Management and technology consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton knew it needed to reinvent how the company communicated with a global workforce. After all, about 75 percent of the 25,000 employees are based at client locations. Many of them don’t have easy access to company tools and resources.
So, how do you connect with such a dispersed and disconnected workforce?
The first step: Listen.
That was the message from Grant McLaughlin, Booz Allen’s Vice President of Corporate Affairs, during a wide-ranging discussion at the recent Summit by Dynamic Signal conference with Gary Grates, principal at the W2O Group.
“The tools and conversations that we had put in place were straightforward employee communications, which felt almost like a speech,” McLaughlin told the audience of communicators from around the world. “It didn’t connect. Nobody was listening on either end.”
Over the past three-and-a-half years, Booz Allen has completely revamped the way it communicates with employees to create real conversations. Also, the firm has empowered employees to become more knowledgeable advocates for the firm. His session at the conference, titled “Reinventing your Brand by Putting Employees at the Center,” focused on the strategic steps Booz Allen has taken during a remarkable transformation – and the technology tools that are helping make it successful.
In the process, internal communication has become employee engagement.
The key, McLaughlin told Grates, was learning from employees what they wanted to make them feel more connected to the firm and its mission.
“We really did change the philosophy of how we were using brand marketing, communications, the way we thought about our employee base, and really putting them at the center of what we do,” he said. “That was fundamentally different than what was going on previously.”
When Horacio D. Rozanski took over as CEO in 2015, one of his mandates was to break down internal information silos and create richer bonds throughout the organization to generate higher levels of affiliation for the firm. For instance, he wanted to be able to communicate with all of the employees at one time. He also wanted them to “crowdsource” the Booz Allen story on social media – both as a recruiting tool and to amplify brand awareness.
McLaughlin’s team faced a multitude of challenges to make that happen. They had no accurate way to measure the engagement of employees with content. Also, because Booz Allen clients include government agencies and companies in the intelligence industry, employees historically were discouraged from talking about the company.
Digital technology has helped overcome those obstacles, McLaughlin said. For instance, the Dynamic Signal Platform allows Booz Allen to conveniently reach employees on their mobile devices with the information they need to do their jobs better. A Workday integration enables managers to target employees only with information that’s relevant to them. Metrics help allow McLaughlin’s team to see who is engaging with content, so the strategy can be continuously improved.
“We’re able to start to look at analytics in a very, very easy way,” McLaughlin said. “We know that our CEO is now getting an 80 percent engagement rate from email. It’s been fantastic.”
It has also has been a hit with employees. About 50 percent of the workforce has been enrolled on the platform. Also, 30 percent of employees have received social media training, so they feel more confident and comfortable sharing Booz Allen content with their networks.
“There are entry-level consultants or technologists walking into Booz Allen with a greater following than our CEO or others in the leadership team,” McLaughlin said. “There are also some really well-known patent-holders who have a niche following. This allows them to share their information with colleagues as well as their own community outside the walls. So, it’s great from the perspective of giving people a voice.”
But before Booz Allen could put employees at the forefront, the firm needed to understand what they wanted. It turned out, they were looking for conversations.
“The mindset is that our employees have knowledge that needs to be bubbled up,” McLaughlin said. “Being able to provide a voice to these employees versus top-down communication is important. That cascade model does not work in the 21st century. We all know it, and it took us a while to get there.”
And it all started with listening.