Too many times we’ve been asked to work with businesses to help them improve staff retention, employee engagement and/or the people culture of the organisation. The back story is always similar – "we used to have a great culture, people loved working here, we’ve done everything we can to make this a great place to work, increased salaries, been flexible with time off, given extra holidays, training etc but people just want more and more - they're so ungrateful, they don't realise how great they've got it here. Our latest employee survey rates us 2 out of 5 for ‘being a great place to work’. Last year we scored a 3 and thought that was bad enough. What should we do now?! We need help!"
Each time we come across this problem our answer is the same. Employment Engagement is not a destination, it’s a journey. If you see this as a ‘project’ something that can be fixed by introducing some new ideas or, as we saw in one company, who introduced a ‘Directors’ Lunch’ once a month and thought that would improve the ‘us and them’ culture, then you may as well throw your money away now.
Engagement starts with communication, authentic two-way communication. Discussion, opinions shared, risks considered and, eventually agreed and shared outcomes. Involving, respecting and trusting others is one of the cornerstones to effective engagement and in a world where hybrid working is becoming the norm with 50% of people attending the workplace/office whilst the other 50% work from home or their car then it has never been more important to really look at the channels of communication you and your colleagues use.
It’s about working together, the days of me working for you are disappearing quickly – together we are stronger. If you consider organisations like Google, Nando’s and Bella Italia who regularly appear in the league table of best of the best (Glassdoor) we decided to hone our knowledge and learn from them.
The first thing we discovered was that these companies weave internal communications into everything they do. They don’t forget to tell the team when a new person is starting work; they remember to let everyone know about the little things and the big things. They promote internal vacancies, training opportunities and regularly give ‘shout outs’ to people that have made a great contribution. They build trust by sharing information, knowledge and opinion AND, importantly, invite the same in return. A key component is that this way of working is their "philosophy" - it's understood to be a continuous rolling machine, absorbing the new and discarding practices that aren't working anymore. Feedback is constantly sought, improvements and developments are constantly encouraged, and when someone speaks out (or suggest improvements) they're not just put on a board and left, they're actively worked on. Everyone is involved.
As media platforms change, they change their internal communications strategy. One of these companies uses their website for both external and internal messages with staff having their own section of the website which they enter through what they call ‘the back door’. Any employee can contact/talk to any individual in the organisation – everyone makes themselves accessible to the thoughts and opinions of others - including the CEO and Chairman.
The essence of the success is that everyone has a role to play in communications and between them they share the load, normally by utilising the skills in cross-functional teams to ensure every part of the business is heard, has a voice and is encouraged to use that voice.
These businesses are really on a journey and heartening to know that they aren’t heading for a specific destination. So, if you stood back and had a look at your company, where are you on the journey? There is no shame in admitting you are at the start or that you've treated 'engagement' as a project piece in the past - the trick, is knowing when it's time to change your approach.