Getting your employee experience right is becoming more important by the day, and effective internal communication is critical – so how can you get your message across in a way that makes a difference?
For years’ businesses have been striving for strong ’employee engagement’, as there’s evidence that it can increase performance and productivity.
This has led to a boom in surveys and solutions – mostly digital – for measuring and boosting engagement, as well as somewhat more gimmicky efforts by way of bean bags, slides, table tennis tables and yoga classes in offices.
However, pinning down what engagement actually means, stopping activities from feeling contrived and showing a clear link to better business outcomes has proved tricky for many.
This opened the door for ’employee experience’ or ‘EX’ – a new way of thinking, which puts the colleague at the centre, in the same way as businesses have done with customers for a long time now.
Putting employees first
Engagement can be seen as an outcome (eg someone is prepared to give discretionary effort) at a specific point in time. Employee experience is about understanding what people hear, see, say and do, believe, want and question all of the time.
Employee experience is then about continually cultivating the culture, environment and tools which align with employee expectations and enable them to be their best. Increasingly, if you don’t achieve this, people in your workforce are likely to look for someone who will, most definitely the younger generations.
This is why businesses, like Airb&b, have dedicated employee experience teams doing this very thing and, I previously led such a team for a large healthcare provider. I learned that everyone has to play their part in getting it right – it can’t be achieved by one group alone.
This is particularly true about communication, which is a fundamental part of the employee experience – it’s not the sole responsibility of the internal communications team given that all departments produce communications of some kind!
Every time you share information or ask employees to do something, they will decide if the message, method, and how it makes them feel fit with the experience they want.
All too often, important stuff, such as business strategy, reward components, or governance and compliance are communicated without employee experience in mind, but instead in a way which conflicts with an employee’s view of the brand and undermines the experience a business is trying to create.
This is also a missed opportunity. By communicating things which are traditionally seen as ‘dry and technical’ in new, more thoughtful and compelling ways, you can actually surprise and delight employees.
Here are some of the ways you can make sure your communication helps, rather than hinders, employee experience:
1) Research, listen and involve
Before you even think about communicating, find out what employees in the target group want to know about the subject and how they want to see and hear it. If it’s something you’ve done before, what worked for them and what didn’t?
This can be done through informal conversations, focus groups or via employee ambassadors if you have them. You should also provide ongoing opportunities to give feedback and ask questions about the specific issue you’re communicating.
Not only will the insight help you to improve your approach, but the process of researching, listening and involving people will create trust and contribute to the open and inclusive culture employees now expect.
2) Plan the journey
When looking at employee experience, think about their journey through the business and plan your communications to fit. When are the key points they will need or want to know about or act on something? Where do they want to find this information?
If it’s a company share plan, for example, telling them about it a week before the annual three-week window to join isn’t going to achieve your objective or contribute to a great employee experience. We’d usually recommend making people aware of it at induction, then communicating little and often, infiltrating a variety of short messages to raise awareness and understanding into reward and other suitable communications throughout the year.
3) Connect the dots
Doing meaningful work and believing in the purpose of an organisation are essential for the modern employee while understanding the strategy and their role within it – something companies have realised are key to maximising engagement.
So, whatever you’re communicating, it needs to link back to these in some way. If it’s a new code of conduct, for example, how does this contribute to achieving the purpose? Also, how does this fit into the overall approach to governance and compliance, as well as link to company values? Avoid working in silos by involving other stakeholders in the design of communications, so it all fits together. A joined-up approach to projects improves the experience of those involved while also achieving the much desired experience for employees.
4) Create amazing
Whatever you’re communicating, be it technical, financial or legal, you can do it in a way which is thought-provoking and inspires people. Just like customers, to get commitment and change employee behaviour, you’ll need to get their intellectual and emotional buy-in, which means speaking to both their heads and hearts.
How many people want to receive a lengthy email, telling them to do something and an even lengthier pdf policy to wade through? Graphical guides with key information, animations and concise emails which bring a topic to life with stories, and real-life experiences are far better ways to get your message across and make people feel valued instead of overwhelmed.
What experience tells us
Creating the right employee experience is a complex challenge that requires continuous commitment, but Stephen Covey, the renowned American business author, summed it up nicely by saying: “Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers.” We can all contribute to this through the way we communicate, and if we want our businesses to thrive in this ever-changing world, it’s an opportunity we can’t afford to miss.
Challenge the process
Want to create a communications campaign that makes a positive difference to your employee experience? Let’s talk!