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Employee Engagement Matters Now More Than Ever: Internal Communications Function Can Lead the WayMarch 30, 2023

COVID-19 changed everything – from the geopolitical dynamics currently at play and the ways companies respond to them, to economic volatility and the rise of digitalization. In the workplace, these changes have taken form through massive shifts in employee expectations to the very ways we collaborate. This moment forced rapid organizational transformation, and data from BCW’s Expectations at Work study shows most employers are doing a remarkably poor job engaging and motivating employees, resulting in negative and costly effects on overall performance.

The pandemic's impact on employee engagement is far from over, and it will require great reflection and action to get to the other side. Not enough people are thriving in organizations, and too many are quietly exhausted. In a volatile environment, it’s up to leaders and managers to drive engagement.

What does this mean for companies and businesses across the globe?

Employee engagement has never mattered more, and it’s time for companies to leverage the power of the internal communications function to play a more prominent role. Employee engagement is the nexus of retaining talent, driving bottom line growth, facilitating productivity and fostering innovation. Workforces will continually undergo at least some form of transformation, and employee engagement will be one of the most critical business factors that will contribute to achieving success.

Insights from our work with global companies

BCW’s experience counseling clients through the past several years of uncertainty – as leaders assessed how to respond to business challenges, market changes and employee fears – provides insights into the power of employee engagement.

Our experience, coupled with what we learned from our study, demonstrates that employees want to understand:

  • Where the business is headed
  • How leaders will manage in times of uncertainty and volatility
  • The organization’s values
  • That leaders care about them

Our research found that “visibility,” “openness” and “empathy” are important attributes leaders and managers need to maintain, especially after COVID. When these characteristics are present, employee engagement rises.

The evolved role of employee engagement and how you can effectively implement it

Today, employee engagement needs to be viewed as a critical stakeholder journey and evaluated at every touchpoint – much like you would do for your own customers.

Managers are the key to this journey as they foster meaningful engagement and translate leadership’s vision into relevant actions for employees’ day-to-day lives, and internal communications is vital in this process. However, the internal communications function needs to evolve with the pace of change and transform into a dynamic role that sets managers and their direct reports up for success. We need to be more active in our work with leaders and managers to address employee concerns and expectations in one-on-ones and groups. And, it’s leadership’s job to remind managers to help employees engage in this way versus using one-on-one meetings purely to discuss projects and progress.

As companies navigate continued transformation, here are some considerations to drive authentic employee engagement with your company’s vision at the forefront:

  1. Equip leaders and managers with the right messages and tools to deliver them. Connecting leaders and managers to your company’s vision and values with the right messaging and delivery tools helps them not only understand the company’s business direction, but it also supports them in translating these messages into “what’s in it for them” or actions their employees find relevant.
  2. Offer skill-based training. In our experience, most managers lack the skills to build conversations around larger “corporate vision” issues. But our research and client experience has shown that people retain messages and ideas better when shared in dialogue versus broadcast over a larger presentation. Internal communications can play a valuable role in facilitating that skill-building.
  3. Establish a measurement framework. Conducting research to understand how employees receive messages can help inform future strategies for employee engagement and communication.
  4. Keep the message alive through storytelling. As managers communicate one-on-one and in small groups, internal communications must follow up with a broader company-wide storytelling component. To do so effectively, those communications should take a content-marketing approach with the goal of articulating the organization’s vision and commitment and bringing it to life through its corporate values.

During times of change and uncertainty, people will look to their leaders to provide a reason for engagement. It is time for the internal communications function to lead.