An engaged workforce – the Holy Grail or wholly achievable?19/08/2015
Creating an engaged workforce – the Holy Grail or wholly achievable?
We’ve had numerous marketing fashions over the years: It’s all about 30 second TV ads. No, it’s all about integration. But wait, now we’re all about digital! In actual fact, we need to be all about brand.
Indeed, as brand choice becomes increasingly driven by shared values and respect, whether in B2C or B2B environments, clear communication of any brand promise and values is paramount. It is now essential for organisations, no matter how big or small, product or service led, to have a clear brand purpose and consistent delivery of brand values at all touchpoints. Corporate behaviour and the behaviour of individual employees is having a bigger effect on business than ever before.
This is still quite tricky for many, having only recently moved from a communications model built around shouting messages at people rather than engaging in any discussion. Social media however, has created a seismic shift in how we interact with any brand, requiring complete transparency from board level down, and a clear mode of behaviour and operation amongst employees.
So how does this happen? Quite simply, ‘brand’ should not be an added responsibility of the marketing department, half way down the corporate food chain. Rather, brand positioning and management should be happening in the board room, as part of the overall business strategy; going on to inform sales strategy, distribution strategy, HR strategy, and not just marketing strategy alone.
For instance, if Unilever talk about being good corporate citizens, they have to be certain that their entire workforce behaves accordingly. Everything from where they’re dumping waste and sourcing ingredients, to whether they’re paying their suppliers on time will be impacting whether we buy Persil or Daz, not just product efficacy, accessibility and cost. This relies on a significant amount of work in motivating all staff to understand and play their part in corporate responsibility
So what’s a business to do in times like these? Simply put, define your brand and cascade it throughout your organisation. Ensure that staff understand the role that they play in the organisation’s purpose, and that they are truly motivated behind that, behaving accordingly. Once you have this, repeat, repeat, repeat, engage, engage, engage.
The most engaged employees have absolute clarity in terms of why their organisation exists, what its role in life is, and the difference it’s making. And the most engaged employees are the most effective. The belief in a bigger purpose is far more powerful than understanding what it sells or how it operates, both of which can be claimed by countless other companies. Indeed there is more to employee engagement than reputation management, and companies with highly engaged employees see a significant increase in operating income.
It is therefore vital that staff are engaged in the big picture objectives of any organisation and that their role in its achievements are celebrated. This is why we created Liverpool John Lennon Airport’s annual awards and recognition event “Time Flies”. It was also a key part of our revitalisation of the National Probation Service which was suffering from low employee morale despite enjoying a reputation for best-in-class service. The staff simply needed to be acknowledged for the incredible job they were doing and thanked by employers and service users alike. It is also why we launched a charitable foundation for an international law chain, borrowing key values from the corporate brand and aligning staff in all locations behind a tangible demonstration of values and a shared goal at a time of rapid growth through mergers and acquisitions.
The workspace is another powerful tool in increasing internal engagement and can be highly effective when used as a physical embodiment of the brand. For instance, MBNA Bank don’t shout expectations down to their staff, rather we worked with them to create a working environment which both demonstrates and facilitates the behaviour that they desire. MBNA Bank’s purpose is to make life easier and this story is clearly told in their head office interior, as well as lived, with zoned areas allowing for social, private, tranquil or buzzing areas to help facilitate the different tasks of the day. With all staff experiencing that promise of ‘making life easier’ in their daily interactions, they become natural brand ambassadors, intuitively delivering the same service and attitude on to their customers.
A final thought is that successful employee engagement programmes are ongoing. Every organisation faces new challenges and has to adapt accordingly. Once again, the key drivers of success are its people and so it’s critical to protect this precious asset and continually benchmark levels of success and identify where improvements may be required.
- Frequent, effective and relevant communication
- Employee recognition and reward programmes
- Empowerment and feedback initiatives
- Change programmes and solutions
- Innovative and inspiring team building sessions