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Employee Engagement Starts With Communication

If employee engagement is the key to success, then a strategic communication plan is the lock

By Jennifer Lumba

Sales and marketing teams can only achieve and surpass goals with strong employee engagement. While the ends once always justified the means, they don't anymore. Companies can no longer survive and strive with the one-hit wonders. We need individuals and teams that embrace the here and now as well as the later.

Organizations are embracing the concept that in order to achieve bottom line numbers, their dollars spent on glitzy marketing campaigns are better spent ensuring they have an engaged workforce committed to delivering on the company’s brand promise. The result: a countless number of well-funded software companies are flooding the market with the latest and greatest Web interfaces to enabling leaders to evaluate, track and improve employee engagement scores.

The bells and whistles on some of these software solutions are truly outstanding, but once companies have completed the often arduous needs analysis and lengthy implementation, how do you know if you build it, they will come? If you don’t explain to them how to and why, no one will care.

At this point CEOs are saying to themselves: “First they told me to stop spending all of my money on external marketing, and then they told me I need to focus on employee engagement. Now I have got all these high-tech tools and a brand promise still waiting to be delivered.” 

The solution lies somewhere in the middle. Organizations need to embrace the latest technologies enabling employees to connect with each other in ways that are meaningful to them. In the same vein, these technologies need to be coupled with a well thought out communication plan ensuring employees understand the goal of implementing these tools and how their adoption will improve the everyday work life. This is where we, as marketing specialists, can apply our expertise.

Here are some tips on how to ensure maximum ROI for your employee engagement strategy:

1. Create a 12-month communication plan taking it from initial launch through to the initiative’s one-year anniversary

2. Approach your external and internal marketing strategy holistically so you know what other communications are being planned throughout the year. This will allow you to time your messaging for maximum impact.

3. Identify your audiences so that you can tailor your message platform. You may need to provide different messaging to your leaders that you do to the general employee population.

4. Leverage your communication vehicles. Don’t rely solely on one method of communications such as e-mail. You will likely have limited opportunity to use senior leaders as spokespeople, make sure you use these individuals and there time strategically.

5. Think outside of the box. Look for cross promotional opportunities. For example, if your company has a wellness program that has its own communication strategy, see if there is an opportunity to promote “The Well-Engaged Workforce.” Inter-department collaboration will enable you to stretch your marketing dollars and piggyback on other initiatives allowing you to not only share their marketing dollars, but also their marketing limelight.

6. Create Champions. Word of mouth is still your most powerful communication tool. Make sure you have advocates for your initiative and that those wishing to spread the good news have the support and recognition they deserve for helping you get your message across.

7. Content….Content….Content. Make sure all of your communications deliver meaningful content. Organizations often try to communicate every aspect of a new initiative right at the program launch, which ends up being communication overload for employees. You are better off using the launch to communicate key points and save some of the new features of your solution for a disseminated communication throughout the year. This will keep the program fresh and keep interest in the program high.

8. Make sure when you are designing your engagement strategy that you keep your entire employee population in mind. Make sure that all employees have a reason to get interested in being more engaged.

9. Measure. In this landscape of economic scrutiny take the time to evaluate and communicate your successes. If you have succeeded in reducing your turnover or increasing your employee engagement score, make sure that all employees can share in the glory. After all, they are the ones who made it possible.

10. Solicit feedback. Remember that communication has two parts: talking and listening. Don’t be afraid of negative comments. These are gateways to improvements that, in their own way, communicate back to you that employees are taking ownership of the program. You’ll have no stronger advocate than a naysayer who sees his or her comments were considered and reasoning for or against was communicated back to them.

The key to any company’s success starts with its employees. With a well-planned employee engagement strategy that integrates all of the marketing savvy you apply to your external customers, you are sure to have a winning combination.

Jennifer Lumba is the Chief Marketing Officer for Rideau Recognition Solutions (www.rideau.com), a global leader in employee recognition and rewards. Her expertise is helping Rideau’s clients embrace full-scale recognition cultures. She can be reached at jenniferlumba@rideau.com