Why Internal Communication is the key driver of employee engagement

In my last blog post, ‘Towards an engaged workforce’, I concluded that more quality of life for the employee and better performing organizations were the key arguments to raise the bar on employee engagement. Question remains: where to focus on in raising that bar?

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It takes two to tango: the critical impact of Internal Communication

Several research studies show the impact effective internal communication has on employee engagement. On the Dehli International airport, specifically improving the internal communication approach was the key driver to enhance the engagement of the workforce. Organizations with effective change and communication programs are 3.5 times more likely to outperform their peers (Towers Watson, 2014). An Ark Group survey amongst CEO’s cited ‘effective internal communication’ as the critical factor by almost 95 percent of the CEO’s surveyed. However, only 22 percent thought it was being delivered!

“Companies have no choice but to try to engage not only the body but the mind and soul of every employee” — D. Ulrich

Summarized, the communications effectiveness of organizations is the single most important driver of employee commitment. When information flows freely employees are more engaged and aware of organizational activities and management decisions that affect their jobs.

What problem do we want to solve?

If internal communication is so critical but not delivered in a way that satisfies both employee and executive, what is missing? The past years I came across the following main challenges:

1. The communication is not personalized and very often comes just too late:Louise’s newborn was announced via e-mail the moment she came back from maternity leave, the photos of our company party were on the intranet 3 weeks after the event.

Employee concern: Employees have grown accustomed to personalized, on-demand content in their private lives, and they expect this standard to be met on the job as well.

2. The communication is static and allows for little interactivity: Lots of sending, little or no listening. The newsletter I receive in the mailbox, the new company values I see hanging on the message board and the new safety policy I can find on the intranet. Too often that intranet is more a ‘wild west’ of unwieldy content.

Employee concern: all (well) received, indeed, but how, for God’s sake, can I interact, give feedback, share a new idea?

3. The communication is not always visual attractive: the updated ISO-file is text only; the new safety procedure is a 15pp long read.

Employee concern: What do I need to know and why should I care? Show me; let me feel it, not only let me read.

4. The communication is still very often top-down: the internal communication as equivalent to ‘word from top’. But how do we measure in real-time what employees think about the new mobility plan? How do we keep track on the development needs of employees (do we wait till the yearly performance appraisal?) How do we share employee best practices in real time?

Employee concern: how can I feel more empowered, involved, emotionally attached and dedicated to the organization?

5. The communication often lacks a plan: the organization’s twitter account is often much more planned for than we plan our internal communication messages. If there is no (balanced) plan, let’s be clear and stop the illusion that the internal communication will drive any engagement!

Employee concern: even if the intentions of the communications are truly right, as long as I experience the internal communication as ‘incoherent’, ‘a kind of loose ends’, you don’t keep me in the place I would love to stay.

“Timely and effective communication, delivered through appropriate multiple channels, offers leadership the opportunity to demonstrate honesty, empathy, and a strategic plan.

It provide managers and employees with the facts they need and rebalance the total value proposition, which retains and motivates top talent.” — M. Zajkowska

The environment: Personal, Physical and Virtual

It’s clear that many factors have converged to make effective internal communications harder than ever. Involving and reflecting the employee’s voice is a core characteristic of engaging organizations. Also the communication skills of the leader remain a real differentiator. But next to this everlasting ‘personal aspect’, the ‘physical’ and ‘virtual’ environment closes the loop. The way in which we design our working spots and allow people to connect in real-time with peers and stakeholders will stimulate or slow down both frequency and quality of these interactions. As in real life, the need for multi-channel communication is growing. The right use of technology becomes more and more a real asset. That’s why I believe in application solutions such as Meet Roger.

An easy to use technology solution that brings together both the organization’s need for a balanced internal communication plan and the employee’s need for personalized, on-demand content. Let it be personal, physical or virtual, what matters most in every solution is that internal communication and employee engagement ‘feed’ each other in a continuous virtual circle. When effectively applied, it will help organizations to boost employee engagement, which will lead to higher levels of performance. A double win!