Engagement. Bored yet? It's a term that has become over-used, flung around by everyone from politicians to teachers. But how often do you truly see the engagement promise followed through? It doesn't just happen. You don't spring out of bed on a cold October morning and shout "Hoorah! Today I feel engaged!" Something special has to happen to ignite it - and a single spark is not enough to keep it alight.
Engagement needs nurturing or it may sputter and flicker out.
So, if engagement doesn't just happen as a result of a rallying message from the CEO or new benefit being added to your flex scheme, how does it happen?
Creativity is essential.
Engagement requires more than company updates – it’s reliant on an emotional connection. Develop an employer personality, create an internal brand or campaign identity that elevates your messages above the 'noise'. Creativity is engaging - that's why advertising works. You wouldn't buy a car based on the fact it has an engine and four wheels; and you wouldn't buy a mobile based on the fact you can call people from it. The facts are important - yes of course - but creativity is what truly captures the heart.
Identify your key messages.
Then take a step back and think, what does this mean to our people? Why should they care? Talk to them as an individual, as someone with a family and friends. Make a connection with a life outside of work – one that has greater goals. Then think: if I were this person, what would be in it for me?
Talk like a human being, not a corporation.
Be genuine and steer clear of jargon. Use language that is appropriate to your audience, not your customers or shareholders.
Use the right channels.
Consider the fact that one size doesn't necessarily fit all. An email might work fine for your office-based people, but how can you best reach those in field-based roles or retail staff on the tills? If messages come to them second-hand, how likely are they to really connect with them?
Support line managers.
We rely on managers to be the conduit for all types of messages. From the mundane to the life-changing - and we also know that people don't leave bad companies - they leave bad managers. Therefore, equip line managers with the tools to deliver messages effectively. Not everyone is a natural born communicator. So, give them guidance, templates and a structure to follow. The better support you provide, the better they will communicate. Greater audience relevance, increased message consistency and eye-catching presentations will improve engagement rates not only with reportees, but with managers themselves who will appreciate the help.
Someone much cleverer than me once said "The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place"*. Don't labour under that illusion. Simply 'telling' something doesn't mean it's gone in. Communicate effectively with simplicity, creativity and relevance. Engagement comes from both the head and heart.
*George Bernard Shaw