It’s impossible to avoid or ignore the massive political, cultural and social changes taking place in the world right now, and the impact this is having on every aspect of our lives. The #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter movements have been a catalyst for people everywhere to re-examine and demand social and cultural change around gender, diversity and inclusion; the digital revolution continues at a relentless pace; consumer demand for companies to become more transparent and walk the talk on sustainability keeps growing.
These changes are having an impact on our working lives too. In the light of these seismic shifts, companies are having to re-visit and re-evaluate their employee culture, their internal processes and systems and the very way they do business. Add to this the impact of company mergers or acquisitions and the journey ahead becomes complex. For any company, regardless of size, this can be a challenge, but for multi-national corporations in particular it requires a great deal of reflection, planning, organisation and focus – often over a long period – to ensure any change is managed effectively and that employees are taken along with you on that journey.
An annual survey conducted by talent firm Aon found that in 2018 employees in Singapore were less engaged than their regional counterparts, putting employee engagement in the country at around 59 per cent, significantly lower than India, Philippines, China, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia where they are as high as 76 per cent. In times of change, getting employee engagement right has never been more important to future happiness of employees and the health of your business.
Every change within a business impacts its employees, and as your strongest assets and advocates, it is crucial that you have in place a robust employee engagement strategy which can help them to deal with that change. Sometimes the change requires a shift in employee behaviour or mindset – for example, the introduction of a new IT system or business direction – and this is when communication must go beyond simply the informative and practical. To get people to fully buy in to changes of this nature requires you to also address the emotional aspects of the change – to be able to answer the ‘what’s in it for me?’ question.
Good internal communication can help employees to become better aware, understand and ultimately embrace changes, big and small. Whatever the nature of change within your organisation, there are guidelines you should follow:
Be insight and output driven
It’s important that you have a clear idea on what’s needed before you embark on employee engagement communications. Review what you are already doing, seek feedback from employees through face to face interviews or via an online survey, so you know what works and what doesn’t before you begin. This will also provide you with a benchmark to be able to measure success as you go along. You might want to also consider checking in with employees at regular intervals in the communications activities via a quick vox pop or straw poll to check you’re on the right track.
Before you begin, be clear also on what you want to achieve from the communications. You need to demonstrate ROI as this is a business after all. Ultimately you’re looking to achieve the ‘sweet spot’ in internal communications where your employees’ goals and personal career objectives become aligned to the business goals.
Authenticity and transparency are essential
Now is not the time to avoid or attempt to cover up any negative aspects of change e.g. employee redundancies, budget cuts or salary freezes. Employees can handle more than we perhaps give them credit for as long as the news given is honest, timely and directly addresses concerns they might have.
One size may not fit all
As consumers we hate receiving ads and emails which are irrelevant to us as individuals, our lives or our likes and dislikes. It’s the same for employees. Most company workforces will be made up of different demographics; they may be in different locations e.g. some in an office environment, some out on the road. Consider what are the best channels and the most effective types of communications formats which will help you achieve maximum reach and engagement.
Don’t overwhelm – do a few things brilliantly
We are bombarded by images and messaging every day so be aware that more is not always good. Focus on developing an internal communications strategy which is limited to carefully chosen tactics and assets which will give you maximum engagement without overloading people’s inboxes.
Great employee engagement is not just top down or bottom up communication, it is also about encouraging employees to talk to each other. Consider ways in which you can get people sharing stories, best practice and good (as well as bad) news to encourage debate and fresh thinking for future communications campaigns. Co-creation is key to great engagement.
Be ready to take a back seat
Employee engagement is exactly what it says – it is for them, not you. So be ready to transfer ownership once they have become comfortable with the communications tactics and processes you have put in place. The best employee engagement happens when people have a role to play in choosing the best tactics and evolving the processes to become ever more tailored to their needs.
Change is inevitable in every aspect of life but how we react to it and engage with it determines its impact on us. Our work lives are no different so making sure you’re prepared now for whatever direction your business might take in the future is one of the best investments you can make.