Marketing communicators are experts at motivating customers to move through the customer life cycle, a task referred to as customer activation. Similarly, internal communicators can play a significant role in motivating employees by fostering engagement and increasing an employee’s commitment to the organization.
When we compare the elements of customer activation and employee engagement, there are significant parallels. Customer activation involves understanding buyer personas, monitoring behavior, and providing potential paths and journeys, with an overall objective of selling and activating a group of customers. The employee engagement process looks much the same. Employee demographics and roles parallel buyer personas, behavior is tracked as employee participation and contributions, and employee journeys involve onboarding, training, and development. All of which ultimately serve to motivate and engage a group of employees within the organization.
Internal communicators can help employees feel passionate about their jobs, strengthen employee engagement, and influence their intent to stay with the organization. Let’s look at how this works in more detail.
Connect your employees to a greater purpose. Most professionals want to do work that positively impacts the lives of others. In particular, research shows that Millennials and Gen Zers both seek meaningful work that creates an impact. If you want to help employees connect with a greater purpose, start by understanding how your organization makes people’s lives better.
To create meaning, you must answer the question “Why?” Your messaging needs to go beyond regurgitating the company’s mission. Instead, find and tell employee-centric stories that illustrate the organization’s purpose and benefits. When possible, support those stories with quantitative data. When your employees understand why your company does what it does, you can help them see how their work fits into the bigger picture.
Create opportunities for feedback — and communicate changes made and actions taken. Employees are more likely to engage when they feel listened to at work. How can you use internal comms to converse with employees? In addition to annual employee engagement and routine pulse surveys, consider soliciting informal employee feedback. And definitely communicate back the results and any action you take (or plan to take in the future). When you illustrate how leadership is acting based on employee feedback, you can encourage more open and honest dialogue.
If leadership is open to making changes — and you decide to ask for employee opinions and suggestions — make sure those opinions aren’t ignored. This likely means asking fewer questions more frequently and taking action more quickly. You may also need to create a priority and weighting system and add a feedback loop prior to taking any drastic actions. This loop, “You said ‘X.’ So we are planning to do ‘Y.’ Do you agree?” avoids situations where an early and vocal minority might push for a change, only to have the silent majority take notice when an action plan is about to be made.
Show appreciation for employees. Employee recognition is a low-cost, high-impact employee retention strategy. Unfortunately, Gallup reports that only one in three workers in the U.S. strongly agree that they received recognition or praise for doing good work in the past seven days. How can you use internal comms to create a culture of appreciation?
Team up with leadership to create and send appreciation videos, add an employee spotlight section to your newsletter, or add an appreciation moment at the end of each team or group meeting. As a best practice, be specific with your appreciation — highlight an employee’s specific action or contribution in detail. This helps employees realize that even seemingly small efforts are valued and interconnected.
Improving employee retention with internal comms
Although employee compensation and rewarding work are still the most important factors in retaining employees, communication plays a big role in a company’s ability to connect employees to its greater purpose. With strategic messaging programs, internal comms will help employees feel listened to and appreciated. And as you strengthen day-to-day employee engagement, you will also improve employee retention over the long term.