The Return of Captain Obvious: Part 3 of the New Rules of Employee Engagement
[Editor’s note: This is the final installment in a three-part series about employee engagement.]
Hi. Captain Obvious here again. I help communications and HR teams recognize when their employee engagement challenges are actually straightforward problems with super-clear answers.
Our journey to Part 3 of my new rules of employee engagement series has (hopefully) shown you that the “secrets” to keeping teams motivated and engaged are way simpler than you think. If you missed them, check out Part 1 and Part 2.
My earlier pieces focused on creating your roadmap, linking employees to the strategy, and mobilizing your best team members to support your initiatives and contribute ideas. Now, the last few rules are about using engagement campaigns more wisely. With the right, consumer-savvy approach, any campaign can become a change-making part of your company culture.
Employees Want to See Their Name in Lights
Fame isn’t limited to Hollywood. Who doesn’t want to see their name in lights — even if it’s just on the company intranet or a break room poster?
Many people inherently want and need to be recognized, celebrated, and liked at work (just like they do everywhere else — hello, social media). That’s why campaigns that recognize people’s unique contributions, or give them ways to share more of who they are as individuals — not just employees — can have a lasting impact. Sometimes that takes thinking beyond the limits of the workplace.
For example, for a Citi campaign, we asked employees to have their kids draw images for the company’s official New Year’s card, and the submissions were animated for the final product. The result is something personal and lasting that helped weave Citi deeper into the fabric of its team members lives’ (and those of their kids).
Recognizing employees at a personal level helps build a more employee-focused, community-driven view into the culture itself. The goal is to turn employee involvement into a sense of pride — pride in not just what they do and where they work, but who they are and how they represent the company.
I talked in Part 2 about tapping internal influencers to help champion and promote campaigns. A big reason that’s important is that it helps employees see the campaign’s values (and the company’s) modeled for them by their own peers, in highly visible ways. In addition, by seeing the behaviors in their peers vs. senior management, they’re more likely to be receptive to the message and to implement the change.
One-off holiday campaigns are great for creating goodwill and enthusiasm, but it takes more than that to make engagement initiatives stick (and to drive retention and revenue).
When you find ways to merchandise your winning campaigns, you earn more mileage from your campaigns. What we’re talking about here is literally recycling the positive news that is being generated by the company’s efforts and sharing it through internal channels with employees. This re-affirms that the company’s movement toward the strategic goal is working. This momentum begets momentum.
When I helped MetLife navigate the transition to becoming a technology company, we focused on getting employees to recognize and understand the company that way. It involved different efforts across many channels. Social media contests and a "Shark Tank"-style pitch competition helped us create content and collateral that made the project — and the folks who participated — visible inside and outside the organization.
Reposting existing content, and getting employees to share it, helps demonstrate that cultural change is happening. The MetLife pitch event, for example, led to positive press reinforcing the tech-company transition. The news stories were shared online and circulated to employees, helping to keep the positivity going with a feedback loop about MetLife, technology, and the great ideas of a really smart team.
To Remind You: It’s Really Pretty Simple
Hopefully, I’ve made things obvious enough over the course of this series and you’ve started to see that engaging employees takes creativity and consumer-savvy marketing smarts. But beyond that, the “new rules” are really based on tried-and-true strategies.
Ultimately, employees want to know what the big goals are, and how they fit into the strategy — therefore, show how their contributions fit within a larger context. You have to lead by example, too. With every campaign and cultural value, employees should see the behavior they’re supposed to embody exhibited by peers and superiors.
Additionally, employees should be heavily involved in the campaign process. Champion networks and employee-advocate groups can be tapped for ideas and feedback representing diverse sets of employees and different points of view.
Campaigns must connect with employees on the tools and channels they already use — not *just* on the ones you want them to — and should be marketed in more channels than just email. Promote campaigns in ways that are impossible not to pay attention to. Fun videos, social media graphics, and user-submitted images attract more eyeballs than boring memos.
And lastly, keep learning! Some campaigns will be wins. Some will be misses. Communications teams should (obviously) focus on measurement and performance. Collect employee insights and track participation for every campaign.
If you make the most of your team’s creativity to address employee pain points, the answers to your engagement problems will only get clearer and clearer to you.
Rum Ekhtiar, founder of Rum and Co, is focused on brand strategies that work, ideas that are creative, new businesses pitches that win, and teams who work toward a common goal. With over 20 years of experience, he's worked with companies like Novartis, Citi, MetLife, and others, helping them transform their business, their story, and their engagement model. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org and connect with him on LinkedIn.