Kate Jones, Chair of the Institute of Internal Communication (IoIC) explains why employee engagement is vital to business success
According to a survey by global research firm ORC International, when it comes to employee engagement the UK lags well behind the rest of the world – in 18th place out of 20 countries. Only 37% of UK employees feel encouraged to be innovative and less than half (49%) feel valued at work.
This is something that organisations should be concerned about because research shows that high levels of employee engagement reduces staff turnover, makes businesses more productive and improves the financial performance of businesses.
The key to improving staff engagement and achieving your organisation’s strategic goals, says the IoIC’s Kate Jones, is to have effective internal communication.“For me, internal communication is all about turning strategy into action and we do that by engaging people so that they understand where the organisation is going, how it’s going to get there and the role they need to play to help it achieve those goals,” she explains.
Jones believes that there are three fundamental areas to focus on in order to deliver effective internal comms:
“Communication starts with clear messages, which show what people need to do as a result. We then need to give them the tools and training they need to do that.”
“This is about making people proud to work for your organisation, feel that they are recognised and are valued for what they do. It’s important to celebrate their work and the work of their colleagues through internal comms channels.”
“This is about tapping into the employee voice. It’s not enough to just broadcast messages to employees as part of a one-way process. You must listen to what workers say and use that insight to shape business change.”
Jones uses an example of this work in practice from her previous role leading internal comms and change at E.ON. “E.ON’s board had created an entirely new strategy, so our job was to put a thorough process in place to shareacross all levels of the business,” says Jones. “Initially, we took the draft strategy to a selection of people managers via half-day experiential sessions and got their feedback and overall buy-in.
“These managers were then provided with a toolkit to help them advocate the new strategy but also, and crucially, to enable the people working under those managers to ask and answer questions about what this new strategy would mean for them in their day-to-day work. You need to let the story filter through so that everyone defines what the strategy means for them, as well as understands the big picture for their employer.
“For E.ON, this took around four months and the results were incredible,” Jones adds.“The strategy was popular with employees and our research showed that people were highly motivated to help it succeed and had identified their own actions to make it happen.”
This is something that can be applied to the procurement process within businesses. Many organisations are aware that they could and should be making efficiencies through procurement, particularly MRO (maintenance, repair and ordering), but don’t address the issue due to the number of people and departments involved in the process. However, Jones believes that adopting a similar strategy to the one she referenced at E.ON would pay dividends.
"If you want to change behaviours across the board, then an internal comms strategy that shows how different audiences are affected, involves them in the change and acts on their feedback is essential"Kate Jones, Chair of the Institute of Internal Communications
“If you want to change behaviours across the board, then an internal comms strategy that shows how different audiences are affected, involves them in the change and acts on their feedback is essential,” she explains. “At a high level, the procurement departments of organisations should be working collaboratively with their internal comms teams to educate colleagues about corporate procurement practices. On a more granular level, the communication should ensure people understand the processes that apply to their role. If procurement get those messages out there, there are potentially significant improvements they can make to productivity.”
The final area that organisations need to consider for an internal comms strategy is measurement. “Measurement begins with having a clear idea of what you want to achieve and setting KPIs accordingly,” says Jones. “This measurement can range from seeing whether people have viewed and read information that is being sent out, through to looking at bottom-line statistics that will show if behaviours are changing as a result of your efforts. Only by measuring your communication effectiveness can you improve in the future.”