Employee engagement. The term has been used in human resources departments for several years to promote employee productivity and performance. But now the focus is changing to influencing retention and employer branding. Experts call it the employee experience, which also increases the importance of internal communication.
Today, experts are giving more dimension to workplace culture - the processes and indicators that determine whether an employee is (and remains) engaged - throughout his/her career from the start; calling this the employee experience.
Personalization is key in this approach, like in marketing; the customer is put at the center of all product and service strategies. But in this case, the employee replaces the customer. The role of internal communications, nevertheless, is not to be underestimated, as it affects the reputation of the organization among employees and customers.
A reputation in business is a complex concept that goes beyond how a company on the outside of the individual behavior of employees - their personal brand - and how the rest of the organization looks at your department can all be influenced by effective internal communication." - Institute of Internal Communication
Investing in a good employee experience could be interpreted as merely investing in the wellbeing of the employees. Yet according to Josh Bersin from Deloitte, it goes much further than how employees feel. It even goes beyond human resources.
At HR we have to get rid of the idea that we only have the experience of the employee." What we can do is the "sponsoring" strategy, researching and collecting data about what people are at work, and a multi-disciplinary team that tackles the problems at work one at a time. We are in a unique position here because we have so much empathy for all these issues. That is why our role as sponsor and leader is of vital importance. " - Josh Bersin (CEO Deloitte)
Digital transformation as an opportunity
Due to the disruption of the HR tech market, there is a significant increase in the market supply of tools and technology to support the entire employee experience and thus, employee engagement. This blurs the line between internal communications and other departments, such as human resources, which requires a level of marketing strategy to be introduced into the business model of the departments.
A growing diversity of communication channels is also a result of digital transformation; email was once the standard means of communication, but now it’s possible to let employees work together and collaborate through new technologies, such as mobile apps, internal communications platforms and enterprise social networks (ESNs).
A great deal of attention is also paid to video (messages), which is generally appreciated and opens the door for virtual reality messaging and machine learning.
The digital transformation forces, as it were, different departments to work together when it comes to internal communications business processes and digital strategies.
The digital transformation offers internal communications the opportunity to organize big data in a way that it can be used for automated or scheduled communication via artificial intelligence (chatbots) or personalization of the (frequent) online and live conversations. However, it’s important not to over-automate with digital technologies - that kills the authenticity and thus, the experience.
For human resources departments, digital transformation also means that employee engagement (levels of engagement) can be measured and optimized. This is achieved not only by giving employees the tools and training they need and what tools are actually implemented, but also by using a more personalized approach in giving, collecting and even processing feedback.
The biggest challenges faced by both internal communications and human resources today, according to the discussions in several online groups, are:
- The unrelated employees (home workers, contractors) who can connect with the organization and increase their commitment to the job.
- Solutions often refer to a cloud-based intranet, social enterprise networks or workplace collaboration platforms, where company news can easily reach employees.
- Diversity is a latent topic that will always be present and where different interpretations can be given. A pressing interpretation is that of the various ages in the workplace and the associated (congenital or learned) skills or attitudes. The general tendency in the digital age is to recruit young people for new, digitally focused roles, such as social media, because they have the perception of being the "digital generation".
- However, it is argued that it is equally important to also focus on the training needs of all employees - again, a topic that involves both Human Resources and Internal communication.
- Internal communications and human resources departments don't always have the necessary needs or expertise to bring the cooperation to a successful conclusion. The market, but also the knowledge, is evolving rapidly. Plus, not every HR or IT manager has the time to keep up with digital innovation, especially when the focus is (still) on processes and less on automation, analytics and community management.
- The argued solution here is that this expertise does not necessarily have to be found or built up internally; there's no shame in asking for help from external experts.
- The multitude of digital transformation strategies, methods, tools, technologies, channels ensures that professionals no longer see the forest through the trees and even dare to turn away from the whole event.
- The advice of other professionals is then also to use external help for finding out what works and fits within the organization, the long term strategy and the target group.
HR and internal communications are growing towards each other
When handling the challenges from above, along with the opportunities they can create, internal communications is changing its focus to improve employees experiences and their personal (brand) awareness. Threads like wellbeing, feedback, personal development and career opportunities are now appearing on the agenda.
Employee engagement, on the other hand, is determined socially rather than hierarchically. The voice of the employee has more importance, especially when their experience is fundamental to their engagement and has potential to become the new employer branding.
Meanwhile human resources is introducing rewarding career choices, while helping employees find a healthy work-life balance, ongoing employee recognition and continuous feedback. Internal communications learns about enterprise social networks, in addition to the standard intranet or collaboration platforms for remote workers and staff.
Moreover, internal communications also gains more insight into (human) resources and talent management, which is fueled by the gig economy. The inevitable cooperation of HR and internal communications will result in a win-win for everybody invested in creating an engaged workforce - which will be the core focus for HR in the long run. Why else did SAP buy Qualtrics for 8 Billion dollars?
In times of employer ratings on employer branding sites like Glassdoor and Stepstone, your company better know what your employees like and don’t like about the employee experience so you can take steps to retain them. The only way of knowing that is to communicate with them to improve relationships with actively disengaged employees.
Studies reveal that candidates find these employer ratings quite interesting. A negative experience has a negative impact on your employer brand. A positive experience has a positive impact on your employer brand. The way you communicate with your employees has a great impact on how they perceive their total experience of the job itself. Remember: “Good employees quit their manager, not their job” and if you really want to reach into their hearts, you better know who they are and what their preferences are.
By using their feedback, you can optimize their employee experience and even use a more personal approach; creating a bond with your human capital in a non-hierarchical way.
It is this total experience in combination with their lives that matters to employees. When you can measure and optimize this - with all possible factors you can imagine - the (digital) employee experience has the potential to become the new employer brand.
Written by guest contributor Hans Mangelschots, from HR Tech Valley