Written by Marisa Barber Mandolidis

“Employee engagement is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals. . . engaged employees actually care about their work and their company.” – Forbes

What does it mean to have engaged employees?

Although “engagement” is not a new term, the ways in which to engage employees have changed drastically, especially over the past two years. This is where internal communications come in.

High levels of employee engagement can lead to several benefits for an organization including:

  • Greater morale
  • Increased productivity and sales
  • A better, positive customer experience
  • Reduced turnover

Engaged employees work for more than just their own benefit. They often work for and believe in the company’s mission.

When employees understand what’s happening within their organization (via internal communication channels), they’re not only more connected to their colleagues and the brand mission, but they also feel more trusted and empowered. For communications to be successful in creating this trust, they should fit employees’ communications styles, needs and expectations – and these can change often. There is no better example than the current pandemic.

Over the past two years, the face of work has changed tremendously. While at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, remote work seemed to be temporary, research by BDC found that a whopping 74 per cent of small business employers planned to continue remote work after the pandemic, while 55 per cent of employees want to continue to work remotely. Remote work has benefits such as flexibility, reduced commutes, and greater work-life balance.

However, it can also lead to a disconnect within teams and organizations.

This means that internal communications strategies and tactics should be revisited to ensure they support the engagement of remote employees and teams. What may have worked in the past won’t work during this time of continuous transitions – strategies will need to be proactive and creative in order to nurture the employee relationships that have become disconnected through remote work.

What are some steps that organizations can take to adjust internal communications?

There are many internal communications tactics an organization can utilize to engage employees; however, the tactics must be responsive to employees and what they need. Here are some ideas that can help support engagement:

1. Evaluate employee engagement with current communications tactics.

Do a temperature check. Is the organization currently where it wants to be? Review metrics like open and click rates on internal emails, comments on your intranet and social profiles, social shares, event registration, etc. Data offers insight when assessing current employee engagement.

Compare statistics across channels to identify any trends in which are the most used/popular among staff.

2. Define the organization’s purpose and articulate it clearly with employees.

2020 was a year of increasingly polarized social movements, and companies are expected to speak up and use their influence in the market to advocate for a purpose, not just a profit. A Deloitte study found that 73 per cent of employees who work for a purpose-driven company feel engaged at work. Connecting a brand to a larger purpose – and engaging employees in that purpose through transparent communications – helps employees see how their work not only benefits the organization but society. 

3. Provide regular, transparent updates from leadership.

Those in leadership roles have a significant influence on workplace culture. Increasing leaders’ visibility and communication through tactics such as emails, video messages and virtual open discussions – can greatly impact engagement with staff. When employees are brought into the communications with transparency and authenticity, they feel trusted by and connected to the organization. 

4. Focus on employee development and recognition.

During one-on-one meetings and performance reviews, make it a point to discuss employees’ goals and offer them opportunities for professional development. “Communicate clear trajectories on how employees can actively work toward their personal goals and continually advance within the company.” Find public (whether internal or external) ways to acknowledge the work and achievements of staff. Appreciation, large or small, can be an effective motivator and create ripples of engagement throughout.

5. Support mental health and disconnect from work.

Encouraged balanced hours and setting workplace boundaries. Remote workers face a blurred line between ‘work’ and ‘life’. Helping them set these boundaries will show them that managers are concerned about them as an individual, not them as an employee. Consider fun team activities and bonding through non-work-related games or events. While the work itself is what brings teams together initially, the authentic, personal connections between people are what help them stay.

6. Get the tools needed to stay connected.

Since the onset of the pandemic and worldwide work-from-home orders, multiple tools have been created for teams to stay in touch while working remotely. Consider creating an internal communications committee to help identify which tools would be right for employees, and to make sure important dates like birthdays, work anniversaries and cultural holidays are recognized. A virtual suggestion box or email address may be a great service as a non-stressful way for employees to share their ideas on how they want to engage.

There are so many ways to increase employee engagement, even when staff are in separate locations. Before you begin, understand what employees need from the organization, not just what the organization needs from them, and go from there.

What kinds of internal communications activities do you use to help increase employee engagement? We’d love to hear your success stories! Leave a comment below to share your experiences.

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