Recent events have dramatically affected all aspects of business, from profit margins to customer relations. However, employee engagement has had a particularly turbulent ride. It’s hardly surprising. Employee engagement levels tumbled to an all-time low at the beginning of the pandemic as uncertainty and indecision took over. However, as employers found their feet and started to step up to the challenge, engagement levels followed suit. Gallup reported record engagement levels of 40% in the summer of 2020, and the last report indicates the figures have remained high at 39%.
So what is driving this upwards turn in employee engagement? And how can we keep the trend going in the right direction? With so many employees now working remotely, companies have been forced to revisit their employee engagement strategy. What worked for a largely office-based workforce is no longer relevant. We explore the changes that successful companies have made to their internal communications in their bid to boost engagement and discuss how these strategies can be continued into the post-Covid future.
What is internal communication?
When asking yourself how to engage employees, the role of internal communications is too often perceived as an afterthought. As a result, it is rarely allocated as a high priority in employee engagement plans. However, poor internal communications can have extensive and far-reaching consequences, which is why establishing a strong communications strategy should be at the heart of your employee engagement objectives.
Internal communication is more than simply providing your employees with a platform for conversation. It’s about explaining the bigger picture and facilitating open two-way communication across the entirety of your organisation.
The aim of internal communication should be to make employees feel that they know and understand the inner workings of your organisation, can easily communicate with the greater team and that they are a true insider. This is achieved through sharing company performance, providing collaboration tools, translating strategies, and facilitating a two-way conversation.
How internal communications impacts employee engagement
The impact of internal communications on employee engagement are far-reaching. According to a recent study, 60% of companies don’t have a long-term internal communications strategy in place, with just 12% of those taking the time to measure its success. The study also found that only 17% of employees believe that their line managers are effective communicators, with 51% reporting their line manager’s poor communication skills as a barrier to success. This type of poor communication combines to create a workforce who feel uninformed and detached from their employer.
The good news is that management appears to have stepped up to the plate during the pandemic. According to Gallup, employees report that they are getting more feedback from their managers, with 45% saying they get feedback either daily or a few times a week. This is up from 26% in 2019. It’s clear that management feedback should be at the heart of every post-Covid employee engagement model.
To achieve excellent internal communications, managers should strive to foster open, two-way interaction between employees and leadership teams, share important information and show employees that they are valued. Internal communications should be clear, concise and transparent, and employees should feel willing and able to approach management with any problems, questions or ideas that they might have. The employee voice is an essential element to any strategy.
This type of openly communicative environment works to create a culture of collaboration and inclusivity that shows employees how much they mean to a company and that their voices are valued. Nourishing a culture that focuses on transparent communication will serve to support your employee engagement initiatives.
The four building blocks of employee engagement
The role of internal communications as one of the key drivers of employee engagement is clear. Without open two-way communication between management and employees, it is all but impossible to increase employee engagement. To help you achieve this open communication, utilise the four building blocks below to guide your internal communications plans, and underpin your employee engagement efforts in the post-Covid world.
Building Block #1: Communicate performance
Providing your team with an insight into how the company is performing as a whole is key to your engagement efforts. Making a conscious effort to share these insights and explain exactly how they impact the company is a great way to show employees that they are part of an inner circle and provide them with a better understanding of the running of a business as a whole. Employee engagement and motivation is grounded in knowledge and understanding.
This is particularly essential during times of uncertainty and change. It is hardly surprising that employees are looking for reassurance that their company, and therefore their job, is secure in the current climate. Research from Trade Press Services revealed that, during the pandemic, 85% of employees felt motivated when their management team offered regular updates on company news.
These internal communications can be delivered across a range of media, from organisation-wide meetings to an email. It can also help to utilise solutions, such as employee engagement software, to provide company-wide updates in one place where all employees have access and can interact with the information.
Building Block #2: Encourage collaboration
Collaboration is key to realising a high-performing and engaged workforce. How to engage employees and encourage this type of behaviour? It is essential that you provide employees with the facilities to communicate with other individuals and teams within your organisation.
With the majority of your employees working remotely, it can be a significant challenge to promote collaboration. It’s no longer possible to call everyone into the meeting room for a quick brainstorm. However, collaboration remains one of the key dimensions of employee engagement, so it’s vital not to let it slip by the wayside.
This is when a virtual approach is required. It might mean investing in new software to provide employees with a shared space to communicate, organise meetings and share knowledge. An employee app provides employees with a simple and effective way to better communicate with the wider team and will underpin your employee engagement strategy.
Building Block #3: Translate strategies
Communicating strategies isn’t always the simplest of tasks; the language used is often complex and difficult to understand. Therefore, it is essential that you translate your company strategies into easily digestible ideas that make sense to your team.
When you’re not able to explain your strategies face-to-face, you need to find another way to clarify your thinking. However, beware of relying too heavily on virtual meetings as a replacement activity. A recent report revealed that a full week of virtual meetings leaves 30% of employees feeling stressed and 38% feeling exhausted. It’s time to consider other approaches.
In the pre-Covid era, you would have scheduled a company-wide meeting, where dialogue was encouraged. An alternative option is to open up discussion and exploration of the company strategies via employee engagement software. An employee engagement app offers an ideal platform for in-depth exchanges, ensuring employees have a clear and extensive understanding of the company direction.
Building Block #4: Facilitate conversation
Employees need to understand that their voices matter and that communication doesn’t just flow from management down, with no possibility of a two-way conversation. It’s vital that employees feel their voice and opinion is valued and considered when it comes to decision making and company direction.
Without the office as a natural base to facilitate these conversations, there is a danger that remote workers will feel left out of the loop. This feeling of being isolated from the organisation is one of the most significant barriers to employee engagement. However, it’s clear that companies are actively addressing this issue, making successful efforts to reach out to all remote workers, even the hard-to-reach.
How are they managing this? Many companies have found that the introduction of employee engagement software help creates a dialogue between employees and management. A successful app will provide employees with several communication channels, from a social space to surveys, allowing management to obtain a clear picture of their team’s engagement levels and identify any key ideas or constructive criticism. These must be taken into consideration, and action should be taken where relevant to show that it is not simply an empty initiative put in place to tick a box but a genuine strategy to improve communications.
Internal communications in the Post-Covid world
The truth is that if you don’t communicate with your staff and give them a voice, you simply won’t engage them. The improved strategies and solutions that have come into play during the recent crisis have helped to highlight the importance of work engagement. The strong focus on communications is fostering a more committed and productive workforce. This is true whether your employees are office-based, home-based or on the move. You need to communicate with every single one of them. So when you’re exploring how to how to engage employees in the post-Covid world, the simple answer is internal communications.
Industry leaders are increasingly turning to employee engagement software and platforms to improve their company’s internal communications. Implementing software that actively supports and encourages your team to communicate has a direct effect on engagement levels.
The software will provide you and your employees with the tools you need to improve company communications and increase engagement levels.