Internal engagement is a phrase that has been passed around organisations for years without much clarity or understanding around how to effectively do it. As remote teams and satellite offices become the norm and the race to recruit the best and brightest becomes increasingly competitive, internal engagement is quite rightly getting serious attention. Sparky millenials no longer want to work for companies, they demand causes, their ambitions moulded by TED talks entitled ‘why work doesn’t happen at work’ and ‘the happy secret to better work’. Both the public and private faces of any company now need to be a beaming beacon of job satisfaction.
So, where did it all start?
It could be considered that the beginnings of employee engagement began in the late 1880s when Frederick Taylor, an industrial engineer studied how people’s attitude influenced their productivity in the steel industry. This technique then developed into the more widely known ‘engagement survey’ pioneered by companies such as Gallup. Since then many global companies have made their fortune delivering data containing the thoughts and mood of the workforce to the boardroom.
Up until a few years ago a survey coupled with the dreaded all-staff emailer and perhaps a few notices on a board made up the full suite of internal communications. Many companies are now moving towards a much more integrated real-time approach to generating and measuring high levels of employee commitment and brand understanding. Sarah Perry, CEO and founder of Snap Comms (a privately owned internal communications technology) says that:
“Now more than ever there needs to be a strategic approach to internal comms. There is a need to think about audience needs and understanding, engaging multi-channel content, measurement and evaluation. One thing that is quickly developing is a more creative use of visuals and multimedia content. There has been a definite increase in the use of beautifully designed visual templates reinforcing and enhancing company values that can be pushed to employees across any device.”
A study recently carried out by Hubspot shows that 55% of users’ finish watching a video through to the end, compared with only 29% who report to read a blog in its entirety. This becomes even more important when you consider that content shared by employees received eight times more engagement than content shared by brand channels.
We utilised this information when creating an internal digital hub for sports marketing agency TLA Worldwide, bringing video to the forefront alongside social media and updates on a customisable dashboard. The hub means that exciting news, policy, success stories and videos about their athletes can instantly be shared between global teams helping employees to see real-time results of their work, generating a sense of excitement and also pride. The data that the HR and marketing teams now have at their fingertips is invaluable to execute engagement strategies going forward.
Similarly when we created an internal communications tool for US giant Vistaprint, we helped link their employees more closely to one another — allowing them to share customer insight through a varied content mix of videos, commentary, presentations and more, completely custom to their needs as a team. Now with user numbers continuing to grow within the US it’s becoming an integral part of their internal sales and education process.
Why is engagement so important?
Employees have become brand champions. Everyone is constantly communicating about companies that they’re impressed by and discussing what could be done better. Controlling the information fed into the employee rhetoric allows management to remain in control of the messages that they receive. When internal communications work well, employees become a beacon for their brand and its value. The issue of engaging people is becoming one of the largest competitive differentiators in the business. A strong brand that offers employees and clients a clear message around their company and what it stands for ensures that that right people are attracted to the organisation, building its culture. In addition to recruitment there are huge perks to company efficiency that can come from internal comms. Having a quick and easy way to share real-time information quickly and keep your workforce updated across topics such as legislation and long-term goals is invaluable to an HR or Marketing team struggling to communicate efficiently across large or disparate teams.
Shifts in the way people are working to freelance and remote working are also demanding a better way for business’ to communicate across different departments and locations. The growth of the ‘gig-economy’ is causing a fresh look at how to keep remote workers engaged and included in company life. The number of self-employed people in the UK has risen by 30,000 over the past three months, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics. This means that 4.55 million Britons are now their own boss, representing 14% of the total UK workforce of 31.21 million.
Who‘s nailing internal engagement?
Google have been pioneers of internal engagement, realising early on the value that it can add. The company goes to great lengths to ensure their employees are happy and that their views are taken into account. They’ve crafted a very unique environment through gourmet food, onsite laundry, famously playful office designs among other things. They’ve created their own culture to engage employees and, as a result are now known as one of the top companies to work for in the world.
Another corporate giant that have been flying the flag for internal engagement is the Coca-Cola Company. They run an employee brand advocate programme called Coca-Cola Ambassador whose sole job is to help prepare employees to better communicate with external and internal stakeholders about issues affecting the business. Drinks company Heineken have also gone to great lengths to engage their employees, creating ‘the green room’, an online magazine created by and for employees.
Here at the studio we also have first-hand experience of the need for better engagement within the drinks industry. Chivas Brothers approached our team to design and a produce a method of improving knowledge sharing within their internal brand teams. Launched as a digital tool in 2015 it now has 650 global users (and counting) that share portfolio insights in a manner not accessible before. The impact, a wider understanding and appreciation of complementary brands to those that User A may be predominantly focused on.
Financial companies have of late been finding recruitment increasingly hard due to the public perception that they are not ‘cool’ leading them to redefine their vision and values. Healthcare and pharmaceutical companies are increasingly shifting from ‘drug companies’ to ‘health and wellness’ companies to ensure a positive public perception. They’re moving past surveys and re-designing jobs to change the work environment and invest in their staff.
Companies’ methods of communication are becoming ever more considered, slipping seamlessly into people’s normal behavioural patterns and appearing across all devices — the UI and UX design purposefully mirroring social tools and sites. We have seen an acute increase in the importance aligned to communicating company mission and values, and in training employees to live these values. Companies are having to continually improve, redesign and develop the environment and methods of discovery and sharing to make it fulfilling and enjoyable for their workforce. People are seeking out careers with companies that they see as furthering good and emanate compassion to the world. With all these aspects now crucial to brand growth, it’s more important (and more difficult) than ever to maintain a strong and consistent brand voice. This means that standing still on internal engagement is no longer an option, it demands investment, ingenuity and a creative approach in order to help power our brands and businesses.