It’s time to shred some old stereotypes. Employee Communications is no longer the poor stepsibling to the more glamorous marketing function. At best it’s integrated with the heart and soul of the company brand and engages the people who determine your success.
Even as our economy cools, employee engagement remains an important topic. A skilled employee in a hot field such as healthcare cybersecurity or pharma data science is particularly spoiled for choice. It’s no mystery why so many communications and marketing people are getting religion when it comes to engaging their prospective hires and retaining their brightest stars. Not to mention that the 2023 Edelman Trust Barometer study reveals that business remains the only trusted institution, far more so than government or the media, so employees are looking to their employers for guidance in an uncertain world.
So how do you ensure that your employee engagement program doesn’t end up encouraging people to polish up their résumés and stampede for the exits? Here are 5 questions you should consider before getting started.
1. How do I get employees to amplify the brand as part of their day-to-day activities?
While discussing an employee engagement initiative, a senior executive put her finger on an important truth: “Whatever we do, it can’t be another thing to add to their to-do list.” Too many engagement programs fall directly to Steven Covey’s lower-right quadrant (not urgent + not important), so it’s essential to ask questions of your intended audience, gather data before setting objectives, and pilot-test a program. The best engagement initiatives incorporate program elements into employees’ day-to-day and include in-the-moment reminders that make them feel they are moving your agenda (which includes their agenda) forward.
2. How can I tap into the creativity of our workforce to create valuable content?
If employees aren’t part of an engagement program – in other words, if they’re not engaged to contribute – it’s too easy for them to sit back, fold their arms, and say, “This is just marketing.” On the other hand, if your program allows them to participate and co-create, and features their contributions, you’re on the road to a program going viral across the organization. This does not happen every time, but when it does it’s a beautiful and heartening thing.
3. How do I energize employees, so they experience a deeper sense of belonging to a culture they care about?
Every company includes a small subset of people who internalize the company vision and become true champions for the brand. We call them your Crazies, and they can be harnessed to help drive your employment engagement agenda. These people also can be the source for inspiring stories and early adapters.
4. How do I encourage change in a highly regulated environment? Culture change in many industries is driven by competitive and market pressure, but pharma and healthcare markets bear the additional burden of regulations. When considering engagement, remember that employee behavior in response to these regulations is a big part of the equation. Even if elements of your culture are mandated by law, the heart of your program has to allow people to make (and be) the change themselves rather than feel motivated by fear.
5. How do I engage people who don’t sit in front of a computer all day? Health science companies often manufacture physical things for a living – sterile pre-filled syringes, defibrillators – so engaging people often means reaching them between shifts on the line. If your program doesn’t include enough experiential elements that address them, they can end up feeling left out or second-class employees.
Even in a health sciences market that is slowing in some areas, employee engagement should be considered a top priority for the people responsible for building your brand. These days, all of us want and expect more from brands, and that includes employees. If you’re not investing the same energy in engaging employees that you invest in engaging customers, you’re missing a big opportunity.
To see how PJA can help your employees become your biggest brand advocates visit our employee engagement page to learn more.