Engaging employees through internal communications

This guide covers how to engage in meaningful two-way communications with your internal audience.

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Why engagement matters

Engaged employees mean a productive workforce. It proves that Internal communications is not just about ‘Sending out stuff’. By influencing staff engagement levels, we can have a positive impact on the things that really matter, especially to your Permanent Secretaries, ministers, chief executives and your leadership team.

Engagement matters because internal communications departments play a key role in developing the flow of messages across the organisation and all employees play a role in ensuring effective communications.

An engaged workforce has a direct impact on key organisational outcomes: profits, customer satisfaction, productivity, innovation, absence and turnover.

Making communication a conversation

Through effective, meaningful, two-way internal communications across a range of channels, we can improve staff engagement and have a positive impact on our organisation’s delivery priorities. Workplace communication should never be one-way. The workplace, as well as employees management programme, should be more inclusive for everyone. This means promoting productive and meaningful conversations among your employees.

Supporting the organisation’s culture

The communication goals of the organidation need to be shared and embodied by everyone, from executives and managers to lower-level employees. Ensure that the culture is helping your workforce identify themselves as part of the team.

Communicating in time of crisis

In difficult times, employers can help build trust by communicating information regularly with their employees. Communication should be transparent. Keep your employees informed of developments that may affect them. This could be work-related, physically, financially and even emotionally. Be transparent about how the organisation is responding in time of crisis and how employees are expected to respond too.

Four enablers

‘Engage for Success’ has conducted the research, see Engage for success, the evidence. Their research made it clear that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach and no single master model for successful employee engagement.

Four themes emerged from the research and, taken together, they include many of the key elements that make successful employee engagement. These 4 enablers can help organisations assess the effectiveness of their approaches. Internal communication can and should play an important role in all of them.

The 4 themes are:

  1. Visible, empowering leadership providing a strong strategic narrative about the organisation, where it’s come from and where it’s going
  2. Engaging managers who focus their people and give them scope, treat their people as individuals and coach and stretch their people
  3. There is employee voice throughout the organisation for reinforcing and challenging views, between functions and externally, employees are seen as central to the solution
  4. There is organisational integrity – the values on the wall are reflected in day to day behaviours. There is no ‘say –do’ gap

Watch the video about the 4 enablers (2 minutes 47) Director of Communications at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, Russell Grossman explains the Engage for Success Four Enablers.


Best practice that work

Looking at the engagement scores for the Civil Service, we know there is a mixed picture for lots of different reasons. It is clear there is room for improvement.

There is a need for change across the Civil Service:

  • better performance management
  • more active development of careers
  • better leadership of change

At the same time, the economic and financial challenges, public service reform and rising consumer expectations mean that the government needs to operate in a different way

The Civil Service vision – ‘A Brilliant Civil Service’ – sets out how the service will deliver improved outcomes from effective leaders and skilled people, in a great place to work. So there are lots of opportunities and challenges ahead.

How do you take the advice, models, plans and insight and turn it into something tangible and suitable to your organisation? The key to deciding what to do is to understand your audience. Ask yourself where are they now and what do you want them to think, feel and do in the future.

The following part of the guidance is to help you drive up engagement using internal communications.

Engaging managers

The Line Manager’s Toolkit provides managers with tips and ideas to help you to develop your communication skills. It is available on the Civil Service Learning site.

Employee voice

Empowering employees and giving them a voice in how things are done in an organisation is a powerful engagement tool. Leaders and managers are key to giving people who work for them a voice and need to show they are listening and responding to people’s views. But internal comms can support them and help show how employees are being listened to.

Internal comms teams can influence leaders and project managers to take on board the views of people before any changes are made. They can help leaders and managers show they are listening through reflecting this back in communications channels.

They can also help create the conversations where leaders and managers listen to their people. For example through creating team briefing products to help facilitate the conversations or by helping to gather feedback through online forums, intranet comments or by promoting internal surveys.

Visible, empowering leadership providing a strong strategic narrative about the organisation

Internal communications teams have a key role to play in helping leaders to be visible to their people, on a regular basis.

The focus should be on:

  • face-to-face meetings, where leaders can tell the organisational story and listen to the people they work with
  • digital channels (such as email and the intranet)
  • two-way conversations, which are always best

Internal communicators can also help senior leadership teams with their narrative for the organisation. Creating a compelling and inspiring narrative isn’t easy, but communicators can help leadership teams to create an authentic story which covers the key elements, for example:

  • the purpose and ambitious vision of the organisation
  • where the organisation has come from and where it is going
  • what it means for teams and individuals – and how they can be part of shaping the future

Organisational integrity

Organisation integrity is all about living the values of the organisation and keeping your promises as a leader or manager.

As with all the enablers of engagement, internal comms teams can help leaders and managers show how they are acting with integrity. They can make sure that:

  • there is no gap between what they promise and what is actually delivered.
  • there are ways they have listened and responded to feedback – for example, a blog from a leader who has taken feedback on board and acted on it can help to do this
  • encourage leaders and managers to be authentic, open and honest in the way they communicate to help increase integrity – for example, sometimes leaders can be reluctant to admit they don’t have all the answers

Internal communicators can encourage leaders to share with colleagues what they:

  • do know
  • don’t know – because it hasn’t been decided yet or they need to go and find out
  • know – but are not able to share yet and why – for example, because something is commercially sensitive or needs approval at a higher level in the organisation

Summary

The best practices to get engaging internal communications are:

  • show your leadership team what can be achieved through engagement to help to deliver business priorities – and how communications teams can help them engage
  • use communications to do more than broadcast, instead help leaders create meaningful, two-way communications with their audience
  • support leaders to create a compelling and inspiring narrative about the organisation and where it is headed in the future
  • make sure that leaders are visible and take part in engagement
  • give colleagues a voice, encourage leaders to show how they are listening to what they have to say, and reflect this back in a range of communications channels
  • remember the importance of organisational integrity – live your values