Employees are an essential segment of a brand’s audience. When employees feel essential to a brand’s success, they deliver to their greatest potential, have incentive to stay at the company, and demonstrate increased loyalty. In short, employees are engaged when they feel important. And engaged employees can become the company’s best brand ambassadors, boosting a brand’s Net Promoter Score (NPS). Yet, many companies fail to recognize this essential audience.
A Gallup poll in 2017 found that about 33% of employees are engaged at work – a percentage consistent since its first measurement in 2000. “That means over two-thirds of employees nationwide are disengaged with their work,” writes Mike Kappel of Forbes.
And MacKenzie Kassab from the Harvard University Extension School writes, “The most forward-thinking businesses are turning their focus to employee engagement.”
So, how do you engage employees?
Employees feel engaged when they are empowered, have opportunities to learn and feel recognized. Sounds simple… but then why are companies not helping 67% of their employees feel engaged?
I might argue that executives think they are empowering, training and recognizing employees, but they are not targeting the right audience. The disconnect is actually in communication style. Skilled marketers learn to segment and target each of their audiences with a powerful, simple story. And speaking to the employee segment requires the same focus and attention to detail.
Consider a company that spends months on a rebranding positioning. Executives determine that data is king and management decisions will be driven by the numbers, building a stronger and more effective service for customers.
In this example, management sent a white paper outlining the new brand positioning to all employees. It was the same white paper that customers will see. The problem? The communication did not target – or speak to – the employees. How should employees play a role in the data-driven campaign? How can teams better work together to improve the customer experience and data-driven services? Is there internal data that will drive team decisions? These are just a few of the questions that employees had when reading this internal communication.
Below are three ways that brands can build a cohesive and engaged workforce.
Step 1: Empower
Brands can empower employees by communicating goals that demonstrate how their jobs directly help the company achieve success. Clear and targeted communication of company and team goals – in addition to helping employees feel empowered and understand how their roles contribute to the overall success – create greater consistency across brand touch points.
And there are creative ways to empower employees, allowing for diversity of thought and execution. I’ve told all of my direct reports and mentees the same thing: “Your job is to learn how to do your job so well that you do it in 50% of the time – or as little time as possible – so that in 6 months from now, you can build the role you want, expanding into areas of personal interest that help build company success.” Though initially they look at me with confusion written across their faces, without fail, they thank me at the end of the year. And, they have always performed above expectations, while serving as brand ambassadors.
When executed and communicated well, surveys can also help employees feel like they have a voice and are empowered.
Step 2: Train
Empowering employees will help them stay engaged for only so long. In order to keep employees engaged, they must feel the opportunity for career and personal growth. Millennials, the generation now rising to management positions, seek purpose and fulfillment.
Running new hire orientations, sharing company updates across platforms (Slack, Facebook, apps, etc.), conducting regular reviews, and building mentorship programs can help guide employees with the type of personal touch that they value. Programs that subsidize continuing education and graduate programs also keep employees engaged.
“Giving employees the support to explore various [career] paths isn’t a compromise. In addition to reinforcing engagement, it can foster an understanding of how a business works across functions and departments. That knowledge is a solid foundation for future leaders,” writes Harvard’s Kassab.
Step 3: Reward
The last ingredient in the engagement recipe is recognition. Working hard and learning are terrific, but if teams fail to reward positive results, employees start to question their value. A reward can be as simple as a mention at a team meeting or a callout in a newsletter. The goal is to help employees continue to feel pride in the positive work they perform for the brand. This means that targeted rewards that fit the individuals and teams receiving the recognition will have the best results.
And it’s possible to have engagement efforts build on each other. When a brand’s values are clearly understood by employees, individuals can more easily be rewarded, reinforcing the company culture. “A strong culture with clear values sets the stage for recognition,” notes Nancy Monti Barcalow for the American Marketing Association (AMA). If the reward includes attending an educational event, all three steps of engagement reinforce each other.
Employee engagement helps companies such as LinkedIn, NBCUniversal and Google extend their marketing reach – while increasing productivity. It’s a new kind of grassroots, organic marketing. And the more brands invest in strategic internal marketing, engaging employees, the higher the return:
"Most people, when given the opportunity, will advocate for their brands, when they feel good about where they work. Two thousand employees, 2,000 followers each, you do the math," says Ted Rubin, author of Return on Relationship.
Is it time for you to focus on telling the right story to your employees? Contact me for help with your strategic internal marketing needs.
Cydney Goldberg Familian is a seasoned marketing, branding, and communication executive with more than 17 years of experience. Cydney capitalized on her expertise in founding Brand Story 360, a consultancy focused on helping companies grow their brands and hone their business strategies. Clients have included Comcast NBCUniversal, Braze (formerly Appboy), and a Fortune Global 500 pharmaceutical.