace lemonade than company-wide experiences. Organising activities that align with a business's values and mission will connect colleagues with the company's purpose on a deeper level. An event of some kind is both a crafty way to promote company culture and increase engagement. Shared experiences will foster a sense of pride, excitement and share commitment. Build your community even further by getting people to share their experiences and stories related to their work. This could be in the form of a blog, podcast, or video series. This results in employees feeling valued and appreciated in their work and they're making a difference.
3. Lead by example.
Change starts at the top. Leadership participation is crucial in influencing team behaviour. Leaders should actively champion internal engagement comms and initiatives. This should involve regular communication throughout channels, such as town hall meetings, video messages, personalised emails and even social platforms where appropriate. (Using tools like Slack, FB Workplace or LinkedIn - not sliding into people's personal DMs, just to be clear! 🙊).
Leaders should proactively communicate with employees. Responding to their questions and feedback shows a genuine interest in their opinions and concerns. When employees see that leadership is active and responsive to internal communication efforts, they are more likely to get involved too.
A great example of an organisation that nails this is Google. They're renowned for innovative and successful internal communications efforts as well as employee wellness benefits. They use a variety of incentives, such as employee recognition programs, stock options, and perks like free meals and on-site gyms to encourage employee participation and engagement. They also organise company-wide events, such as hackathons and innovation challenges, to cultivate a culture of creativity and collaboration.
5. Our personal favourite is growth. Professional and personal.
Learning and development opportunities are essential in demonstrating that a business cares. This could include providing access to online courses, workshops, or certifications. Professional growth and upskilling keep team members from becoming listless or looking elsewhere.
When it comes to personal growth, we all love a wellness programme. Focusing on physical and mental well-being is essential in today's fast-paced working environment. Initiatives such as team yoga or meditation, fitness challenges, mental health resources, or even life coaching can be part of a broader campaign to keep colleagues engaged and connected.
You create a positive work environment that fosters engagement, productivity, and loyalty by prioritising your people's well-being. Why not throw in a few duvet days as well? According to a survey by Instaprint, 56% of people have "pulled a sickie" to take back a last-minute rest day. Introducing a Duvet Day could very well reduce your sick leave absences and leave your team feeling refreshed.
Considering the five pillars we've just discussed, how you approach them is up to you.
Creating a positive and meaningful work culture that prioritises well-being, growth, and involvement can inspire employees to drive positive change from within. Whatever your internal team engagement strategy looks like, the key thing to remember is to align your strategy with your brand values and in the interest of your teams. Only you will know how your teams will respond and what makes them tick. And, if you don't know - ask them! As with anything, the hardest part is getting started. So, even if you start by introducing one or two small changes and keep them consistent, that's a whole step forward from where you began.
Written by: Christian Apthorpe.
*The statistics referred to in this article were correct at the time of publishing.