What can Internal Communications do to drive engagement?

There is plenty of evidence to support the impact of employee engagement on the bottom line. Sears undertook a study in the early 1990’s which showed that stores with more satisfied employees, had more satisfied customers and higher revenue. Towers Watson has replicated these findings regularly when mining its employee survey data and can prove that companies with more engaged employees have greater profitability.
So if engagement is the goal, how can Internal Communications most effectively increase employee engagement? In my fifteen years at Towers Watson and five years before that in Communications at Woolworths, there are three factors that have consistently been shown to drive engagement. Internal Communications can contribute a lot to each.

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1Make your leaders better communicators


Newsweaver’s recent webcast found that less than half of communicators treated their leaders as an important channel or as a priority for investment.

Here’s four things you can do

1. Educate them about the impact of their behaviour. According to Towers Watson, “my boss takes an interest in me” has been the number one driver of engagement for decades.

2. Set the expectations that managers are the preferred channel. A YouGov survey showed that only 28% of employees trust messages from their CEO “more than a little”. That’s a warning about broadcasting from the top. Aviva’s research showed that 70% of employees wanted to hear about important issues like their role, development and career, from their line manager.

3. Define the communications piece of the leadership framework – work with HR to make sure communications is a recognised and measured competence and clearly represented in your leadership model. Have a look at EDF’s four I’s and AstraZeneca’s balanced scorecard.

4. Build manager capability – Aviva, HSBC, McCain and Halifax all scored their manager communication rather averagely.


2Give employees line of sight from their job to the company’s mission


One of Gallup’s Q12 is “The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important.” Internal Communications must help employees connect their job to the company’s mission – what I’d call giving them “line of sight”.

Two things communicators can do:

1. Define the external brand with a few words and beautiful imagery – I worked on the brand essence at Woolworths and although I could remember it, not many others could. Internal Communications needs to simplify it without dumbing it down or diluting its meaning, so that employees can still make real connections.

2. Define IT internally via an employee value proposition – This may need a different set of brand guidelines or the same ones as externally, but the hard bit here is making sure that the internal employee value proposition (the give and the get) reinforces the external one.

Case Study – Take a look at PernodRicard’s ‘Createurs de Convivialite’ and the imagery in their 2013 annual report with Olaf Breuning.


3Create channels to involve employees and measure their use


Another Gallup’s Q12 is “At work do your opinions seem to count”. Patrick Lencioni, author of ‘The five dysfunctions of a team’ says that if people can ‘weigh in, they buy in’. All the research supports that and Internal Communications now has the channels and functional maturity to make this happen. Look at Avery Dennison’s ‘The Beat’, Lexis Nexus crowd sourcing their employee benefits policies and Newsweaver’s communication metrics and benchmarks.

There has never been a better time to be in internal communications. 90% of the attendees on Newsweaver’s most recent webcast said Internal Communication was increasing in influence. Expectations of Internal Communication and your voice being heard have never been higher.


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