It’s an exciting time for business. From an epidemic of loneliness and isolation is emerging a resurgence of humanity and connection. People ache for a sense of belonging — and businesses are seeing the close correlation between this sense of connection and productivity, retention, and growth. It’s actually not rocket science. We are tribal animals that are hard-wired for inclusion and belonging. We flourish when we feel like we’re a part of the pack and we go into fight or flight mode (limiting creativity and higher orders of thought/behavior) when we are excluded.
And while trying to create a sense of belonging amongst an entire workforce (at any size) feels daunting, there are actually very practical steps one can take to build the right foundation. So what can you do TODAY to drive a sense of belonging and build a truly engaging employee experience?
(1) Start with reach
Don’t think of “internal comms” as internal comms. Instead, think about it as “access”. Access to information is a great unifier. Information makes us feel safe. Updated. In the know. Included. So first things first: are you reaching everyone? What branches of your workforce are hard to reach? What devices do they have access to? What channels are available to them? Understanding who the “hard to reach” audiences are is a great start.
Once you’ve established your reach capabilities, the second step is ensuring your enterprise is equipped with the ability to instantly scale communications. Meaning: the ability to reach segmented employees with the right message and verify receipt across segmented groups is now a must-have for most organizations.
(2) Communication is two way
The heart of the matter is this: as companies grew in the name of efficiency and scale, they lost human connection. Our hierarchies and top-down communications — originally constructed to make us “more productive” — have inadvertently introduced structures of exclusion that block people from reaching their true potential and engaging with their work, co-workers, and managers in a meaningful way.
To truly take your communication strategy to the next level, consider how to bring in employee voices. Oftentimes, the most valuable and meaningful communication comes from our peers or other groups. Beyond surveys and focus groups that are delivered top-down, allow for your employees to not only interact and give their voice to any given communication but really start to think about allowing your employees to share content themselves. There is no better way to listen to your employees than to give them a place to share their voice.
(3) Low res. High quality
The problem with most internal comms initiatives is that they are mostly a legal puzzle. In the effort to optimize for risk management, executive communications and company communications end up being dry legalese.
We can’t speak to our people like automatons and expect them to feel engaged and motivated. One quick fix: make it human. If you’re an executive, try ditching the blazer. Try recording a one-take video. Don’t worry if there’s a dog barking or a child giggling (read: crying) in the background. If we’re buttoned up all the time, we don’t open a line of connection. Showing a sliver of vulnerability and humanity can go a very very long way.
The speed of how moments and events happen has accelerated. Find tools with native video capabilities that allow you to quickly record messages that connect with moments without any hassle. Removing unnecessary psychological and technological barriers to communicating quickly and authentically is a must-have for communicators.
(4) Think like a marketer
The problem today is that most companies approach communication as a means of publishing information. While this approach makes information available, it doesn’t encourage engagement. A communicator’s mindset is less about disseminating information, and more about running campaigns that create a sense of connection amongst employees.
A recent Gartner report, “The 8 Steps to Modernizing Communications in the Digital Workplace,” advises communicators to think like marketers. In other words, understand the audience and curate thoughtful content that is mapped to the employee journey. Timing. Empathy. Interest. That’s the holy grail. When we think of content that our employees actually need and want, there is a paradigm shift that happens in the way we approach internal communications.
There’s a lot more to building a culture of engagement than asking employees to share company content socially. When we use empathy to understand our employees’ moments and how best to connect and reach them only then can start to see true engagement. More on that soon!