THE JOURNEY OF THE ENGAGED EMPLOYEE Bea Aarnoutse
From high-potential employees who make conscious choices, to employees who are passionate and contribute to success, to former employees who become ambassadors, attention to the total employee journey is the key to Alignment 2.0.
• How organisations can recruit and retain the right employees by considering how their vision ties with individual values
• Why Communications and Human Resources (HR) teams need to work more closely together
• The role direct managers have in maintaining strong and consistent staff engagement
Every organisation wants to have an aligned workforce. The goal is to onboard employees who feel at home, give their personal best every day and know how they can contribute to a shared ambition.
Organisations want committed employees who fulfil promises to demanding – and increasingly disloyal – customers by offering the speed, quality and service the customer expects.
When achieved, employees play a decisive role in an organisation’s customer satisfaction score and, ultimately, a key role in managing its reputation.
The employee’s role is becoming more and more influential.
The right people
A workforce doesn’t just align itself. Creating an aligned workforce requires continuous effort to ensure that individuals feel connected and engaged.
Does the vision tie in with a person’s individual beliefs? Is there room for personal development? How does an employee feel about their interaction with the manager? Does the organisational culture resonate with employees?
These are questions that today’s employees are trying to answer before deciding whether or not to join or stay with an organisation.
Down the road, attracting, engaging and retaining the right people will depend entirely on how Communications and HR collaborate. This is their shared challenge.
The total employee journey is defined by alignment. This journey begins before the employee even submits a job application and goes on long after he or she leaves the organisation.
Start of the journey: the right story
Job applicants are increasingly critical of where they want to work. They choose organisations that resonate with them and that pursue the same ambitions as they do.
That is why organisations need to translate their purpose and strategy into a good and engaging story; they need to ensure that this story comes across in all their interactions with applicants from day one.
This helps them retain the people who are the best fit for them. It saves both parties time during the orientation period and rules out discrepancies between the picture painted during the application process and actual practice.
A good story...
• Informs, inspires, and is pragmatic, visual and dialogue-oriented
• Leaves enough room for employees’ own interpretation
• Is embraced, supported and ‘lived out’ by top management
• Can only be effective if HR and Communications work in close collaboration
• Is communicated through a single recognisable concept, so that all activities, tools, messages and resources are interconnected and mutually reinforced
En route: engagement and interaction
Once on board, it is crucial for employees to have their choices regularly affirmed, meaning that the organisation’s story is put into practice and delivered throughout the journey, that the corporate culture is enjoyable and encourages employees to perform, that managers lead by example and that employees can continue to grow.
In short, the idea is that employees can and want to do their part, the goal being that they and the employer mutually reinforce each other.
Today’s employees, and most certainly the employees of the future, are critical, outspoken and enterprising. They are after an in-depth relationship with their employer.
Interaction is essential in this relationship. Encouraging employees to engage with the organisation and its mission is key, leaving room for dialogue and personal interpretation. This is how employees put the organisation’s story into practice and contribute to how it plays out.
Once again, the key to success is close collaboration between Communications and HR. Based on the organisation’s story, the two should team up to communicate and integrate the strategy into the organisation’s fabric.
Communications and HR also have a role to play in making managers more communicative. As an employee’s first point of contact, a manager is a crucial pivot in terms of alignment.
Although much internal communication is bottom up and lateral, we are seeing that, in practice, employees prefer to hear about strategy changes or relevant organisational developments directly from their own manager. After all, their manager knows them best and is most suited to explain what the development will mean for their daily routine.
Managers have the important duty of informing, engaging, motivating and challenging employees. Their influence on the degree to which employees feel engaged is huge. What’s more, a manager is instrumental in how a team operates and in creating a work environment where every team member feels comfortable.
Unboarding: not the end of the line
When employees feel at home and have the intrinsic motivation to contribute to the organisation’s mission day in and day out, they are happy to share their enjoyment.
That said, the reverse is true as well: one push of a button and an employee’s discontent is broadcast all over the internet. This doesn’t stop when they leave the organisation for whatever reason.
An employee who has felt engaged and appreciated, who feels a connection with the organisation’s story and has had the opportunity to help shape this story will remain a good ambassador – and a potentially valuable client – even after they have left.
With this in mind, employees should also be given the attention they deserve when their journey has come to an end.
En route together
The scope of Alignment 2.0 touches upon Communications as well as HR. For this reason, an integrated approach to internal and employer branding offers a wealth of opportunities. With the organisation’s story as a shared starting point, the idea is to work on a single overarching concept or on two related communication concepts.
The concept should be recognisable and connecting, and rely on dialogue and interaction. All Communications and HR activities, tools, messages and resources should be interrelated within the concept and mutually reinforce each other.
Alignment 2.0 is the sum of internal and employer branding. The deliverable is to attract, engage and retain the right people who do the right things and contribute to the achievement of strategic targets. This is an important step towards building a strong reputation.
Alignment 2.0 focuses on today’s employees, but does not forget about the employees of the past and the future either. The successful organisation of the future is truly interested in the employee’s total journey, which will ultimately result in a strong reputation.