Do internally as you do externally

A peculiar anomaly persists in corporate communications; one that I believe significantly hinders the potential of companies and organisations, large and small.

Throughout my career in employee communications, it’s been blatantly obvious that this discipline lags significantly behind our cousins in marketing, PR and public affairs. The great digitisation of the last decade or so seems only to have widened the gap.

While those speaking with external stakeholders use state-of-the-art technology and mechanics to create engaging conversations, so many employee communicators are toiling with clunky intranets and unreliable cascade processes. Marketeers use honed and sophisticated methods and metrics to measure success, while we barely scratch the surface to determine ROI. And all of this means our cousins command budgets and resources far beyond our grasp.

Of course, I’m generalising. There are nuggets of great practice we can all learn from. There are pioneers and evangelists. But the predominant majority of employee communication functions are a pale shadow of the external equivalents.

Why should this be? Can anyone genuinely argue that employees are a lesser audience than consumers, investors or regulators? Surely employees are the single biggest enabler of any organisation’s ability to change, grow and succeed?

Consistent research tells us that an engaged workforce is more productive. And yet a recent global survey from Gallup told us that a staggering 87% of employees are not engaged at work.

This is something boardrooms and shareholders need to wake up to. Can you imagine a telecommunication business ignoring that only 13% of its network is working at capacity? Or a logistics firm accepting that almost 9 out of 10 of its trucks are not firing on all cylinders?

What can be done? How can we raise the profile and perceived value of employee communications?

The positive thing is we do not need to reinvent the wheel. We are, perhaps, ten years behind the cutting-edge practice of marketing. They have made mistakes, learned from experience and created success. We can learn from them. Adopt, adapt and emulate what they do, but for an internal audience. It’s not always going to be a simple or straightforward migration, but there is a lot of space to play in.

Here at MullenLowe salt we are encouraging our clients to follow a simple mantra:

Do internally as you do externally.

By treating your employees with the same care and attention you do any other audience, you will not only develop a healthy and happy culture – you will add significantly to the bottom line.