“People change. Life takes you in different directions. You don’t have to stay forever, but I want you to enjoy it while you are here.” As head of operations for Burson-Marsteller’s U.S. corporate practice this is what I tell our younger team members. After speaking with leaders of employee engagement at 15 large companies who together represent more than 2.6 million employees, it would seem that I am not alone.
With the recession of 2008 largely behind us, the war for talent is once again in full force. To win this war, employers are seeking to improve the employee experience from recruitment to retirement. This means attracting the best recruits, retaining rather than replacing employees, and keeping them engaged with the company after they leave to ensure they remain advocates. Traditionally, business was focused on the client (Business2Business) and/or the consumer (Business2Consumer). Today, the employee experience (Business2Human) is becoming a critical focal point.
Enhancing the employee experience includes reassessing employees’ physical, cultural and technological environments. The experience works to validate the brand promise, reinforce understanding of and commitment to the business strategy, and add to an employee’s professional and personal growth and well-being.
Based on our experience working with clients as well as what we heard in our recent conversations with employee engagement leaders, below is a summary of considerations and suggestions for how to make your communications with employees more effective.
In regard to employees:
- Connect to a Higher Purpose: Multiple studies show that employees are willing to be paid slightly less so long as they are working for a company that they believe adds value to their community and the world around them. Therefore, companies need to articulate a higher purpose and clear values, as well how employees play a role in meeting those goals.
- Provide Focused and Frequent Recognition: There is clear value in a transparent, systemized program that includes top-down, bottom-up and peer-to-peer recognition. Based on the programs that we have developed, this is not simply about monetary recognition. Recognition from a colleague for a job well done can, in fact, be even more important. When we asked leaders about the most important tools/programs they use currently, and those they want to implement in the near future, recognition was cited most frequently both for today and tomorrow.
- Use Fewer Words and More 360 Touchpoints: Employees are inundated with content via a wide range of channels. To reach them, employees are looking for different voices, eye-catching visuals and short, compelling videos to capture their attention. While studies show that email is still widely used, communicators need to consider verbal, visual and video communications in addition to the written word.
For the groups leading these efforts:
- Create New Partnerships: Traditionally, employee communications has been tucked away in human resources and/or the communications function. Today, we see new partnerships emerging and more people playing a role in enhancing the employee experience. For example, partnerships with brand and technology teams allow communicators to reach individuals early in the employee lifecycle, and partnerships with data and analytics teams allow communicators to reach employees where they spend time online, both at work and during their leisure time.
- Train the Team: The employee engagement landscape has changed dramatically over the past decade. Frequently, however, employee engagement teams place themselves at the bottom of the priority list, so training and staying current with the latest trends often fall by the wayside. To be the best partners to internal clients, teams need to be trained on how to become trusted business advisors, how to leverage data, analytics and other technologies that help connect to employees, and how to reach offline team members.
- Measure More Frequently. Closer to the Ground: There is a deep hunger for smarter, faster performance measurement. Millennials are used to receiving instant gratification from likes and shares and employee engagement professionals cannot afford to wait for the annual engagement survey scores to come back. Instead, they need to do a constant pulse check on what employees understand and how they feel.
The way businesses view their employees has shifted radically. Companies that fail to focus on their people risk losing one of their greatest assets. In today’s hypercompetitive talent environment, that is not a risk that any business can afford to take.
Kate Lipsitz is a Managing Director and head of operations for Burson-Marsteller’s U.S. Corporate & Financial Practice. She also co-leads the firm’s Employee Engagement Group in the U.S.